This piece first appeared on the Center for Strategic and International Studies website and accompanies a new report from CSIS and ECI examining challenges and opportunities in the DRC cocoa and coffee sectors.
Assessing the Growth Potential of Eastern Congo’s Coffee and Cocoa Sectors
Richard Downie, CSIS
March 8th, 2018
During the past decade, donors and companies have begun to build viable coffee and cocoa sectors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The locus of activity has been in eastern Congo, where decades of conflict and poor governance have displaced populations and ruined livelihoods. While the political and security environment in the DRC does not favor large-scale cash crop production, the climatic conditions do. Eastern Congo, particularly the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, produces excellent coffee and cocoa. Furthermore, eastern Congo has a successful history of large-scale coffee production, first under the Belgian colonists, then in the first decades of independence before the sector fell apart under President Mobuto Sese Seko.
The recent entry into eastern Congo of development dollars and private-sector partners, ranging from small traders to retail giants like Starbucks, has provided a foundation to expand the DRC’s agricultural export sector. These groups and individuals have taken a risk on a country that has largely been written off by an international community disillusioned by endemic crisis and corruption. Now it is up to the DRC to reward this show of faith by taking steps to attract a larger pool of investors focused on achieving both financial returns and positive social impact. The DRC can only do this by forging a vision for the cash crop sector, putting its own resources into its development, and taking actions to improve the business environment.