Project description / objective

Designed to increase the incomes of over one million Congolese, Élan RDC was a UK market systems development project that addressed the underlying constraints to inclusive economic growth in the DRC.

Élan worked with the private sector to design, develop and implement new business models that increased incomes, created jobs, and lowered prices for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Market system focus

Grains & horticulture

To enable smallholder farmers producing non-perennial crops to sustainably increase their incomes by increasing the volumes and quality of their produce sold on to commercial farmers, traders and processors.

Specialty crops

To improve the quality and quantity of perennial crops (coffee and cocoa) in DRC, making them more sought-after on international markets.

Renewable energy

To generate savings and increased profits for households and small businesses through access to affordable and sustainable energy products and services which are brought to market by a growing number of profitable companies.

Access to finance

For financial institutions to deliver innovative financial products and services adapted to SMEs; increase access to financial services to individuals and micro-enterprises through the growth of the digital payment ecosystem in DRC; and improve investment facilitation.

Cross-border trade

To improve the enabling environment for cross-border trade as the capacity of the association of cross-border traders to advocate and engage with public sector bodies increases.


To improve the efficiency of private river and lake transport in terms of both time and cost thanks to improved logistics and a conducive tax environment.

Programme interventions

Grains & horticulture

Inputs & advisory services
Partner with agricultural input providers to provide both quality inputs (mainly seed) and technical backup (extension) in production zones. Élan RDC also advanced technical and business information dissemination by supporting radio and mobile-based services.

Access to finance
Support financial institutions in providing adequate financial products. Traditionally, only fixed properties in specific areas have been accepted as collateral. Élan RDC set to expand the range of what could constitute a collateral, and to build the financial capacity of borrowers.

Sector governance
Advocate for dialogue between the different stakeholders in the value chain, including the government, to improve the business environment of the seed sector.

Market access
Increase knowledge of existing markets, their requirements and absorption capacity. Because of the existing inconsistencies between local and regional markets, and the advanced level of sophistication of regional markets, aligning the local value chain to these markets was considered as a good channel for uplifting local standards.

Specialty crops

Ageing tree stocks diminish yield, retard growth, and risk collapse without targeted regenerative and restorative efforts. In response, Élan RDC supported the expansion of exporter-led extension to reach more producers and deepen their understanding and use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

Élan RDC supported exporters and cooperatives in developing value-adding structures (e.g. washing stations, drying tables, box fermentation units, coffee cupping labs etc) and scaling production with treatment and processing capacity.

Access to finance
Traditional financial institutions are still not competitive. However, Élan RDC guided their understanding on how to engage cocoa and coffee operators and impacted investor entry. The expansion and increased competition among social impact investors has applied much needed pressure on banks to refine their offerings.

Business environment
Élan RDC provided diverse, but light-touch support for the Congolese industry as it navigated sensitive policies and potentially contentious debates, including lowering the cocoa and coffee exports tax and reforms to encourage productive, competitive and equitable cocoa and coffee sectors.  

Élan RDC worked with industry to improve relations, information sharing and collective marketing to promote a unified vision. From the 2015 launch of Saveur du Kivu to the advent of the Congo Coffee Atlas, provincial, national and international industry have made great strides to put DRC on the map. At the same time, exporters and cooperatives have deepened sensory skills and capacity as GESI-forward operators.

Renewable energy

Support SMEs to produce or import highly efficient energy technology to address the affordability gap for both solar PV products and modern cooking solutions.

Consumer demand
Support SMEs to implement communication, marketing and distribution models to reach bottom of the pyramid households, refugees, internally displaced peoples, and underserved geographical areas.

Access to finance
Support SMEs and consumers to increase access to finance, including support of the PAYGO system and the launch of a fund using a risk-based financing mechanism.

Business enabling environment
Support private-sector advocacy for a more favourable tax-regime.

Access to finance

Testing or making the case for products/services with a high financial inclusion potential.

Enabling environment and regulatory
Supporting cross-sectoral consultation and dialogue and making the case for more conducive regulation.

Demand (end users)
Analysing end customers' profiles and needs through market analysis and by fostering financial/digital education.

Cross-border trade

Public-private dialogue
Promote effective advocacy and promotion of public-private dialogue through: theoretical and practical training to improve the effectiveness of the Associations of Cross-border Traders (ACT) advocacy; promotion and consolidation of public-private dialogue (PPD) at several levels; and building and strengthening relations between the ACTs and associations in neighbouring countries.

Build capacity of ACTs
Ensure the sustainability of the ACTs through; training and mentoring support on functions necessary to operate an effective association and overcome resource constraints and structural weaknesses; supporting to improve communication and management of activities; and introducing new key services to facilitate the work of individual members.


Business-enabling environment
Seek tax reform in the river transport sector and public/private dialogue on road transport through transport and trader advocacy to achieve a more favourable business climate including a lower tax regime.

Reduce costs
Expansion of freight forwarder activities and market information systems in river transport to improve agricultural product aggregation.

Access to finance
Support credit, loan and savings groups so that river, lake and road transport actors have access to adequate financial products.

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)

Grain & horticulture

  • Over 223,000 people reached, contributing over £12.9M in net positive income change.
  • Seed companies have applied direct marketing and sales techniques and have sold over 1,800 tons of seed to SHFs across the country.
  • Seed industry stakeholders are more aligned at both the regional and national level, and are gaining momentum on new seed legislation which is needed to unlock further investment

Specialty crops    

  • Over 159,900 people reached, contributing in over £5.1M in net positive income change.
  • All major exporters have now developed extension teams and use training as a way to strengthen their relationship with farmers.
  • Following successful pilots with washing stations and fermentation boxes, stakeholders have set up more than 100 washing and micro-washing stations (up from seven in 2014). 
  • The strengthening of associations led to reductions in export taxes from 14 to 11 per cent.
  • Industry stakeholders joined forces to market DRC coffee and cocoa through events (Saveur du Kivu) and tools (Congo Coffee Atlas, Developing Origins for the Future series).

Renewable energy

  • Over 130,000 people reached, contributing of over £9.2M in net positive income change. 
  • More than a dozen companies started selling a range of certified devices throughout the country. 
  • Consumer credit (PAYGO) improved affordability.
  • This new industry has coalesced around a national association (ACERD) to improve the business environment, which has successfully gathered the government's attention, most recently through the launch of a national fund for off-grid energy. 

Access to finance

  • Over 260,900 people reached, contributing to over £8.6M in net positive income change.
  • £195,361 in loans extended to MSMEs.
  • The digital finance ecosystem took off, with aggregation services, agent networks, the first bank to wallet product, and intense industry collaboration under the supervision of the central bank.
  • Banks developed a range of new SME-centric products including CMA & leasing and built linkages with agriculture, renewable energy and transport companies.

Cross-border trade

  • Over 4,000 people reached, contributing to over £240,000 in net positive income change.
  • Associations of Cross Border Traders have improved their level of engagement with government bodies and have changed the dynamics in cross-border trade through the use of evidence-based advocacy and more effective public-private dialogue.


  • Over 66,500 people reached, contributing to over £2.8M in net positive income change.
  • Strengthened river transport associations are able to engage with the government and have lowered tax and harassment.


[updated September 2021]