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Republic of Congo: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Republic of Congo

Jackets and ties are not usually worn by men on business visits but are expected when visiting government officials. A knowledge of French is essential as there are no professional translators available. Normal courtesies should be observed and the best months for business visits are January to March and June to September.

Office Hours

Usually Mon-Fri 0700-1400, Sat 0700-1200.

Economy

About 60% of the country is covered by tropical forest, roughly half of which can be exploited economically. Forestry is thus an important part of the economy and, along with agriculture, employs about two-thirds of the working population.

Both subsistence crops (cassava, plantains) and cash crops (sugar, palm oil, coffee, cocoa) are grown; even so, Congo continues to depend on a large quantity of imported food.

A further 20% of the workforce is employed in various industries, of which the most important is oil. The first field came on stream in 1960 and the industry now accounts for 90% of Congo's export earnings. Strengthening of the non-oil economy remains the main long-term objective.

Unfortunately, the government's economic planning and reforms have been undermined by political instability and fractious relations with the IMF and World Bank (which have underwritten it). The USA is the largest oil purchaser, followed by France and Spain. France provides two-thirds of Congo's imports, consisting largely of machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, iron and steel as well as foodstuffs.

Annual per capita income, at US$800, is relatively high by regional standards. Congo is a member of the CFA Franc Zone and of the Central African Economic and Customs Union (CEEAC).

GDP

US$5.8 billion (2005).

Main exports

Petroleum, sawn timber, diamonds, cocoa and sugar.

Main imports

Machinery, steel, foodstuffs and iron.

Main trading partners

France, Germany, China, Italy, USA and Belgium.

Keeping in Touch in Republic of Congo

Telephone

Links with Western Europe are generally poor.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies. Coverage is mainly limited to Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.

Internet

Limited access. Facilities are available at some hotels.

Media

Broadcasts on state-run radio and television stations generally reflect government views. Broadcasts from neighbouring Congo (Dem Rep) can be received, and rebroadcasts of Radio France Internationale, the BBC and Voice of America are available in Brazzaville. There are now no prison terms for libel and insult but incitement to violence and racism remains punishable. All newspapers in Brazzaville are all privately-owned and some may include criticism of the government.

Post

There is an unreliable internal service. Post takes four to 18 days to arrive in Europe.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0730/0800-1200 and 1430-1730; and (for stamps and telegrams) Mon-Sat 0800-2000; Sun and public holidays 0800-1200.