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Over the course of its delivery, ÉLAN RDC adapted its approach and developed a series of strategies and tactics across five major thematic considerations that enabled it to navigate the DRC’s complex environment to deliver market systems development work.

This paper outlines lessons from ÉLAN RDC across these themes and offers tactics for practitioners and donors delivering market systems development programming in similar contexts. It concludes that more ambitious programming in partnership with the private sector is critically needed.

The five themes are:

  • Finding and engaging partners by employing a number of tactics to identify and vet a pipeline of strong candidates as well as addressing their shortcomings, offering a pathway for other programmes operating in similar environments.
  • A regional portfolio approach by building regional portfolios that reflected the economic diversity and vastness of the DRC and leveraging distinct regional opportunities – including those in neighbouring countries.
  • Navigating markets with a large aid presence. In thin and crisis­-prone markets, humanitarian and development assistance is often large and long-term. Adept navigation and engagement of industry actors is an important consideration for market development programmes.
  • Reaching impact at scale. MSD programmes use different levers to achieve large-scale impact. However, these levers are nascent or non-functional in DRC and there is no quick solution or market to incentivise change – forcing ÉLAN to approach “getting to scale” differently and offering lessons for other programmes operating in similar contexts.
  • Sidestepping political risk. The operational environment in the DRC is rife with political risk for programmes as well as for the private sector. ÉLAN had to find ways to circumvent these challenges.