Now that Kinshasa is just two hours away, what opportunities can Rwandans pursue there?

There is so much that a smart entrepreneur can do in Kinshasa, a Congolese who spoke to The New Times during national carrier RwandAir’s maiden commercial flight to Kinshasa said. Courtesy photos.

There is so much that a smart entrepreneur can do to make money in Kinshasa, a Congolese who spoke to The New Times during Rwandan national carrier RwandAir’s maiden commercial flight to Kinshasa said.

Stick Luka, a pharmacist who lives and works in the Eastern DR Congo City of Bukavu, the Provincial Capital of South Kivu, was on RwandAir’s inaugural flight to Kinshasa, with a mission.

He was bent on doing market research for possible business opportunities.

Asked what he thought Rwandans who are keen on making the most of the Kinshasa market should look out for, he paused, took a few snaps of the town of Kindu and the Lualaba River far below the aircraft and said: “I think; meat, cheese and sausages could do.”

The RwandAir flight from Kigali to Kinshasa lasts two hours and 10 minutes compared to the previous routes which took up to 12 hours. 

Luka then took some time examining the striking images he had taken before he added: “First of all, you see, Kinshasa is a big city of almost [or more than] 13 million people.”

“There is high demand in everything because it is not easy to cover the basic needs of the huge population of Kinshasa. I think the people of Rwanda should explore the food industry as it [food] is a basic need in Kinshasa,” he added.

By and large, this reporter observed that imported frozen beef, chicken and fish are the norm in the Congolese capital. The same story, apparently, applies to both poultry and dairy products.

Kinshasa is, reportedly, the third-largest urban area in Africa after Lagos and Cairo.

The RwandAir flight from Kigali to Kinshasa lasts two hours and 10 minutes compared to the previous routes which took up to 12 hours.

John Mbala, a Congolese pharmacist who previously flew to Kinshasa on Congo Airways, from Goma, was excited especially because he was now saving money. Previously, he noted, he paid $350 for a one-way ticket [Kinshasa to Goma]. But for a direct flight from Kigali to Kinshasa, he had paid $410 for a return ticket.

Shortly after the plane landed at N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa its CEO, Yvonne Makolo  told reporters that facilitating trade between the people of Rwanda and DR Congo is what the newly launched regular and direct flights largely represents.

She said: “We believe we need to facilitate the movement of people between Rwanda and DR Congo so that they can trade and visit each other. That is the main thing; most importantly for trade.”

A day later, Patricia Veringa-Gieskes, a senior official in the Federation des Entreprises du Congo (FEC) – equivalent to the Rwandan Private Sector Federation – told The New Times that there are plenty of opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in her vast and densely inhabited city.

Gieskes who is also CEO of thejobafrica, a recruitment and training agency, said: “You know when you look at a country like DR Congo, the capital has a little bit less than 15 million and this means that you have working hands, it means that you have potential, and it means a lot.”

“We have nine borders and this means that the moment you can enter the country, you can export to other countries. SMEs can go everywhere. And of course, in FEC, we have thousands of companies but majority are SMEs, which are the backbone of a country.”

A peek at the hustle and bustle in traffic on the main highway to and fro N’djili International Airport tells something about other opportunities especially in the public transport sector.

The New Timesobserved that the car and the bus are the main means of transport and the number of these in good shape is minimal.

Passengers are mostly crammed in run-down vehicles. Starting a transport business with used cars, imported from Asia or Europe, and in excellent conditions could be a business opportunity.

Five hours before this reporter left the city, Josee Rashidi, head of Kinshasa’s new national sanitation and health agency, Agance Nationale d’Assainissement et Salubrite Publique (ANASAP), brought representatives of more than 100 firms and cooperatives in Kinshasa, to meet and consult with Rwandan businessman, Jean Malic Kalima.

They sought his assistance on how to best plan and implement a city cleaning project.

Before their meeting, which was rushed as Kalima had only an hour before he headed to the airport, Rashidi told this reporter that “we are happy to receive Rwandans into our country.”

For a long time, she explained, “our country has wanted to have good relations between our two countries because a lot depends on us living together in harmony.”

“Now we are saying that Rwandans should come and we work and do business together. When we were recently in Kigali, President [Paul] Kagame said Africans should stand up and we, together, build our Africa.”

Rashidi noted that there are many different things that Rwandans are doing better “than us” Congolese, especially the issue of public hygiene which remains a problem in Kinshasa.

“Rwandans can come here and help us on this. We can’t hide the fact that garbage is a problem and, any Rwandan who comes into this sector will not fail to create jobs.”

Other businesses are possible too, she said, noting that in addition to the general sanitation problem, they do not have ample household cleaning detergents.

“In Rwanda these are in plenty. I also noticed in Rwanda that there are companies doing recycling of waste. If such would come here, they would enhance life as well as boost business. Our president is fond of encouraging 50-50 arrangements. That means there are win-win business opportunities.”

Business wise, Rashidi said, “where there is a will, in Congo everything will work.”

“We need everything, including teachers. What has been lacking is a good collaboration. In technology, Rwanda is advanced. Communication in Rwanda is better than ours. This implies we need Rwandans to come and work here.”

Rashidi summarised everything by noting that there are many business opportunities and in different domains – food, sanitation, hygiene and others.

“Everything we consume, including things such as meat, fish.... 80 percent is imported. And of what quality?”

She noted that there is need for better or quality service provision in hospitals, dispensaries and drugs, all of which imply business opportunities.

At the end of a two-days’ stay in Kinshasa, this reporter concluded that besides the already known very big money-spinning sectors such as mining and energy, there is vast potential in others such as hotels and restaurants, to mention but a few.

Members of PSF met with their DR Congo counterparts and agreed to, among others, fast track an agreement between the two sides. The outcome of this collaboration will, undoubtedly, go a long way in enhancing business.