The Kinshasa provincial government has signed a decree to create a one-stop shop at the port where boat operators can go to pay the legal taxes on the river. This momentous change in the sector has come following several exchanges and dialogue between the provincial government with the alliance of boat operators that is supported by ÉLAN RDC.

Provincial authorities have long exploited ambiguous taxes to impose numerous and mostly illegal fees on traders and transporters operating along the Congo River. For this reason ÉLAN RDC, a private sector development programme, has been supporting river transporters in their efforts to advocate for change. It’s most recent success is this agreement from the Kinshasa government to regulate taxes and put an end to discrepancies outside of the city.

It was in 2014 that ÉLAN RDC helped bring together many different associations of transporters to discuss the problems they face and form a plan of action. The efforts of the alliance have centred on ensuring government compliance with an inter-ministerial decree that abolished 38 illegal taxes later in the year.

Until now the inter-ministerial ruling, which clearly distinguishes legal and illegal taxes, has had little impact because awareness is low and the DRC is a vast country so the decree has failed to reach more remote regions so provincial authorities continue to levy illegal taxes.

“If we can preserve our right to work along the river in fair terms, we can start to build up our business. If we can make more trips we can encourage traders and farmers to buy and sell more agricultural produce; it’s a chain that affects everyone in this region,” explains Didier Mukoma, president of the Alliance of Congolese River Transporters.

The associations are also campaigning in the provinces of Equateur and North and South Kivu where many people’s livelihoods depend on being able to access the river waterways. The associations are using a number of communications tools to raise awareness of the change in ruling and their campaign for fairer taxes. ÉLAN RDC is continuing to support them in their efforts for advocacy and communications.