Choppy Waters

Improving the business environment in the transport sector in DRC

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This paper describes ÉLAN RDC's advocacy campaign, working with boat operators, traders and provincial authorities, for the elimination of informal and illegal taxes.

For many small farmers in the northern provinces of the DRC, river transport is their only link to market. An efficient and effective water transport system is therefore essential to economic development. 

Despite setbacks, including the re-emergence of some of the illegal taxes, the business environment for the river boat operators and traders is considerably better than before ÉLAN’s intervention. Key findings include:

  • Political economy matters - the support of the Governor was central to the success of the initial advocacy campaign, and later political instability was an obstacle to further progress in the new Equateur province.
  • Work both sides of the problem – ÉLAN RDC acted as an 'honest broker', discussing the aims and approach with the government as well as supporting the business associations more directly. This engagement played a key role in generating a successful outcome.
  • Impact versus systemic change – there have been practical changes by some actors, notably the private sector associations and the provincial revenue authorities, but other state agents have not fundamentally changed their modus operandi. This has nevertheless generated lasting impact.

ÉLAN RDC is a UK Aid funded private sector development programme that uses a market systems approach to facilitate pro-poor economic growth in the DRC.