Kambale Kisumba Kamungele is a coffee exporter based in Kinshasa with years of deep experience in the coffee industry. International competition, illegal taxes and a devastating virus have all contributed to the reduction of coffee prices in the DRC and have left him frustrated with the system. He took part in a forum facilitated by ÉLAN RDC where exporters discussed the overwhelming financial impact taxation was having on the coffee sector. Following the forum, with support from ÉLAN RDC, Kambale brought together several coffee exporters in the Kivus to form an association.
With support from ÉLAN RDC, this association formed an advocacy strategy and plan to campaign for tax changes in the coffee sector. Three months later Kambale led the association’s first direct advocacy campaign, with representatives of the association visiting Kinshasa to meet with key government department heads, including the Ministers of Agriculture, Commerce and the Economy.
Kambale said: “Being in the same room as government officials actively involved in agriculture and exports allowed us to raise our concerns about the illegal and numerous taxes imposed on exporters.”
At the mission’s end, a series of recommendations were presented to the Prime Minister, in response to which two commissions were created to investigate the issues presented by the coffee exporters.
As a result of the increased awareness and pressure for change, the government parastatals involved in coffee exports, negotiated several accords that together result in a number of positive changes. These include a decrease of the overall export tax from approximately 14% to 10%, streamlining of export procedures and an agreement on how to divide tax revenue generated from the 0.25% exportation tax allowed under the ‘code agricole’.
Shortly after this, Kambale informed ÉLAN RDC that these changes have already generated a $548 reduction in taxes per container of exported coffee, an annual tax savings estimated at $250,000.
In February 2015 ÉLAN RDC received news from coffee exporters in North Kivu that coffee exports from the past season had risen by 30% over the preceding year. This increase equated to the production of 1,000T of coffee by approximately 6,578 coffee producers. With an estimated 65,000 coffee growers working in the Kivus this change represented a significant step for the once declining sector.
The tax reduction and increase in exports has inspired other coffee producers and exporters to join the association and participate in the advocacy work, scaling up their efforts to bring about changes to the system. ÉLAN RDC continues to work with the associations to improve industry coordination and plan activities and holds monthly business breakfasts in Kinshasa and Goma with coffee exporters, private sector actors, the Ministries of agriculture, finance and planning and the regulatory bodies.