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Moving to Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country in Central Africa known by several names: the DRC, DR Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or simply the Congo. Expats considering moving to the DRC may picture gorillas or chimpanzees and the lush Congo Rainforest (which is the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon). New arrivals soon realise that life here has much to offer.

As Africa’s second-largest country, the DR Congo boasts an area greater than France, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden combined. A simple glance at a map does not do justice to the DRC’s diversity of environments, natural resources and cultures. 

The DRC is famous for its mineral wealth, from cobalt and copper to diamonds and gold. The mining sector is the economy's biggest attraction to foreign investors, while the growing job market allows expats to find work in a range of sectors from finance to tech.

The Congo's biodiversity encapsulates jungles, savanna grasslands, mountains and volcanoes, as well as Africa’s Great Lakes region in the east of the country. Meanwhile, most expats move to Kinshasa or Lubumbashi, the capital of the southern copper-rich Haut-Katanga province. Expats in these cities may find themselves staying in modern accommodation, far removed from the idea of an entirely-jungle environment.

Kinshasa is the country’s capital and most developed city; as an economic hub, main services and amenities are available. Kinshasa hosts several Western-standard medical facilities as well as a handful of international schools.

However, the standard of infrastructure across the Democratic Republic of Congo is poor. The provision of basic services in most towns, including electricity and water, is often subject to disruption, if present at all. 

The overall healthcare system is in a dire state, and expats are advised to have medical insurance covering emergency air evacuation and repatriation. Congo's public education system is also underfunded and understaffed. Local schools typically are not a viable option, while international schools are limited in number and capacity.

Still, one of the main concerns for foreigners moving to the Congo is safety. Although its civil war ended in 2003, the country continues to struggle with political and economic insecurity. A tumultuous history and a diversity of over 250 ethnic groups have unfortunately left the country at the epicentre of ethnic conflicts in the Great Lakes region for decades. Conflict and violence are prevalent in eastern provinces, while security should not be taken lightly when living in Kinshasa either. UN maintains a strong peacekeeping presence in conflict-ridden areas, and humanitarian aid work is another key sector in which expats work. That said, the DRC is rich in culture, and many new arrivals feel welcome here.

Given numerous safety and infrastructural barriers, expats contemplating a move to the Democratic Republic of Congo should consider their options carefully, particularly if relocating with a family. Nevertheless, an expat’s experience in the capital will differ greatly to one elsewhere in the country. Most new arrivals report a friendly environment, despite the hardships. With an open mind and determination, as well as caution for safety, expats can embrace their relocation to the DRC.


Fast facts

Population: About 89 million

Capital city: Kinshasa

Neighbouring countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo is bordered by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south, and Republic of the Congo to the west.

Political system: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Christianity

Main languages: French, while Kikongo, Lingala, Swahili, and Tshiluba are also officially recognised

Time: GMT +1 to GMT +2

Money: Congolese Franc (CDF) is the local currency and can be divided into 100 centimes. ATMs and card facilities are available in major urban centres, but rural areas seldom have these.

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins are used.

International dialling code: +243

Internet TLD: .cd

Emergency numbers: Emergency services are extremely limited. Expats are advised to seek out private security services and hospitals for cases of emergency.

Drives on the: Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road. Public transport is limited and generally unsuitable for expats. Road infrastructure is underdeveloped, particularly in rural areas.

Public Holidays in Democratic Republic of Congo

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Martyrs of Independence Day

4 January

4 January

Heroes' Day (Laurent Kabila)

16 January

16 January

Heroes' Day (Patrice Lumumba)

17 January

17 January

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Liberation Day

17 May

17 May

Independence Day

30 June

30 June

Parents' Day

1 August

1 August

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Safety in Democratic Republic of Congo

Despite an end to the country’s civil war in 2003, safety and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain tenuous, especially in the eastern and border regions. Due to numerous safety concerns, many foreign governments, including the UK and US, advise their nationals to avoid or limit travel to a number of conflict-prone provinces.

Expats travelling to or living in the Democratic Republic of Congo should register their presence in the country with their embassy.

There are several health and safety issues to be aware of living in the DRC; these may differ depending on where an expat lives or is travelling to. We recommend expats follow the local news and advice of foreign and local authorities.


Crime in the DRC

Crime rates are high in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with both petty and violent crimes occurring frequently. Foreigners are often targeted, especially in the vicinity of hotels and crowded areas. It’s best to remain vigilant at all times, never go out on the streets alone and avoid travelling at night.

The eastern provinces are plagued by insecurity and crimes such as banditry, rape, kidnapping and robbery. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to these crimes. Most travel to these areas is strongly advised against, as, despite the presence of Congolese security forces and peacekeeping troops, these crimes occur largely unchecked.

Expats who wish to explore the DRC and go on safari should also understand the risks. In the east of the country, bordering Uganda, lies Virunga National Park, said to be Africa's oldest national park. There are opportunities for gorilla trekking here. However, armed groups have been known to be active in the park, presenting the risk of kidnap or injury.


Protests in the DRC

Given the country's tenuous political and economic situation, civil unrest is common. Protests and political demonstrations take place often, especially in Kinshasa and Goma. These have a tendency to turn violent rather quickly, and it’s recommended that expats avoid all large protest gatherings.

There may also be a military and police presence. Commercial flights and internet connections are known to be suspended when demonstrations turn seriously violent. While this sounds distressing, it is best to be aware of the situation and follow local media surrounding it. Streets may be blocked as a result, so travel and movement are limited. It's advised to avoid travelling around during times of protests.


Conflict in the DRC

Despite an end to the country's civil war in 2003, safety remains a pressing issue in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Numerous armed groups continue to operate in the region, particularly in Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haut Uele, Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami provinces. Foreign authorities also advise against all travel to the Kasai region and eastern provinces. Despite concerted government and UN efforts, violence continues to affect these areas.

Expats living in the Democratic Republic of Congo are encouraged to monitor the situation in the east of the country carefully and should consult with their local embassy before travelling.


Road safety in the DRC

Travel safety is something to be aware of when getting around. Poorly maintained roads and reckless driving contribute to the many traffic accidents. If expats plan on driving in the DRC, they should be vigilant and drive defensively.

Most car rental agencies only allow renting a vehicle with a driver. Many expats prefer this, as the driver will know how to best navigate the roads.

The authorities also recommend sticking to the main routes, locking doors, keeping windows up and keeping valuables out of sight.

When travelling by taxi, it's best to book and contact a private taxi company or driver and not hail one off the street. This is because of cases of people posing as taxi drivers and then robbing customers.

Working in Democratic Republic of Congo

Many expats working in the Democratic Republic of Congo relocate to follow a short-term opportunity. Despite being a resource-rich country, the DRC suffers from severe hardship factors, including ongoing insecurity and underdeveloped infrastructure. As such, few expats see a move to the country as a permanent arrangement.

However, improving the business climate is a key national objective. Along with government plans to welcome a favourable business environment, major companies operating in the DRC offer decent compensation to their expat employees. Foreign workers, particularly in the corporate sector, are well paid. Expats may also be provided secure accommodation and medical insurance, as well as having a driver for work purposes.

Those looking to do business in the DRC should weigh up a number of pros and cons while researching the job market and the best routes in securing employment.


Job market in the DRC

As part of governmental strategies for job creation and development, the DRC plans to diversify their economy, boosting employment in a range of areas. As well as mining, agriculture and forestry, sectors such as finance, banking, real estate and IT hope to expand.

The Congo is said to be one of the world's richest countries in terms of its natural resources. Many expats are employed in the mining industry, mining resources such as copper, cobalt, coltan, diamonds or gold – to name a few.

Humanitarian work is another sector that draws expats. There is a constant demand for healthcare professionals, and many NGOs in the DRC provide medical services and support.

The DRC is Africa’s second-largest country, so the job market varies depending on the area. The capital, Kinshasa, is the largest and most developed city. As an economic hub, most expats will find employment here. The mining region of Katanga and its capital, Lubumbashi, is also a popular destination for expats seeking employment, while those working in the humanitarian sector will likely be where the need is greatest: in the eastern Kivu provinces.


Finding a job in the DRC

Despite the DRC’s status as one of the world’s least developed countries, the cost of living in the capital city, Kinshasa, is high. It’s recommended to move to the DRC with a job already in place.

Securing employment is not always easy. There are quotas on hiring foreigners in the DRC which restrict the number of expats a company can employ. Foreigners also require a relevant work permit and work visa. The process can be complicated, but is usually all handled by the employer.

Many expats move here as part of an intra-company relocation. Networking and taking advantage of local contacts can be a great help. However, finding work through a large multinational corporation may secure a more favourable employment package. 

Company websites, recruitment agencies and professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn are a great resource. Other popular online job portals include Indeed, Careers24 and JobnetAfrica.


Work culture in the DRC

The Congolese are known to be friendly, and the workplace can feel quite welcoming. That said, this varies depending on the industry and individual company.

What is important to note is language. French is the language of business, and expats who are fluent in French or at least have a basic grasp will fare best.

Women in the workplace may also experience some culture shock. Few women have senior positions and climbing the corporate ladder can be a challenge.

Doing Business in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to extraordinary mineral wealth, from copper and coltan to gold and diamonds. Despite its natural resources, the DRC is often considered one of the most challenging business environments in the world.

In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, the DRC was ranked 183rd out of 190 countries, reflecting the poor business environment that expats are likely to encounter. 

Years of corruption, exploitation and mismanagement, as well as political and economic tensions and conflict, have left the country impoverished. According to the World Bank's survey, the DRC scored particularly poorly in trading across borders (187th), paying taxes (180th) and resolving insolvency (168th).

However, there are evident gaps in the market, which foreign investors are keen to fill. Starting a business is ranked 54th out of 190 countries by the World Bank, a hopeful sign for future investment and entrepreneurship.

The dominant sectors of the local economy are agriculture, fishing, mining and forestry. There is also some manufacturing, particularly of textiles, cement and wood products. The main centres of business are the capital, Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi, in the mining district of Katanga.

When considering the DRC as a potential country to move to or foreign market to do business in, there are some key elements of business culture to bear in mind.


Fast facts 

Business hours

Business hours are typically Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, with a two-hour lunch break taken sometime between 12pm and 3pm.

Business language

French is the language of business in the DRC. Local languages including Swahili and Lingala, as well as Kikongo and Tshiluba, are also widely spoken, particularly in rural areas.

Greeting

A handshake is the usual greeting between business associates. It’s not unusual for people to touch each other on the shoulder or arm while talking to those they are familiar with. When shaking someone’s hand with their right hand they may also hold their right forearm with their left hand.

Dress

Lightweight suits are best, given the warm climate. For formal meetings, smart business attire is best.

Gifts

A gift is acceptable when visiting an associate’s home, but with the prevalence of bribery and corruption, expats should consider their gift-giving carefully.

Gender equality

Local culture is still traditional when it comes to gender roles. There are very few women in senior positions within the corporate sector.


Business culture in the DRC

Expats doing business in the Democratic Republic of Congo will find the Congolese to be friendly and welcoming. They generally take pride in their work and are hard working. Appearance is also important and locals dress smartly, but modestly. 

Hierarchy

Status is important in Congolese culture, including in business. Elders and those in authority are respected. Likewise, business structures in the DRC are hierarchical. Although the ideas of the team are generally welcomed, the final decisions are normally made from the top.

However, expats working in the DRC have often cited a lack of transparency in the decision-making process, a frustrating issue that can hinder potential business dealings.

Communication

Communication style may be direct but direct eye contact is usually avoided. Expats should adopt an attitude of patience when undertaking business. The decision-making process can be drawn out: it’s not unusual to have meetings rescheduled or even cancelled at short notice.

French is the language of business in the Congo. To communicate effectively with Congolese associates, expats are recommended to learn at least some French. The effort will likely be recognised. Other local languages such as Lingala and Swahili are also widely spoken, especially in more rural areas.

Corruption

Bribery and corruption are everyday realities and often cited as the biggest constraints to doing business in the DRC. Although efforts in recent years have gone a long way in tackling the problem, corruption remains a real issue across all facets of business. Expats working and doing business in the country should tread carefully when it comes to negotiating and the need for gifts or special favours.


Dos and don’ts of doing business in the DRC

  • Do be punctual for meetings, even if Congolese associates are late themselves

  • Don’t be surprised if meetings are cancelled at short notice

  • Do learn French in order to effectively communicate with Congolese colleagues. Otherwise, an interpreter may be required, especially for business meetings.

  • Don’t ask about someone’s ethnicity or discuss the civil war. Politics should also be avoided as a conversation topic.

Accommodation in Democratic Republic of Congo

Finding a home in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a key part of settling into expat life here. When house hunting, new arrivals are often shocked at how expensive accommodation is, particularly in the capital Kinshasa.

Fortunately for many expats, housing costs, including rent, electricity and other utilities, may be covered by the employer. We advise expats moving to the DRC as part of a corporate relocation to ensure that their employment package provides for the high accommodation costs or includes secure accommodation.


Types of accommodation in the DRC

The standard of housing in the DRC is variable, ranging from very poor to the exclusive and exorbitantly-priced.

Hotels

For expats moving to the DRC on a short-term contract, a hotel is a good option. More and more hotels are springing up in Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi also has a few hotels that offer decent accommodation.

Gated complexes

Expats living in the DRC for a longer period could be housed in a secure gated complex. These are essentially gated areas with standalone houses, townhouses and apartments. Residents may also have access to shared amenities, such as a swimming pool and garden.

Gated compounds that offer exclusive and high-end accommodation will be pricy. Fortunately, this type of housing is generally provided and paid for by an expat's employer. 

Safety is a major concern when searching for accommodation in the DRC, in some areas more than others. Burglaries and other petty crimes are common in Kinshasa while conflict continues to plague the eastern provinces. So, it’s recommended that expats seek secure accommodation, preferably within a gated expat compound with 24/7 guards and access control.

Houses

Expats may also move into a standalone house. These properties generally have walls around them, and expats are encouraged to explore safety and security measures. 

Furnished vs unfurnished

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Kinshasa, although furnishings may still be quite minimal in homes marketed as 'furnished'. The quality of the furniture could also be hit and miss, so it’s worth checking this when signing a lease agreement.


Finding accommodation in the DRC

Many expats in the DRC will have the support of an employing company when looking for a place to live. Whether the organisation pays for and provides a property or not, they will be a good point of reference when starting the house hunt.

Online forums and property listings on portals such as IMCogno and 9flats.com are also helpful. Bear in mind that prospective tenants could negotiate the cost of the property to get a better deal than what is listed online.

Going through a real-estate agent is also often recommended. These professionals can help new arrivals find a property in the DRC that suits their budget, lifestyle and preferences.


Renting accommodation in the DRC

Housing could be arranged through an expat’s employer. If not, navigating the housing market in the DRC can be overwhelming for a new arrival. Enlisting the services of a real-estate agent can help to ensure the rights of the landlord and prospective tenant. 

Leases

We recommend expats go through their tenancy agreements carefully. If these are provided in French, it’s worth getting documentation translated.

Given the short-term nature of an expat’s stay, properties can be rented on a monthly or yearly basis. Properties can typically be rented for up to three years. Some new arrivals may prefer to rent a property through Airbnb, as this often avoids extra hassles with paperwork while allowing greater flexibility in terms of duration of stay.

Deposits

Landlords should not ask for over three months’ rental for a security deposit.

Utilities

The cost of utilities is often added to basic rental costs in the DRC. However, in some apartments and gated complexes, utilities may be included. We recommend expats ask about the electricity and water supply as well as water pressure and heating in the building.

Healthcare in Democratic Republic of Congo

Although some efforts have been made to improve healthcare in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country’s healthcare system remains in a poor state. Expats needing any serious medical care may seek help outside the country. 

That said, basic healthcare facilities offering a reasonable standard of care are available in the main cities, such as Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. In rural areas, though, healthcare facilities are virtually non-existent.


Public healthcare in the DRC

The DRC’s public healthcare system is in a desperate state of disrepair. Both facilities and adequately trained staff are seriously lacking.

In theory, the DRC has a four-tiered healthcare model. First-tier medical care is from nurses at community health centres, followed by general physicians in reference health centres for the second tier. Specialist care in provincial hospitals constitute the third level, and finally, university hospitals are the fourth level. However, in practice, access to public medical facilities is severely lacking in rural and remote areas and places impacted by conflict.

The government works with NGOs and humanitarian medical organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, to bridge the gap and offer mobile services. However, support is limited and expats are not likely to seek assistance at public healthcare facilities, even in a large city.


Private healthcare in the DRC

Most expats will opt for a private hospital or clinic in the country's capital, Kinshasa. Kinshasa hosts a few private hospitals which offer a decent level of care and meet Western standards. The doctors are well trained and many speak English as well as French.

Some large foreign mining operations will have a doctor and a small on-site clinic to cater for the basic medical needs of their staff. Nevertheless, major medical emergencies usually require air evacuation to a country with better facilities, such as South Africa or further abroad in Europe.


Health insurance in the DRC

A comprehensive health insurance policy is essential for expats living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Those moving for work in the DRC as part of a corporate relocation package should ensure that their contract makes provisions for health insurance. We recommend ensuring coverage for medical repatriation abroad in the event of a medical emergency.


Pharmacies and medicine in the DRC

Pharmacies are available in major towns and cities. There are a few well-stocked pharmacies in Kinshasa.

Expats who require regular prescription medication should bring a sufficient supply from home along with them. This should be properly marked and accompanied by a script. As the legal status of certain medication varies across international borders, we recommend contacting the nearest DRC embassy for further guidance.


Pre-travel vaccinations in the DRC

Before travelling to the Congo, expats should consult a healthcare professional, such as their GP to ask about recommended vaccines. Some diseases that may be low risk in an expat's home country are prevalent in the DRC.

It is advised to stay up-to-date on all routine vaccinations as well as further recommended ones, including:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

Expats should also consult with a healthcare practitioner on anti-malarial medication to take before, during and after travelling to the DRC.


Health concerns in the DRC

The DR Congo is prone to numerous tropical diseases. Main health concerns include malaria, water-borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, ebola and coronavirus. Coronavirus has posed novel challenges in the world. Expats living in the DRC should follow all mandatory requirements and regulations and stay informed on the latest news.

Malaria

Malaria is widespread and is the leading cause of death in the country. We recommend expats research the standard precautions when living in or travelling to a malaria-prone region. These include insect repellent and mosquito nets over beds, as well as consulting a healthcare professional about anti-malarial medication.

Water-borne diseases

Water-borne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, are also common and expats should avoid drinking tap water.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS has also presented a serious health problem in the country. Expats moving here should be aware of the risk of contracting the disease and follow the normal recommendations.

Ebola

Ebola presents a risk in certain areas of the DRC, including Équateur, and there have been several outbreaks over the years.


Emergency services in the DRC

Emergency services are seriously lacking across the country. Expats may need to take a taxi or be driven to the nearest medical facility. It's typically recommended to contact the embassy of the expat's home country for support.

Air evacuation to another country with better health facilities, such as South Africa, will likely be necessary for any serious emergencies. Expats should ensure that they have sufficient health insurance to cover this.

Education and Schools in Democratic Republic of Congo

The education system in the Democratic Republic of Congo is generally poor and underdeveloped. Expats are not likely to enrol their children in the local schooling system and rather tend to look for international schools.

The number of international schools in the DRC is limited, and most are concentrated in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, and the second-largest city, Lubumbashi. Homeschooling presents as an additional option for expat families.


Public schools in the DRC

Unfortunately, local public schools are usually extremely under-resourced and lack adequate teaching staff and equipment.

The local curriculum is based on the Belgian education system, with six years of primary and six years of high school. The language of instruction is French.

Due to the poor quality of the public schooling system, expats are highly unlikely to enrol their children in a local school. Rather, parents choose to send their children to an international school or to boarding school back home or abroad.


Private and international schools in the DRC

There are a few private schools in the DRC, as well as international schools. Most of these are found in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. Some private schools offer bilingual education programmes, while others are mainly either English or French-speaking.

One of the most prominent international schools is The American School of Kinshasa, and many expats living in the capital choose to send their children there.

To add to the cost of living, fees at international schools are expensive. Expats moving to the DRC as part of a corporate relocation should ensure that their employment package can cover these costs.


Nurseries in the DRC

Parents moving to the DRC may be worried about finding the best kindergarten or preschool for their toddlers. While the options will be more limited than in other expat destinations, several international schools offer early learning programmes. These schools recognise the value of early education and guide young children in basic communication and numeracy.

Parents to young children may find they integrate better into school life than older students, particularly regarding language. English and French are the main languages of instruction, and young kids typically pick up language easier.


Homeschooling in the DRC

Given that the legal status of homeschooling in the DRC is unclear, expat parents see this as an alternative schooling option. On the one hand, public schools are generally under-funded. On the other hand, international schools can be exorbitant. Homeschooling helps expat families find a good balance. 

New arrivals who want to homeschool their children are advised to do their research on various curricula. They can also contact expats living in the country through social media pages for personal guidance and advice.


Special needs education in the DRC

Access to special needs education in the DRC is unfortunately limited. We advise expats to contact and consult with private schools to find out if their level of services is suitable.

The American School of Kinshasa, for instance, typically supports students with mild to moderate learning disabilities. They advocate for inclusive education and have trained teachers and administrative staff to offer this. Students with physical handicaps can also access the school.


Tutors in the DRC

Having a tutor can help both expat children and adults integrate into their new life in the DR Congo. Expats who do not speak French may encounter some culture shock and hiring a tutor to learn the basics can be a great benefit. 

Finding a local tutor is perhaps best done by networking with other residents, as well as asking at private schools. Access to the internet also allows families to find tutors from all over the world who are willing to conduct online learning sessions.

Transport and Driving in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa's second-largest country by area. This is just one of the factors that make travelling difficult. While getting around in cities can be done by road and a few, though limited, public transport options, travel between major cities is best done via air travel.

Bear in mind that the transport infrastructure and country-wide road network are underdeveloped. Expats should also consider the numerous safety concerns when travelling in the DRC.


Public transport in the DRC

Buses

Several bus services operate between the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbouring countries. However, given the safety concerns, particularly around the border regions, bus travel across the country is best avoided.

Buses and minibus taxis also operate in most towns and cities, but they’re often overcrowded and poorly maintained, so should be used with caution.

Boats and ferries

With thousands of kilometres of navigable rivers, water transport is a popular means of getting around in the DRC. Ferry services operate between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, which is located just across the Congo River. Expats can ask the ferry service provider for information on the safety standards. A safer and somewhat more pleasant option is to cross the river via speedboat.

Trains

While there is a railway network in the DRC, including one operating between Kinshasa and Matadi, services are infrequent and unreliable. Despite some rail refurbishment projects by foreign firms operating in the mining sector, there are very few passenger services.

Taxis

Expats can also get around by taxi in the DRC. However, it's best to contact a known private taxi company rather than hail one off the street. This is a safer and more reliable option of getting a taxi. We also suggest agreeing on a fare before departing.


Driving in the DRC

Most expats will get around in the DRC by car. Even if places are within walking distance, it's normal to drive to the destination. Whether an expat drives themselves or hires a driver is another decision to make. 

Expats who do want to drive in the DRC must get an International Driving Permit before arriving in the country. However, having a driver is greatly beneficial as these professionals will be familiar with and able to navigate the local roads.

Many companies provide their expat employees with a car as well as a driver. If not, this perk may be negotiated. Alternatively, expats can hire a car. Most rental companies only rent cars with a driver.

Factors to consider

Although Kinshasa's main streets are relatively clean, chaotic traffic and poorly-maintained roads, especially outside of the capital city, make driving hazardous. Driving is particularly dangerous during the rainy season from September to May, and road accidents are common. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is best if driving outside of the main cities, and driving at night should be avoided.

Roadblocks, both official and unofficial, are common and expats should ensure that they carry all the necessary documents when travelling. Requests for bribes are not unusual and caution is advised when dealing with security officials.


Air travel in the DRC

Given the country’s vast size and for various safety reasons, it is best to fly between cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two main airports in the country are Kinshasa International Airport (N’djili International Airport) and Lubumbashi International Airport. 

A number of African and international airlines offer regular services to and from the DRC. There are also regular charter services operating within the country. However, Congolese air carriers have a dubious safety record and expats should choose their carrier carefully.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Democratic Republic of Congo

Despite growth in recent years, the banking sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains underdeveloped. The country has one of the lowest levels of banking penetration in the world and only a small percentage of adults in the DRC have a bank account.


Money in the DRC

The currency of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the Congolese Franc (CF or CDF), which is divided into 100 centimes. The DRC's currency is in banknotes only, with no coins.

  • Notes for Congolese francs: CDF 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000
  • Notes for centimes: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 centimes

The most common banknotes are CDF 500 and 1,000.

The US Dollar is also widely used in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Regulations determining in which situations the Congolese franc or the US dollar should be used have changed over time. In some cases, school fees, medical expenses, utilities, rent costs and taxes may be requested in CDF, and USD in other cases. However, it may be worth asking on a case-by-case basis.


Banking in the DRC

The Banque Centrale du Congo (BCC, or Central Bank of the Congo) oversees the country’s banking system. 

A few local banks operate in the country, with Rawbank being the largest. Micro-finance institutions and savings cooperatives also exist. A selection of regional and foreign banks also has a presence in the country. This includes Equity Bank Congo and Standard Bank Congo, as well as Citibank.

These banks are mostly present in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, though access to formal financial services is limited outside of main cities.

Opening a bank account

Due to the short-term nature of most expat contracts, it’s not common for foreigners to open a bank account in the DRC. Employers normally arrange to pay expat employee salaries into their foreign account.

Expats wanting to open a bank account in the DRC typically consider one of the international banks represented in the country.

While commercial banks typically charge no service fees to establish an account, most require a minimum deposit or amount while the account is in use.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are not widely available, although a few can be found in major urban centres. Bank cards such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted. However, credit cards are not widely used, though major hotels will accept them.


Taxes in the DRC 

Individuals are taxed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a progressive scale. Depending on the salary bracket, the tax rate could be 3, 15, 30 or 40 percent.

Several factors are considered to determine whether an expat is considered a resident for tax purposes. Typically, expats who have resided in the DRC for over 183 days in a year are considered tax residents, as well as those who have signed a lease agreement, among other characteristics.

Tax regulations are subject to change. When doing business in the DRC, we recommend consulting a tax specialist who has experience working with expats.

Expat Experiences in Democratic Republic of Congo

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in the Democractic Republic of Congo and would like to share your story.


Laura, a Spanish expat, has been living in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo for four months. As a country that is not commonly found on popular expat destination lists, she shares her unique experiences of life in the DRC, which she channels through her blog. Read about her experiences of DRC here.