First General Assembly Meeting of Cross-Border Traders’ Associations

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First General Assembly Meeting of Cross-Border Traders’ Associations

At the end of June, representatives of small cross-border traders from ten major crossing points on DRC’s eastern borders, gathered in Goma for the first general assembly of the National Coordination Committee of Cross-Border Traders. Officers of the cross-border traders’ associations (ACTs), from Mahagi in the north to Mokambo in the south, came together for two days to agree the aims and structure of this national platform for small-scale traders.

 Traders in Goma.

Traders in Goma.

DRC and its eastern neighbours – Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia – are all members of COMESA and signatories to the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) for small-scale cross-border traders. STR provides for a simpler process for small traders, the majority of whom are women, and also allows certain tax and duty exemptions. Implementation of the regime is, however, variable. Each border crossing has its own ACT. ELAN has been working with the ACTs at several crossings, both to support implementation of the STR and to strengthen the associations in order to make them, ultimately, self-sustaining.

The aims of the national committee are to improve the sharing of knowledge and experience amongst the ACTs, to provide mutual support, and to advocate at national level for a business environment conducive to the growth and development of this important sector of the economy. Work continues to achieve these aims.

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UK Secretary of State references ELAN RDC in the House of Commons

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UK Secretary of State references ELAN RDC in the House of Commons

We’re proud to share that ELAN RDC’s work with coffee cooperatives was referenced during parliamentary questions in the House of Commons, a few weeks ago. 

At 11:35 on 23rd May, Alex Norris - Labour MP, asked about the work DFID does with cooperatives. ELAN RDC was the example used by the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt. This is great recognition for the work the team continues to do on market systems development!

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Selling the future of Congolese energy

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Selling the future of Congolese energy

On June 25th, ELAN RDC launched the second phase of our Renewable Energy national marketing campaign, "Continuons à vivre" (“Let’s keep living” in French). The campaign aims to raise awareness and to support the development of the market for renewable energy products in the DRC, particularly solar lamps and improved cookstoves. The 360° campaign, supported by local and international companies, includes radio spots, television broadcasts, social media posts, billboards and banners. The current roadshow with product displays and field demonstrations is targeting eight urban areas throughout the country: Kinshasa, Mbanza Ngungu, Lubumbashi, Kolwezi, Likasi, Kisangani, Goma, and Kivu.

With only ~9% of the Congolese public connected to the electric grid, there is a huge market to be served. Solar lamps and improved cookstoves sold by the private sector offer a multitude of financial, time-saving and health benefits that people consider an investment in their future and are willing to pay for. The public’s enthusiasm for high-quality products that meet their lighting and cooking needs is evident during the campaign’s demonstrations and one-on-one interactions, leading to sales for participating partners.

The campaign is supported by local and international solar companies, including many current ELAN solar partners (Altech, BBOXX, d.light, DevSolaire, Ecomwinda, Kit4Africa, Proton, SunKing and Total) and improved cookstove partners (Bascons, Burn, Halt Bank & Jiko Mamu). Please enjoy the TV ads currently running in DRC.

Solar lamps
https://youtu.be/rd3keteTpc0

Improved cookstoves
https://youtu.be/F589sIKK-II

Optons pour les nouvelles energies et continuons à vivre !

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Unlocking agribusinesses potential through financing

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Unlocking agribusinesses potential through financing

ELAN RDC works with several farms to improve their production techniques. These farms specialize in a wide range of activities, including production and sale of seeds, sale of agricultural inputs or contract farming, processing and marketing of either maize or rice for consumption.

After addressing technical production constraints, lack of financing to meet either working capital or investment needs became the biggest growth bottleneck for the farms we’ve worked with. To address this, ELAN RDC has partnered with financial institutions to help them better understand the sector’s risks and business models and ultimately facilitate access to credit for agribusinesses.

After working with ELAN RDC to target smallholder farmers, grow their sales, and further formalize their business, Mimosa, a seed farm in Katanga, has become a more attractive credit profile to financial institutions.

To date, Mimosa and three other ELAN RDC agribusiness partners have accessed over $700,000 of diverse financing from a leading financial institution for the acquisition of agricultural inputs, stock and equipment.

We believe that improved financing for agribusinesses will continue to unlock productivity for the Congolese agricultural sector.

Learn more about Mimosa’s growth from the latest video in our series highlighting partners. https://youtu.be/q5F5BPCRCRE

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Attacking market constraints with data

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Attacking market constraints with data

 A screenshot of the RATIN dashboard.

A screenshot of the RATIN dashboard.

ELAN RDC and Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) have begun the instalment of the RATIN market information system in the East and South Region (www.ratin.net). With a network of border and market monitors, RATIN will publish daily updates on market prices and both formal and informal cross-border trade volumes across the two regions.

By improving market transparency ELAN RDC hopes to support the rationalisation of prices, improve both domestic and cross-border structured grain trade and inform data-driven policy discussions. Regional and national stakeholders from the public and private sectors as well as NGOs can make use of the market data, leading to better-informed decisions.

Border monitors will be present by the end of July 2018 to feed data into the system at the Kasindi, Mahagi, Bunagana (Uganda), Goma, Bukavu, Kamanyola (Rwanda), Uvira (Burundi) and Kasumbelesa (Zambia) borders and market monitors at the Bunia, Beni, Butembo, Rutshuru, Goma, Bukavu, Uvira, Likasi, Kolwezi and Lubumbashi markets.

EAGC will complement this market information system with a training on structured grain trade for stakeholders in the East and South of the DRC in July. The training will focus on EAC grain quality standards as well as storage and trade best practices. To date, 10 grain trade stakeholders have paid the $400 membership fee to become full-fledged members of the EAGC network which will enable them to grow their production and trade. ELAN RDC aims to increase the trade of grains from the DRC to neighboring countries by 25%.

ELAN RDC and The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) presented a 13-point seed sector strategy for the South and East Regions in Kinshasa on July 4th. The strategy is based on the quantitative assessment of the DRC seed sector as compared to 12 other African countries and seeks to address key constraints to enable the development of a private sector-led seed sector in the DRC.

On July 26, ELAN RDC, TASAI and EAGC will present our work to the community of donors in Kinshasa in an effort to align existing programming with private sector development approaches and inform future programming.

The draft strategies, currently being revised, include:

  1. Review of the DRC seed law
  2. Strengthening of local production systems
  3. Strengthening of local private seed companies
  4. Clarification of cross-border trade mechanisms
  5. Strengthening the Provincial Seed Councils (COPROSEM)
  6. Supporting the National Seed Service (SENASEM)
  7. Strengthening national and provincial breeding programs
  8. Organisation of the emergency relief market
  9. Strengthening of rural agro-dealer networks
  10. Supporting the development of national and provincial seed associations
  11. Improving variety release and registration procedures
  12. Strengthening agricultural extension services for farmers
  13. Improving access to finance for seed companies

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Adding more options to the transport mix in Kinshasa

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Adding more options to the transport mix in Kinshasa

 A stand in the busy Tshangu district publicizing the sale of motorised tricycles.

A stand in the busy Tshangu district publicizing the sale of motorised tricycles.

A great majority of Kinshasa’s 10+ million inhabitants use buses for long commutes on the city’s main thoroughfares. On more minor routes and for shorter trips, people use shared taxis, motorbikes - which are relatively costly for low-income commuters - or walk to get where they are going.

Motorised tricycles were identified as a mode of transportation for passengers that is more affordable than shared taxis or motorbikes, but faster than walking, and is little-utilized in Kinshasa.

Operators find it difficult to purchase motorised tricycles. To address this, ELAN worked with FINCA to launch a credit product in June specifically designed to facilitate the purchase of motorised tricycles by local businesses and increase their use.

ELAN RDC believes that both customers and businesses can benefit financially as a result. Kinshasa commuters now have another transportation option that is more affordable than a motorbike yet faster than walking. Businesses that operate the motorised tricycles can now more affordably purchase the vehicles and serve a previously under-served segment of the market. And a financial institution has further diversified its offerings by adding a new credit product.

While adding a new option to the transportation mix for commuters, ELAN RDC anticipates that at least some operators will use the motorised tricycles to improve the flow of goods throughout the city.

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Growing stronger specialty crops through industry collaboration

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Growing stronger specialty crops through industry collaboration

Held in Bukavu and co-organized by DRC's National Minister of Agriculture, the Provincial Government of South Kivu and a consortium of international organizations, including ELAN RDC, the 4th annual Saveur du Kivu (SduK) convened producers, industry insiders, and public and private-sector actors to celebrate progress and outline a collective vision for a more productive, inclusive and competitive Congolese coffee sector.

If you missed it, check out our in-depth look at the rise of Saveur du Kivu.

This year’s coffee tasting (“cupping”) competition was led by Cup of Excellence’s Paul Songer, as he was joined by key leadership from World Coffee Research, African Coffee Roasters, La Bohème Café, Peet’s Coffee, Counter Culture, Higher Grounds and others. In addition, key leadership from Let Sequoia, Twin and Starbuck’s were on hand to preview coffees for themselves.

Concurrent to the cupping competition, the days were packed with engaging supply chain workshops, some of which featured the Congo Coffee Atlas, supply chain traceability systems currently being rolled out with ELAN RDC partners IFCCA and ASSECCAF.

Building off the sector’s momentum, and new in 2018, coffee producers, cooperatives, and businesses working throughout the specialty crops sector participated in the first-ever Congolese Coffee and Culture Exposition (Forum Expo du Café et Cacao) in Kinshasa.

 In partnership with various ministries, the Comité Professionnel Café & Cacao, a unit housed within the Fédération des Entreprises du Congo (FEC), held the premier edition of the Forum Expo du Café et Cacao. During the two-day forum, provincial, national, and international leaders from both the public and private sector spoke to point that fell within the theme, Improving the business climate in the coffee and cocoa sectors in the Democratic Republic of Congo: challenges, challenges, constraints and opportunities.”

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Studying mobile money agent networks

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Studying mobile money agent networks

In June, ELAN RDC and FPM ASBL launched the Microsave agent network study in Kinshasa.

In the Congolese market, mobile money has existed for 10 years and has expanded dramatically over the last 4 years. Agent networks are at the center of the development of digital finance sector and fundamental for the continued growth of the sector.

Thanks to agents’ proximity to the end user, strong agent networks offer multiple benefits to the industry. Efficient networks can foster the following systemic changes:

  • adoption of electronic services by consumers and other agents;
  • financial education of consumers;
  • close proximity to the service;
  • reduced fraud; and
  • network liquidity.

The study, led by MicroSave, a financial inclusion consulting company with more than 20 years of experience in Asia and Africa, and co-financed by ELAN DRC and FPM, will identify areas for improvement for agent networks in the DRC.

The gap analysis on the existing agent networks (both MNO and bank-led models) will share recommendations on how to drive better and more successful agent rollouts and management. The recommendations will help the sector improve agents’ quality of service and further expand to serve customers efficiently.

The launch event was also covered by the local press.

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Saveur du Kivu - DRC coffee on the rise

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Saveur du Kivu - DRC coffee on the rise

Saveur du Kivu (SduK) is a celebration of the reemergence of coffee in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the specialty coffee cupping competition and annual meeting for representatives throughout the international supply chain, the event supports the construction of DRC’s specialty coffee industry, producing some of the world's finest Arabica coffee.

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The event’s results speak for themselves having grown the event to now attract around 200 participants in the current edition, collecting 73 qualified coffee samples that adhere to globally accepted industry standards, up from 30 in 2016 and helping grow Congolese coffee exports by over 25% since the first Saveur du Kivu.

Genesis

Saveur du Kivu was first conceived in 2015 by Higher Grounds Trading Co, Twin Trading, Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), USAID-funded Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu (KBYK), partners throughout the donor and technical assistance community, and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as an event that would celebrate progress and promote collaboration and collective action to realize a more inclusive, competitive, and reliable coffee sector.  Initially led by those noted above, ELAN RDC has been involved in supporting and guiding the group to integrate perspectives throughout the value chain to highlight the importance of the many interdependent relationships that are key to realizing SduK’s vision and foster stronger ties for actors at each stage of the vale chain and expand the industry-wide marketing effort.

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With the participation of representatives from producer groups (cooperatives), national government, international technical assistance and donor communities, and global coffee buyers, trust, from face-to-face interactions, can be built throughout the entire supply chain, further supporting the reemergence of a sustainable specialty coffee industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is realized through collective efforts to improve trust through transparency through interventions such as the Congo Coffee Atlas, ELAN’s Digital Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Campaign, traceability systems, and the grander effort to significantly increase visibility for all actors, and improve the quality and flow of information to all actors throughout the value chain.

Potential

Historically, Congo’s coffee sector has had strong and reliable actors throughout the value chain. Unfortunately, systemic constraints, instability, crop-specific disease, and a lack of key information for buyers to navigate the market and establish direct trade linkages have slowed progress and led to a decline in what was once DRC’s second most valuable export at its peak in the 1980s. Official Congolese coffee production fell from about 130,000 metric tons in the 1980s to about 11,000 metric tons in 2016, according to one of Congo’s major exporters, CoffeeLac. However, in recent years, regulatory reforms, industry-wide coordinated efforts to promote the adoption and proliferation of best practices, and investments leading to the introduction of improved tools and equipment have dramatically shifted direction. As Congo’s coffee crops are reemerging as stronger, more reliable, and of higher quality, the value chains and actors are becoming ever more inclusive and collaborative.

Evolution

After launching Saveur du Kivu in 2015, the 2018 edition from June 11-13 in Bukavu, the fourth iteration, has evolved from principally focusing on producers to supporting inclusive and collaborative discussions between the public and private sectors and includes all voices throughout the value chain—from producers to roasters and retailers. This celebration of progress and annual specialty coffee cupping competition have become a staple event for producers, exporters, buyers, regulators, and the donor community.

Along the way, the architects of direct trade coffees including Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, and Stumptown, as well as other leading coffee companies such as Higher Grounds Trading Co., Kivu Coffee, LetSequoia, Starbucks, Strauss Coffee, Twin Trading, have been deepening their engagement with producers and exporters, leading to increased sourcing of Congolese coffees and better telling the story of Congolese coffee and culture. This is the dividend for Congolese coffee from the investment in trust over the past few years at SduK.

Through the four years of evolution, Saveur du Kivu has institutionalized itself as an event that is no longer exclusively a donor-driven event into an industry-driven event that is led by stakeholders who are willing to assume costs associated with representation and attendance due to value realized year on year, and their desire to engage with actors during the annual celebration during Saveur du Kivu.

SduK by the numbers

During these four years a lot has been accomplished.

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  • IFCCA was softly launched at 2017 SduK and has now been formally established as an industry-led association of women in coffee and cocoa. IFCCA is leading the planning and production of this year’s exposition—a first for SduK.
  • Over 25%: Growth in Congolese coffee exports since the first SduK
  • 50,000: Number of farmers in eastern Congo already members of coffee-growing cooperatives
  • 70: Qualified coffee samples collected in 2018 that adhere to globally accepted industry standards, up from 30 in 2016
  • 100+: Number of legitimate and registered washing stations; an increase from 7 in 2011
  • ~200: Number of SduK attendees this year alone

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Microfinance for affordable housing, soon a reality in the DRC

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Microfinance for affordable housing, soon a reality in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a housing deficit estimated in the millions of units. According to UNDP projections on population growth in the DRC, this deficit will only grow larger given the average annual population growth rate estimated at 3.1%, fueled by a fertility rate of 6.30 infants per woman.

Indeed, the Congolese population could double in the next 25 years, going from 77.3 million to nearly 132 million. This rapid population growth is in contrast to the slow progress of urban housing development and has led to the development of slums in suburban areas. More than 40% of the Congolese population live in cities and this number could reach 60% in the next 20 years. This situation poses enormous challenges for urban planning and creates opportunities for the housing market. For example, Kinshasa city represents an estimated at 54.4% of the overall deficit, or 140,000 housing units to be built per year.

Despite this market opportunity, banks and microfinance institutions do not yet offer housing products that meet the needs of low-income populations and micro-entrepreneurs. This discrepancy is largely due to lack of expertise and knowledge of the market by local actors all along the construction materials value chain, non-existence of long-term funding, absence of appropriate risk-sharing mechanisms, as well as a weak national political context.

In order to bring sustainable and lasting solutions to these market constraints, ELAN RDC is coordinating with specialized institutions providing technical assistance services for inclusive housing finance, including Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and the Center for Financing Affordable Housing in Africa (CAHF).  These joint efforts aim to develop new solutions to facilitate the development of the housing finance segment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and low-income households in the DRC, in collaboration with local financial institutions.

In October 2017 in Kinshasa, ELAN RDC and Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter tested the market response and the financial sector’s appetite to finance affordable housing, by inviting financial institutions and donors to reflect on the feasibility of the initiative at a forum on microfinance for housing.  

As a result of the forum, ELAN RDC, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and CAHF agreed to deepen their understanding the needs of the population through market research and an evaluation of the capacity of financial institutions active or interested in inclusive housing financing in the DRC.

Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and the CAHF bring to the DRC their accumulated international expertise in markets similar to the DRC, with the aim of developing a lasting strategy for financing affordable housing for all, based on local conditions.

ELAN RDC, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and CAHF will work closely with other market actors to meet these challenges and develop financial and non-financial solutions to expand the housing finance market.

As a result of the forum, ELAN RDC, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and CAHF agreed to deepen their understanding the needs of the population through market research and an evaluation of the capacity of financial institutions active or interested in inclusive housing financing in the DRC.

Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and the CAHF bring to the DRC their accumulated international expertise in markets similar to the DRC, with the aim of developing a lasting strategy for financing affordable housing for all, based on local conditions.

ELAN RDC, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter and CAHF will work closely with other market actors to meet these challenges and develop financial and non-financial solutions to expand the housing finance market.

Click here for the PDF version of the press release.

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