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Angola

Executive Summary

Angola is a lower middle-income country located in southern Africa with a population of 32.9 million, a per capita income of USD 2,021. It saw its GDP drop to USD 62.72 billion in 2020 from USD 89 billion in 2019, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. Angola was scheduled to graduate from lower middle-income country to middle income country status in February but secured a three-year extension on the eve of its graduation. Angola is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and maintains second position in oil production in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria with 1.2 million barrels per day. However, Angola has also experienced five years of consecutive economic recession since 2016, during which time it fell from the region’s third-largest economy to eighth in 2020.

In 2020, Angola saw its macroeconomic situation deteriorate with the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic and the plunge in crude oil prices compounding the country’s ongoing economic crisis and giving President Lourenço’s economic reforms a serious blow. This further diminished the country’s ability to reverse consecutive recessions and underscored the need to diversify the economy away from oil and gas. In response, the Angolan government (GRA) implemented a stimulus plan including social assistance measures and increased spending on health. Angola shut down international travel and carried out other strict countermeasures by June 2020, and to date, Angola has had relatively low numbers of both confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, raising hopes that the country will be able to avoid the impact of widespread cases.

Public debt soared to an estimated 120.3% of GDP in 2020, fueled by the depreciation of the kwanza and falling oil prices, but the implementation of debt reprofiling agreements and extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative should help reduce the risk of over-indebtedness. Inflation increased from 17.1% in 2019 to 21% in 2020. The Central Bank (BNA) has attempted to sustain the liberalization of the local currency, guarantee its stability, and control inflation while signaling more restrictive monetary policy to fight inflationary pressures.

The banking sector remains fragile with a credit appetite that prioritizes government over private sector led economic growth. The restructuring of two troubled banks is still ongoing. The Angolan authorities remain committed to implementing the three-year reform program supported by the IMF. The authorities also affirmed their commitment to improve governance and fight corruption.

Foreign direct investment increased by USD 2.59 billion in 2020 according to Angola’s Central Bank (BNA). The GRA did not engage in any significant activities that undermined U.S. investment. Due to the pressure to create jobs and spur economic growth, the GRA pursued structural reforms in 2020 aimed at assuring investors of a clean and transparent environment for investment. Recently a law permitting public-private partnership initiatives was passed and a revised Public Procurement Law and Portal were also introduced.

However, to curb the fast depletion of international foreign exchange reserves, the GRA introduced the local production Program to Support the Production, Diversification of Exports, and Substitution of Imports (PRODESI) in July 2020. PRODESI may constitute a non-tariff barrier to trade with American companies (the largest exporters of chicken quarters into Angola). In addition to PRODESI is a new local content law that passed in October 2020 which prioritizes Angolan human resources over expatriate labor, as well as the sourcing of raw materials and services from local companies for companies operating in Angola’s oil and gas sector.

Angola ranked 177 out of 190 in the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. The business environment remains challenging for investors, particularly for carrying out overseas transfer of remuneration, payment for imports of goods and services, and payment of dividends. Angola is transitioning services provided by public institutions to the digital environment and working to reduce waiting periods and costs. The time required to obtain a building permit decreased from 373 days to 184 and the GRA has ended the public deed and tax obligations to start a business. The government also introduced a “one stop shop,” the Guiche Online Portal, in 2020, to improve the procedures for opening a business and the ASYCUDA platform to make customs clearances more efficient.

The fight against corruption and impunity provided investors a sense of security after several top government officials and the former President’s son were tried and sentenced to years in prison. The new penal code approved in February 2021 also increased the penalties for economic crimes to a maximum of 14 years to discourage corruption.

Energy and power, construction, and oil and gas are key sectors that have historically attracted significant investment in the country. However, as the country seeks to diversify the economy beyond the oil sector, public transportation, tourism, alternative energy, extractives, agriculture, fisheries, telecoms, and ports rehabilitation and management all hold potential as sectors for new investment.

Key Issues to Watch:

  • Angola is undergoing a process of privatizing over 195 state-owned assets, including those recovered from the fight against corruption. Foreign investors are encouraged to participate in the tenders.
  • Increased openness to competition in the private sector as well as due diligence in the acquisition of state-owned assets and assets previously belonging to PEPs listed in the privatization program.
  • Angola continues to benefit from a relatively stable and predictable political environment compared to its neighbors. However, mounting economic hardship and social discontent could cause the wave of demonstrations to continue.
Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 142 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2020/index/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 177 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 Not listed of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 254million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 2960 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although the GRA demonstrated political will to significantly increase foreign direct investment (FDI), Angola remains a difficult operating environment for investment to thrive. FDI remains low, volatile, and largely concentrated in the extractives sector. The GRA continues to pursue an ambitious plan to reform the business and investment environment. The Private Investment Law (“PIL”) introduced in 2018 has proven to be slow to promote FDI and retain investment. At the end of May 2020, the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers gathered to discuss some changes to the PIL, with a particular focus on attracting foreign investment through a mechanism to negotiate benefits and special conditions depending on the specific project. There have been, however, no legislative changes related to foreign direct investment since the enactment of the 2018 PIL and the Competition Law of 2018.

President João Lourenço implemented economic reform policies that provide a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors and leveraged efforts to combat and deter corruption and money laundering. Foreign investors were also encouraged to participate in the ongoing Privatization Program designed to privatize over 195 State-Owned Enterprises (SOES) by 2022. AIPEX, the country’s Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency is billed as the investors ‘one stop shop’ for business establishment. AIPEX is tasked with facilitating investment and is also supposed to manage the state’s investment portfolio to ensure the equitable implementation of the PIL and distribution of private investment, especially foreign investment. Theoretically the country prioritizes investment retention, but it does not appear to have institutional capacity to pursue and advocate for investment retention.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The 2018 PIL establishes the general principles and basis of private investment in Angola, determining the benefits and concessions that the GRA grants private investors and the criteria for accessing them, as well as establishing rights, duties and guarantees of private investors. The PIL is applied to private investments of any value, whether it is carried out by domestic or foreign investors, although waivers may exist under a bilateral agreement framework. Companies incorporated in conformity with the Angolan law, even with capital from abroad are, for all legal purposes, subject to the existing Angolan legislation. After the completion of a private investment project, foreign investors have the right, after approval by the GRA and settlement of taxes, to transfer abroad:

  1. Values corresponding to dividends;
  2. Values corresponding to the proceeds of the liquidation of their enterprises;
  3. Values corresponding to due compensations;
  4. Values corresponding to royalties or other earnings of remuneration from indirect investments, associated with the transfer of technology.

These processes are very bureaucratic and tedious. Foreign investors and companies with majority foreign ownership are only eligible for domestic credit after having fully implemented their respective investment projects.

On October 20, 2020 Presidential Decree No. 271/20, revoking Order No. 127/03, of 25 November 2003, was published, approving the new Legal Framework on Local Content in the Oil Sector. The statute aims to promote economic diversification, the participation of local businesses in the oil sector, the increase of domestic production and reduction of imports of goods for the sector, as well as the creation of employment and increased training of Angolans in the oil industry workforce. The statute establishes new rules on ‘Angolanization’ and procurement of goods and services for the sector, which will have a significant impact on company activities. For example, priority will be given to procurement of nationally produced goods and services, especially the obligation to contract Angolan companies included in the database approved by the National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG). In addition, all companies operating in any segment of the petroleum-sector value chain will be required to present an annual local content plan to the ANPG. Failure to comply with the rules established in the new statute will result in fines in local currency to the equivalent of between USD 50,000 and USD 300,000. Additional penalties may also be applied, such as barring companies from entering new contracts or operating altogether.

Although the GRA eliminated the 35 percent local content requirement in foreign investment and encourages foreign companies to invest in the domestic economy, some FDI screening processes continue. Foreign ownership remains limited to 49 percent in the oil and gas sector, 50 percent in insurance, and 10 percent in the banking and telecommunications sectors, though there have been some exceptions recently in which the foreign investment goes beyond the limit. There are several objectives that the GRA seeks to accomplish through its FDI screening processes: 1) create jobs for Angolans or transfer expertise to Angolan companies as part of an “Angolanization” plan; 2) protect sensitive industries such as defense and finance; 3) prevent capital flight or other behavior that could threaten the stability of the Angolan economy; and 4) diversify the economy and increase competitiveness of local industries.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Angola has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996. The WTO performed a policy review of Angola in September 2015. At the government’s request, the last Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Angola’s business and economic environments was completed on September 30, 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD of Angola’s The IPR was part of a broader EU funded technical assistance project aimed to assist Angola in attracting and benefitting from FDI beyond the extractives industry and to support the GRA’s objective of increasing economic diversification and sustainable development. The full report and policy recommendations are accessible at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2019d4_en.pdf

The review identified remaining policy gaps and bottlenecks, including the complex system for FDI entry and establishment, burdensome operational regulations, the persistence of restrictive business practices and a lack of institutional capacity and coordination. These affect the country’s ability to fully take advantage of its strategic location, abundant natural resources, and preferential access to external markets.

The Review also devoted special attention to investment in agribusiness and its contribution to sustainable development. It calls for measures to foster responsible investment and promote inclusive modes of production in agriculture. The recommendations emphasize the need to strike a policy balance between food security and export development objectives, improve access to land and infrastructure, and promote entrepreneurship and skills development.

Business Facilitation

The World Bank Doing Business 2020 report ranked Angola 177 out of 190 countries and recorded an improvement in Angola’s monitoring and regulation of power outages, and in facilitating trade through the implementation of an automated customs data management system, ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) World, and by upgrading its port community system to allow for electronic information exchange between different parties involved in the import/export process. To commence a business, investors typically register with the General Tax Administration (AGT) Social Security Institute (INSS), National Press, and a local bank Launching a business typically requires 36 days, compared with a regional average of 27 days, with Angola ranked 146 out of the 190 economies evaluated.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of trade facilitation reform to improve competitiveness in non-oil business sectors. With this, export procedures in the country cost USD 240 and take 98 hours, compared to an average of USD 173 and 72 hours for sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the reforms necessary to improve conditions for Angolan businesses, such as automating customs procedures or creating a single window, are addressed by the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which Angola ratified in April 2019. To facilitate opening, changing, or closing a company, the Guiche Único de Empresas one stop shop for investors (GUE) was folded into the Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) in 2019. It combines the main public services for constitution of companies, GUE and AIPEX, allowing the investor to open and register companies and be able to access the tax benefits and other incentives resulting from the Private Investment Law.

On October 19, 2020, to facilitate the establishment of businesses and as a COVID-19 imposed biosafety measure, the GRA simplified procedures by creating an online registration portal for companies (www.gue.gov.ao). The online portal will allow for faster registry of companies (taking only 30-60 minutes) and replace the publication of the company registry in the Gazette (Diário da República), a procedure that took more than five days. There is still the option to set up a company in person, which is estimated to also take as little as 30 minutes to an hour. The cost to establish a sole proprietorship is USD 16 dollars and USD 54 for partnerships, corporations, and other entities. Payments are also made electronically.

In April 2020, to simplify bureaucracy and in anticipation of the economic slowdown eventually caused by COVID-19, the GRA proposed revoking the procedure for issuing business licenses for all economic activities and requiring companies to carry out statistical registration in the act of incorporation. With the abolition of the Company License Document (a commercial permit) and Statistical Registration, to begin business activities, companies need to register their activity with the local administration office. The office will issue an electronic operating license. Some exclusions from this regime are foreseen, such as those related to the trade in foodstuffs, live plant species, animals, birds and fisheries, medicines, car sales, lubricants and chemicals. For these sectors, a physical license is still required as they are considered high risk economic activities which may affect human, animal, environmental and state safety.

The state-run private investment and export promotion agency’s website is http://www.aipex.gov.ao/PortalAIPEX/#!/  . Contact Information: Departamento de Promoção e Captação do Investimento; Agencia de Investimento Privado e Promoção de Investimentos e Exportações de Angola (AIPEX). Rua Kwamme Nkrumah No.8, Maianga, Luanda, Angola Tel: (+244) 995 28 95 92| 222 33 12 52 Fax: (+244) 222 39 33 81.

Outward Investment

The Angolan Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict Angolans from investing abroad. Investors are free to invest in any foreign jurisdiction. According to data from the BNA, in 2018, the government did not invest abroad but received returns on previous investments abroad.

Domestic investors prefer to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries, with few investing in neighboring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The bulk of investment is in real estate, fashion, fashion accessories, and domestic goods. Due to foreign exchange constraints, there has been very little or no investment abroad by domestic investors. Although investing in real estate is cheaper abroad, a few invest in real estate domestically. The average Angolan invests in affordable investments with quick returns.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Angola’s regulatory system is complex, vague, and inconsistently enforced. In many sectors, no effective regulatory system exists due to a lack of institutional and human capacity. The banking system is slowly beginning to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). SOEs are still far from practicing IFRS. The public does not participate in draft bills or regulations formulation, nor does a public online location exist where the public can access this information for comment or hold government representatives accountable for their actions. The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM) sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have permitted some purchase power agreements (PPA) participation.

Overall, Angola’s national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems. However, Angola is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the SADC, among other organizations. Angola has yet to join the SADC Free Trade Zone of Africa as a full member. On March 21, 2018 together with 44 African countries, Angola joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across Africa. Angola is also a member of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), which seeks to maintain relations with other national port authorities or associations, regional and international organizations and governments of the region to hold discussions on matters of common interest.

Angola became a member of the WTO on November 23, 1996. However, it is not party to the Plurilateral Agreements on Government Procurement, the Trade in Civil Aircraft Agreement and has not yet notified the WTO of its state-trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT. A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade regimes are not coordinated. There have been no investment policy reviews for Angola from either the OECD or UNCTAD in the last four years. Angola conducts several bilateral negotiations with Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPS), Cuba and Russia and extends trade preferences to China due to credit facilitation terms, while attempting to encourage and protect local content.

Regulatory reviews are based on scientific, or data driven assessments or baseline surveys. Evaluations are based on data, but not made available for public comment.

The National Assembly is Angola’s main legislative body with the power to approve laws on all matters (except those reserved by the constitution to the government) by simple majority (except if otherwise provided in the constitution). Each legislature comprises four legislative sessions of twelve months starting annually on October 15. National Assembly members, parliamentary groups, and the government hold the power to put forward all draft-legislation. However, no single entity can present draft laws that involve an increase in the expenditure or decrease in the State revenue established in the annual budget.

The president promulgates laws approved by the assembly and signs government decrees for enforcement. The state reserves the right to have the final say in all regulatory matters and relies on sectorial regulatory bodies for supervision of institutional regulatory matters concerning investment. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers oversees investment regulations that affect the country’s economy including the ministries in charge. Other major regulatory bodies responsible for getting deals through include:

  • The National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) is the government regulatory and oversight body responsible for regulating oil exploration and production activities. On February 6, 2019, the parastatal oil company Sonangol launched the National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) through the Presidential decree 49/19. The ANPG is the national concessionaire of hydrocarbons in Angola, authorized to conduct, execute and ensure oil, gas and biofuel operations run smoothly, a role previously held by Sonangol. The ANPG must also ensure adherence to international standards and establish relationships with other international agencies and sector relevant organizations.
  • The Regulatory Institute of Electricity and Water Services (IRSEA) is the regulatory authority for renewable energies and enforcing powers of the electricity regulatory authority.
  • The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM): The institute sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have improved legal protection for investors to attract more private investment in electrical infrastructure, such as dams and hydro distribution stations.
  • As of October 1, 2019, a 14 percent VAT regime came into force, replacing the existing 10 percent Consumption Tax. The General Tax Administration (AGT) is the office that oversees tax operations and ensures taxpayer compliance. The new VAT tax regime aims to boost domestic production and consumption and reduce the incidence of compound tax created for businesses unable to recover consumption tax incurred. VAT may be reclaimed on purchases and imports made by taxpayers, making it neutral for business.

Angola acceded to the New York Convention on August 24, 2016, paving the way for effective recognition and enforcement in Angola of awards rendered outside of Angola and subject to reciprocity. Angola participates in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which includes a peer review mechanism on good governance and transparency. Enforcement and protection of investors is under development in terms of regulatory, supervisory, and sanctioning powers. Investor protection mechanisms are weak or almost non-existent.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, and the government does not allow the public to engage in the formulation of legislation or to comment on draft bills. Procurement laws and regulations are unclear, little publicized, and not consistently enforced. Oversight mechanisms are weak, and no audits are required or performed to ensure internal controls are in place or administrative procedures are followed. Inefficient bureaucracy and possible corruption frequently lead to payment delays for goods delivered, resulting in an increase in the price the government must pay.

No regulatory reform enforcement mechanisms have been implemented since the last ICS report, in particular those relevant to foreign investors. The Diário da República (the Federal Register equivalent), is a legal document where key regulatory actions are officially published.

International Regulatory Considerations

On September 14, 2020 the GRA officially announced its intention to join the 54 countries that already apply the Standard Initiative for Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI).

In a letter to the Chairman of the EITI Board, dated September 14, 2020, the Minister of Mineral, Oil and Gas Resources, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, described the steps already taken for the implementation of the EITI. These include the signing of Presidential Decree 117/20, appointing the Minister as chair of the National EITI Coordinating Committee, and a public statement announcing the government’s commitment to join the EITI initiative.

Angola’s overall national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems and is overseen by its constitution. Angola is not a full member of the International Standards Organization (ISO), but has been a corresponding member since 2002. The Angolan Institute for Standardization and Quality (IANORQ) within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce coordinates the country’s establishment and implementation of standards. Angola is an affiliate country of the International Electro-technical Commission that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services.

A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regimes are not coordinated. Angola acceded to the Kyoto Convention on February 23, 2017.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Angola’s legal system is primarily based on the Portuguese legal system and can be considered civil law based, with legislation as the primary source of law. Courts base their judgments on legislation and there is no binding precedent as understood in common law systems. The constitution is considered the supreme law of Angola (article 6(1)) and all laws and conduct are valid only if they conform to the constitution (article 6(3.))

The Angolan justice system is slow, arduous, and often partial. Legal fees are high, and most businesses avoid taking commercial disputes to court in the country. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey ranks Angola 186 out of 190 countries on contract enforcement, and estimates that commercial contract enforcement, measured by time elapsed between filing a complaint and receiving restitution, takes an average of 1,296 days, at an average cost of 44.4 percent of the claim.

Angola has commercial legislation that governs all contracts and commercial activities but no specialized court. On August 5, 2020, the Economic Council of Ministers approved the opening of the Court for Litigation on Commercial, Intellectual, and Industrial Property Matters, at the Luanda First Instance Court. With the introduction of this commercial court, the GRA hopes the business environment and trust in public institutions will improve. Prior to this arrangement, trade disputes were resolved by judges in the Courts of Common Pleas. The commercial legislation provides that before going to court, investors can challenge the decision under the terms of the administrative procedural rules, either through a complaint (to the entity responsible for the decision) or through an appeal (to the next level above the entity responsible for the decision). In the new system, investors will be able, in general, to appeal to civil and administrative courts. Both administrative procedures and lawsuits are extremely bureaucratic and time-consuming. Investors exercising their right to appeal should expect decisions to take months, or even years, in the case of court decisions. In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.

The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice at trial level for provincial and municipal courts and the supreme court nominates provincial court judges. In 1991, the constitution was amended to guarantee judicial independence. However, per the 2010 constitution, the president appoints supreme court judges for life upon recommendation of an association of magistrates and appoints the attorney general. Confirmation by the General Assembly is not required. Angola enacted a new Criminal Code and a new Criminal Procedure Code in November 2020 which entered into force on February 9, 2021 to better align the legal framework with internationally accepted principles and standards, with an emphasis on white-collar crimes and corruption. The system lacks resources and independence to play an effective role though the legal reforms extend criminal liability for corruption offenses and other crimes to legal entities; provide for private sector corruption offenses to face similar fines and imprisonment to the punishments applicable to the public sector and modernize and broaden the list of criminal offenses against the financial system.

There is a general right of appeal to the court of first instance against decisions from the primary courts. To enforce judgments/orders, a party must commence further proceedings called executive proceedings with the civil court. The main methods of enforcing judgments are:

  • Execution orders (to pay a sum of money by selling the debtor’s assets).
  • Delivery of assets; and
  • Provision of information on the whereabouts of assets.

The Civil Procedure Code also provides ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Ordinary appeals consist of first appeals, review appeals, interlocutory appeals, and full court appeals, while extraordinary appeals consist of further appeals and third-party interventions. Generally, an appeal does not operate as a stay of the decision of the lower court unless expressly provided for as much in the Civil Procedure Code.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The GRA is favorable to FDI and offers freedom of establishment in all sectors with exception a few that have been traditionally been closed to FDI: military aircraft and security equipment, the activities of the Central Bank, ports, and airports. However, in 2020, the GRA encouraged foreign investors to take over management of ports and airports under the Privatization Program (PROPRIV). The acquisition of holdings is also possible. A special investment regime applies to the oil, gas, diamond, and financial sectors. Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.

Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.

Investors, foreigners or not, theoretically have the same right of access to incentives, even if the policy of “Angolanization” aims to promote the employment of nationals. Regarding capital repatriations, the law guarantees foreign investors the right to transfer dividends or other income from direct investment out of the country. Starting in 2020, importing capital from foreign investors willing to invest in Angolan companies is immune from licensing by the Angolan central bank.

AIPEX is the investment and export promotion regulation center tasked with promoting Angola’s export potential, legal framework, environment, and investment opportunities in the country and abroad. Housed within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, AIPEX is also responsible for ensuring the application of the 2018 NPIL on foreign direct investments, entered into force on June 26, 2018.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

On May 17, 2018 Angola’s National Assembly approved the nation’s first anti-trust law. The law set up the creation of the Competition Regulatory Authority, which prevents and cracks down on actions of economic agents that fail to comply with the rules and principles of competition. The Competition Regulatory Authority of Angola (Autoridade Reguladora da Concorrência – ARC) was created by Presidential Decree no. 313/18, of December 21, 2018, and it succeeds the now defunct Instituto da Concorrência e Preços. It has administrative, financial, patrimonial and regulatory autonomy, and is endowed with broad supervisory and sanctioning powers, including the power to summon and question persons, request documents, carry out searches and seizures, and seal business premises.

The ARC is responsible, in particular, for the enforcement of the new Competition Act of Angola, approved by Law no. 5/18, of May 10, 2018 and subsequently implemented by Presidential Decree no. 240/18, of October 12. The Act has a wide scope of application, pertaining to both private and state-owned undertakings, and covers all economic activities with a nexus to Angola. The Competition Act prohibits agreements and anti-competitive practices, both between competitors (“horizontal” practices, the most serious example of which are cartels), as well as between companies and its suppliers or customers, within the context of “vertical” relations.

Equally prohibited is abusive conduct practiced by companies in a dominant position, such as the refusal to provide access to essential infrastructures, the unjustified rupture of commercial relations and the practice of predatory pricing, as well as the abusive exploitation, by one or more companies, of economically dependent suppliers or clients. Prohibited practices are punishable by heavy fines that range from one to ten percent of the annual turnover of the companies involved. Offending companies that collaborate with the ARC, by disclosing conduct until then unknown or producing evidence on a voluntary basis, may benefit from significant fine reductions, under a leniency program yet to be developed and implemented by the ARC. Considering the ample powers and potentially heavy sanctions at the disposal of the ARC, companies present in (or planning to enter) Angola are well advised to consider carefully the impact of the new law on their activities, in order to mitigate any risk that its market conduct may be found contrary to the Competition Act.

With the surge of the privatization agenda in 2019 and ongoing anti-corruption and asset recovery strategy and privatization of SOEs program, the Institute of Assets and State Equity (IGAPE) also emerged in providing oversight for acquisitions and mergers

Expropriation and Compensation

Under the Land Tenure Act of November 9, 2004 and the General Regulation on the Concession of Land (Decree no 58/07 of July 13, 2007), all land belongs to the state and the state reserves the right to expropriate land from any settlers. The state is only allowed to transfer ownership of urban real estate to Angolan nationals and may not grant ownership over rural land to any private entity (regardless of nationality), corporate entities or foreign entities. The state may allow for land usage through a 60-year lease to either Angolan or foreign persons (individuals or corporate), after which the state reserves legal right to take over ownership.

On January 24, 2020 Parliament approved the revised Law of Expropriations by Public Utility putting into practice the general principles contained in articles 15, no. 3 and 37, of the Angolan Constitution, which recognize the right to private property and establish that expropriations are only allowed when based on reasons of public interest and upon payment of fair and prompt compensation. The National Assembly also approved Law No. 1/21 on January 7, 2020, which approves the Expropriation Law and revokes legislation that governed this matter since before Angola’s independence. Despite the reforms, expropriation without compensation remains a common practice with idle or underdeveloped areas frequently reverting to the state with little or no compensation to the claimants who paid for the land, who in most cases allege unfair treatment.

In order to implement these fundamental principles, the Expropriation Law establishes the specific procedure that governs expropriation. The new law justifies expropriation for public utility and for other purposes such as defense and national security, the creation of new housing clusters, development of Special Economic Zones and Free Trade Zones, industrial use of mines and mineral deposits, water resources, operation of public services, operation of public transport systems, construction and assembly of power plants, substations and transmission lines integrated in the linked electrical system, as well as any other cases of public utility that may be established in special legislation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Angola is not a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) but has ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. On March 6, 2017, the Government of Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention with the UN Secretary General. The Convention entered into force on June 4, 2017. Its ratification was endorsed domestically via resolution No. 38/2016, published in the Official Gazette of Angola on August 12, 2016.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Angolan Arbitration Law (Law 16/2003 of July 25) (Voluntary Arbitration Law — VAL) provides for domestic and international arbitration. Substantially inspired by Portuguese 1986 arbitration law, it cannot be said to strictly follow the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. The VAL contains no provisions on definitions, rules on interpretation, adopts the disposable rights criterion in regard to arbitration, does not address preliminary decisions or distinguish between different types of awards, and permits appeal on the merits in domestic arbitrations, unless the parties have otherwise agreed.

Angola is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which can provide dispute settlement assistance as part of its political risk insurance products and eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act. The United States and Angola have signed a TIFA, which seeks to promote greater trade and investment between the two nations.

There have not been any judicial proceedings or claims under the TIFA. Angola has no FTA agreement with the United States.

U.S. Embassy Luanda is aware of one ongoing formal investment dispute involving an American company since 2017. To date, the U.S. investor’s complaints against the GRA remain unsettled. The GRA denies being party to the investor dispute and advised the plaintiff to file a case in Angolan courts against its business partner. The GRA recognizes this case as being an investor-to-investor and not investor-to-state dispute.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Other means of alternative dispute resolution are not mandatory by law and, therefore not commonly used in commercial disputes. Under the Public Procurement Law, in the case of a dispute related to the termination of a public works contract, before the judicial proceeding takes place it is mandatory that an extrajudicial conciliation attempt be made. The extrajudicial conciliation attempt takes place before a committee composed of one representative of each of the parties and chaired by the President of the Superior Council of Public Works or a member designated by him for this purpose, within 30 days after the written application and answer of the parties. If the attempt to conciliate is successful, the written terms and conditions must be submitted to the approval of the Minister of Public Works and are then valid as enforceable title.

Angola recognizes and enforces foreign arbitration rulings against its government. However, extra-judicial cases against foreign investors are rare. Although not widely implemented, the Government of Angola and public sector companies recognize the use of arbitration to settle disputes with foreign arbitration awards issued in foreign courts.

Commercial contracts usually include arbitration clauses if foreign companies are involved. Arbitration proceedings are more flexible than litigation through the courts and less time is required to obtain a resolution. Additionally, appointed arbitrators are often experts in the matters in dispute and, as such, the decisions are of higher quality. However, arbitration proceedings are sometimes more expensive than judicial proceedings.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Angola ranks 168 out of 190 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on resolving insolvency. Banks are bound to comply with prudential rules aimed at ensuring that they always maintain a minimum amount of funds not less than the minimal stock capital to ensure adequate levels of liquidity and solvability. The Bankruptcy Regime is summarized in the antiquated Code of Civil Procedure. The Ministry of Justice has begun to conduct studies to identify the most appropriate mechanisms for insolvency resolution, as well as to deepen its general legal and regulatory framework, taking as references the best international practices.

Banking insolvency is regulated by the Law on Financial Institutions No. 12/2015 of June 17, 2015. Based on this law, the BNA increases the social capital requirement for banks operating in the country to guard against possible damages to clients and the financial system. All monetary deposits up to 12.5 million Kwanzas (USD 27,000 equivalent) are also to be deposited into the BNA’s Deposit Guarantee Funds account (Presidential Decree 195/18 of 2018) so that clients (both local and foreign) are guaranteed a refund in case of bankruptcy by their respective bank. Article 69 of the law expressly states that it is the responsibility of the President of the Republic to create the fund, but it is silent on the rules governing its operation or the amounts guaranteed by the fund.

While Angola’s arbitration law (Arbitration Law No. 16/03) for insolvency adopted in 2013 introduced the concept of domestic and international arbitration, the practice of arbitration law is still not widely implemented. The law criminalizes bankruptcy under the following classification: condemnation in Angola or abroad for crimes of fraudulent bankruptcy, i.e., involvement of shareholders or managers in fraudulent activities that result in the bankruptcy, negligence bankruptcy, forgery, robbery, or involvement in other crimes of an economic nature. The Ministry of Finance, the BNA and the Capital Markets Commission (CMC) oversee credit monitoring and regulation.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The New Private Investment Law (NPIL) issued in 2018 seeks to incentivize incoming investment. Investment incentives in the NPIL include:

  • Elimination of the minimum investment value and the value required to qualify for incentives in foreign and local investments, previously set at USD 1,000,000 and USD 500,000 respectively. There is no lower limit to invest and qualify for incentives.
  • Elimination of the obligation for foreign investors to establish a partnership with an Angolan entity with at least a 35 percent stake in the capital structure of investments in the electricity and water, tourism, transport and logistics, construction, media, telecommunications and IT sectors. Under the new law, investors will decide on their capital structure and origin.
  • Granting to foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all tax dues.

Investment incentives are now granted by AIPEX, the State’s investment agency; the president had that responsibility under the 2015 investment law. Companies need to apply for such incentives when submitting an investment application to AIPEX and the relevant ministry. The NPIL restructures the country into three economic development zones (zones A through C) determined by political and socio-economic factors, up from two as per the 2015 investment law. For Zone A, investors have a 3-year moratorium on taxes reduced between 25- 50 percent of the tax levied on the distribution of profits and dividends. For Zone B, it is between three to six years with a 50 to 60 percent tax reduction, and for Zone C between six to eight years with a tax reduction between 60-70 percent of the tax levied on distribution of profits and dividends.

  1. The State guarantees “non-public interference in the management of private companies” and “non-cancellation of licenses without administrative or judicial processes.”
  2. The State provides a new and simplified procedure for the approval of investment projects, along with the adoption of measures aimed at accelerating the contractual process. It also provides special rights projects (undefined), including easier access to visas for investors and priority in the repatriation of dividends, and capital.

Note: Angola is a signatory to the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) applicable to foreign investment.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Angola is a signatory to SADC but not a member of the SADC Free Trade Area. Angola is analyzing and revising its tariff schedule to accommodate beneficial adjustments in regional trade under the SADC Free Trade Area.

Under the NPIL, Angola is divided into three economic zones, zone A through C. Zone A offers a three-year tax exemption for capital tax and a reduction in the tax burden by 25-50 percent; Zone B a three to six-year tax exemption for capital tax with a reduction in the tax burden by 50-60 percent; and, for Zone C, an eight-year tax exemption for capital tax with a with a 60-70 percent reduction in the tax burden.

Porto Caio is under construction in the province of Cabinda. The port is designated as a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and is slated to provide numerous opportunities for warehousing, distribution, storage, lay down area and development of oil and gas related activity. The Port will also serve as a new major gateway to international markets from the west coast of Angola, and the development will facilitate exports and render them more cost-effective for companies.

Although the government has not yet established regional or international free trade zones, on March 21, 2018 the government signed an agreement to join the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA, by bringing together all 54 members of the African Union will be the largest FTZ in the world since the emergence of the WTO. The agreement’s implementation could create a market of 1.2 billion consumers.

On October 12th, Law no. 35/20 – the Free Trade Zones Law (“FTZL”) – was passed. The FTZL has established benefits to be conceded to investors by the Angolan Government, aiming at attracting foreign investment in Angola thus creating economic growth. All types of investment are permitted in the Free Zones, specifically investment in agriculture, industry (that use Angolan raw materials and are focused on exports) and technology.

All types of investment are permitted in the Free Zones, specifically investment in agriculture, industry (that use Angolan raw materials and are focused on exports) and technology.

Specific aspects pertaining to the access to Free Zones (such as monetary requirements, number of jobs created investments in fixed assets) shall be determined in the investment contract.

Access to the Free Zones is permitted to companies, joint ventures, groups of companies or any other form of companies’ representation, whose scope meets the purpose of the Free Zones.

The investments made in Free Zones must consider environmental protection interests.

Activities to be developed in the Free Zones

In the Free Zones investors are allowed to carry out industrial activities, agriculture, technology activities, as well as commercial and service activities. It is possible to carry out other activities which are not specified by the FTZL, provided that such activities target an international market and relevant authorities authorize the activities.

Investment Operations

Internal, external and mixed (also known as indirect) investments operations are permitted. All investment operations are subject to the private investment regulations in force in Angola.

Use of the Free Zones

The use of the Free Zones is granted for a minimum period of 25 (twenty-five) years which may be extended for equal period of time.

Benefits

According to the FTZL benefits pertaining to Industrial Tax, VAT, Custom Rights, Land, Capital and other benefits may be granted to the investors in the Free Zones. In the Free Zones, tax and customs benefits are applicable and are not limited in time.

Tax benefits may include:

  • Reduction of the taxable basis;
  • Accelerated depreciation and reincorporation;
  • Tax credits;
  • Exemption and reduction of rates and taxes;
  • Contributions and importation rights;
  • Deferral of tax payment;
  • other exceptional measures.

In order to benefit from these measures, investors may not exercise the same economic activity in Angolan territory.

Special Regimes

Free Trade Zones permit special benefits regarding migration, labor, foreign-exchange and financial, to be specifically defined.

Facilities

The relevant authorities must create facilities for the investors to have priority access to services and simplified processes to obtain licenses and authorizations.

Local Content / Employment

In addition to the Local Content regulations currently in force in Angola, the FTZL creates an obligation for investors to give preference in employing Angolan employees. Nevertheless, investors may employ foreign qualified employees provided that the number of Angolan employees is higher.

Capital Repatriation

After the implementation of the foreign investment, and in accordance with the foreign-exchange special regime, foreign investors are granted the right to transfer to foreign territory:

  1. Dividends or profits;
  2. The result of the liquidation of the investment including capital gains;
  3. Any amounts that are due to the investor, as established by acts and contracts;
  4. Compensations attributed due to the extension of the Free Zones for national interest reasons;
  5. Royalties or other incomes related to indirect investments, in connection with the transfer or concession of technology.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Angola widely observes a policy to restrict the number of foreign workers and the duration of their employment. The policy aims to promote local workforce recruitment and progression. Decree 6/01, of 2001 establishes that expatriate workers can only be recruited if the Labor Inspectorate gets confirmation from the employer that no Angolan personnel duly qualified to perform the job required is available in the local market. The same decree limits foreign employment to 36 months and temporary employment less than 90 days on the explicit authorization of the Labor Inspectorate. Employers must register an employment contract entered with a foreign national within 30 days at the employment center. The registration includes submission of a copy of the job description approved by the Labor Inspectorate during registration of the employment contract and the payment of a registration fee of 5 percent of the gross salary plus all the benefits.

Companies must deregister employees upon termination of the contract. Deregistration applies to all levels of personnel from administrative staff to boards of directors. Foreign employees require work permits, and no employment is authorized on tourist visas. The visa application procedure, though improved, remains complex, slow and inconsistent. Processes and requirements vary according to the labor market situation at the time of application, the type of work permit being applied for, the nationality of the applicant, the country of application, and personal circumstances of the assignee and any family dependents.

Through the NPIL Angola created the investor visa, granted by the immigration authority to foreign investors, representatives, or attorneys of an investing company, to carry out an approved investment proposal. It allows for multiple entries, and a stay of two years, renewable, for the same period. The NPIL liberalizes foreign investment, limits mandates for local hiring, and primarily calls for strict enforcement on labor sourcing in the petroleum sector. International oil companies are working with the government on a new local-content initiative that will establish more explicit sourcing requirements for the petroleum sector in staffing and material. Specific to the oil sector, because of its significance to the Angolan economy, the Petroleum Activities Law requires Sonangol and its services providers to acquire materials, equipment, machinery, and consumer goods produced in Angola.

Currently, local content regulations offer only guidelines that are loosely enforced, and companies lack clarity on how to satisfy Angolan government’s regulation. While the lack of enforcement may make it easier for foreign companies to comply with local content regulations, the lack of specificity challenges companies in their business planning. For example, it is difficult for companies to compare their competitive position against each other when competing for lucrative concessions and licenses from the government, as local content is sometimes considered during competition for government tenders. Legal guidance to get the guarantees for investors under the NPIL is strongly encouraged.

Regulations around data management including encryption are still at nascent stages. Data storage The Institute for Communications of Angola (INACOM) oversees and regulates data in liaison with the Ministry of Telecommunications.

The President of Angola passed, Decree No. 214/16 on 10 October 2016, establishing the organizational framework of the data protection authority. The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (‘MTTI’) announced, on 9 October 2019, that the National Database Protection Agency (APD) had become operational.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Transparency and land property rights are critical for Angolan economic development, given that two thirds of Angolans work in agriculture and are directly dependent on land property rights. However, the Land Act (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004. While the Land Act is a crucial step toward addressing issues of land tenure, normalization of land ownership in Angola persists with problems such as difficulties in completing land claims, land grabbing, lack of reliable government records, and unresolved status of traditional land tenure. Among other provisions, the law included a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles). During the civil war, a transparent system of land property rights did not exist, so it was crucial to re-establish one shortly after the end of hostilities in 2002.

According to the “Land Act,” the State may transfer or constitute, for the benefit of Angolan natural or legal persons, a multiplicity of land rights on land forming part of its private domain. Although, it is possible to transfer ownership over some categories of land, the transfer of State land almost never implies the transfer of its ownership, but only the formation of minor land rights with leasehold being the most common form in Angola. The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land according to the Land Act. Weak land tenure legislation and lack of secure legal guarantees (clean titles) are the reasons given by most commercial banks for their greater than 80 percent refusal rate for loans since land is used as collateral. Foreign real-estate developers therefore seek out public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements with State actors who can provide protection against land disputes and financial risks involved in projects that require significant cash outlays to get started.

Registering parcels of land over 10,000 hectares must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Registering property takes 190 days on average, ranking 167 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value. Owners must also wait five years after purchasing before reselling land. There are no written regulations setting out guidelines defining different forms of land occupation, including commercial use, traditional communal use, leasing, and private use. Over the years, the government has given out large parcels of land to individuals in order to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely proceeded in an unsystematic way and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.

Before obtaining proof of title nationwide, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Institute of Planning and Urban Management of Luanda (IPGUL), an often-time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more. However, if a company already owns the land, it must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. An updated property certificate (“certidão predial”) is obtained from the relevant Real Estate Registry, with the complete description of the property including owner(s) information and any charges, liens, and/or encumbrances pending on the property. The complex administration of property laws and regulations that govern land ownership and transfer of real property as well as its tedious registration process may reduce investor appetite for real estate investments in Angola. Dispatch no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011 mandates the total fees for the “certidão predial” include stamp duty (calculated according to the Law on Stamp Duty); justice fees (calculated according to the Law on Justice Fees); fees to justice officers (according to the set contributions for the Justice budget); along with notary and other fees. The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal unit (UCF).

Intellectual Property Rights

Angola is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and follows international patent classifications of patents, products, and services to identify and codify requests for patents and trademark registration. Angola is also member of the Paris Convention where each contracting state must grant the same IP protection to nationals of other contracting states and provides for the right of priority in the case of patents, trademarks and designs. It also recognizes the goods and services classes from the Nice Classification and allows for multi-class filing. The Nice Classification, established by the Nice Agreement, is an international classification for the registration of trademarks.

Trademark registration is mandatory to be granted rights over a mark. Angolan trademarks are valid for 10 years from the filing date and renewable for further periods of 10 years.

The Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual (IAPI) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce charged with implementing patent and trademark law. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Environment oversees copyright law.

Implemented by the Presidential Decree No. 62/20 of March 4, the new official fees related to Industrial Property procedures in Angola, were published in the Official Gazette of the Angola Republic. The new fees came into force on March 20, 2020 and reflect an increase of values in all Industrial Property procedures practiced in this jurisdiction, updating rates that have remained unchanged for more than 20 years. The most significant alteration with respect to trademarks, consists of joining in a single fee, paid at the time of the registration application, the filing fees, the first and second publication fees, and the granting and registration certificate fees.

With regard to patents, additional fees are due for each claim after the 15th. Additionally, the request for the anticipation or postponement of the publication of a patent is now provided by the new applicable fees.

Angola is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 report nor the notorious market report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  . The U.S. Embassy point of contact for IPR related issues is Logan Council ( CouncilLR@state.gov ). For legal counsel, refer to Angola’s Country Commercial Guide Local Professional Services List ( http://export.gov/ccg/angola090710.asp 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

There is a visible effort by the government to create more attractive conditions for foreign investment as reflected in the attempt to create a more favorable social and political climate, the new legislation on private investment and in a greater liberalization of capital movements. The dangers of absorption by the local partner or the impossibility of transferring profits are thus mitigated. The BNA abolished the licensing previously required on importing capital from foreign investors allocated to the private sector and exporting income associated with such investments. This measure compliments the need to improve the capture of FDI and portfolio investment and it is in line with the privatization program for public companies (PROPRIV) announced through Presidential Decree No. 250/19 of August 5, 2019 which encourages foreign companies to participate. In addition to the operations, BNA is also exempt from licensing, the export of capital resulting from the sale of investments in securities traded on a regulated market and the sale of any investment, in which the buyer is also not – foreign exchange resident, pursuant to Notice No. 15/2019.

BODIVA is Angola’s Debt and Securities Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange (BODIVA) allows through a platform the trading of different types of financial instruments available to investors with rules (self-regulation), systems (platforms) and procedures that assure market fairness and integrity to facilitate portfolio investment. However, there is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment which is poorly explored. At the moment, only local commercial banks have the ability to potentially list on the nascent stock exchange.

The central bank (BNA) partially observes IMF Article VIII on refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Foreign exchange crises and the loss of correspondent banking relationships since 2015 have prompted the BNA to adopt restrictive monetary policies that negatively affect Angola’s payment system, seen in the delay in foreign exchange denominated international transfers.

Credit is not allocated on market terms. Foreign investors do not normally access credit locally. For Angolan investors, credit access is very limited, and if available, comes with a collateral requirement of 125 percent, so most either self-finance, or seek financing from non-Angolan banks and investment funds such as the “Angola Invest” government-subsidized funding program for micro, small and medium private enterprises (SMEs). The fund, sourced from the Annual State Budget, ended on September 25, 2018, further reducing funding opportunities for many SMEs. Banks credit issue appetite also lies more on government than the private sector as credit to government is more profitable for these commercial banks.

Money and Banking System

Angola is over-banked. Although four banks have been closed since 2018, 26 banks still operate in Angola. The top seven banks control nearly 80% of sector deposits, but the rest of the sector includes a large number of banks with minimal scale and weak franchises. 47% of income-earners utilize banking services, with 80% being from the urban areas. Angolan banks focus on profit generating activities including transactional banking, short-term trade financing, foreign exchange, and investments in high-interest government bonds.

The banking sector largely depends on monetary policies established by Angola’s central bank, the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA). Thanks to the ongoing IMF economic and financial reform agenda, the BNA is adopting international best practices and slowly becoming autonomous. On February 13, 2021 President Joao Lourenco issued an edict granting autonomy to the BNA, a decision taken after IMF recommendations. The reforms taken under the Lourenco administration have lessened the political influence over the BNA and allowed it to more freely adopt strategies to build resilience from external shocks on the economy. As Angola’s economy depends heavily on oil to fuel its economy, so does the banking sector. The BNA periodically monitors minimum capital requirements for all banks and orders the closure of non-compliant banks.

Although the RECREDIT Agency purchased non-performing loans (NPLs) of the state’s parastatal BPC bank, NPLs remain high at 32%, a decrease of 5% since 2016. Credit availability is minimal and often supports government-supported programs. The GRA obliged banks to grant credit more liberally in the economy, notably by implementing a Credit Support Program (PAC). For instance, the BNA has issued a notice obliging Angolan commercial banks to grant credit to national production in the minimum amount equivalent to 2.5% of their net assets until the end of 2020.

The country has not lost any additional correspondent banking relationships since 2015. The BNA is currently working on reforms to convince international banks to reestablish correspondent banking relationships. The majority of transactions go via third party correspondent banking services in Portugal banks, a costly option for all commercial banks. At the time of issuing this report no correspondent banking relationships were at jeopardy.

Foreign banking institutions are allowed to operate in Angola and are subject to BNA oversight.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the BNA met in March 2020, to consider recent changes to the main economic indicators, and taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the domestic economy. The MPC paid particular attention to the external accounts, and their implications for the conduct of monetary and exchange rate policies. The MPC has accordingly decided to:

  • Maintain the base interest rate, BNA rate, at 15.5%;
  • Maintain the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with an overnight maturity, at 0%;
  • Reduce the interest rate on the liquidity absorption facility with a seven-day maturity, from 10% to 7%;
  • Maintain reserve requirement coefficients for national and foreign currencies at 22% and 15%, respectively;
  • Establish a liquidity facility with a maximum value of Kz 100 billion for the acquisition of government securities held by non-financial corporations:
  • Extend to the 54 products defined in PRODESI the credit granted with recourse to the reserve requirements, and establish a minimum number of loans to be granted per bank;
  • Exempt from the limits established per type of payment instrument, the import of products included in the basic food basket, and of and these continue to cripple lending appetite of commercial banks to the private sector medicines;
  • Set April 1 as the start date for the use of the Bloomberg platform by the oil companies and by the National Agency of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, for the sale of foreign currency to commercial banks.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Angolan National Bank (Banco Nacional de Angola –BNA) published Notice no. 15/2019, of December 30, 2019, which establishes the rules and procedures applicable to foreign exchange operations conducted by non-resident entities related to: (a) foreign direct investment; (b) investment in securities (portfolio investment); (c) divestment operations; and (d) income earned by non-residents from direct investment or portfolio investment (the “Notice”). The notice also applies to all foreign exchange transactions relating to “foreign investment projects that were registered with BNA prior to its publication.” Investments made by non-resident foreign exchange entities in the oil sector are excluded from the scope of the Notice.

The notice distinguishes foreign direct investment and portfolio investment. Direct investment is investment made in the “creation of new companies or other legal entities” or through the acquisition of shareholdings in non-listed Angolan companies or, if listed in a regulated market when the investment gives the external investor a right of control equal to 10% or more. In turn, portfolio investment represents the investment in securities. In the case of the purchase of securities representing the capital of a listed company, portfolio investment will be considered only when the voting rights associated with the investment are less than 10% of the listed company’s capital stock.

Since dropping the peg on the dollar in 2018, the local currency fluctuates freely. In October 2019, the BNA fully liberalized the foreign exchange regime, abandoning the trading band that had been in place since January 2018. Its previous policy of controlled exchange rate adjustment prevented the kwanza from depreciating by more than 2.0% at currency auctions. The BNA also has allowed oil companies to directly sell foreign currency to commercial banks. The BNA said the move is expected to normalize the foreign exchange market through the reduction of its direct intervention with oil firms, increase the number of foreign currency suppliers, and revive the country’s foreign exchange market. The exchange rate is determined by the rate on the day of sale of forex to commercial banks. On June 22, 2020, the BNA adopted Bloomberg’s foreign exchange electronic trading system (FXGO) and its electronic auction system to bring greater efficiency and transparency to Angola’s forex market.

Remittance Policies

Based on the notice issued on December 23, 2019 as per above, as long as adequate supporting documentation is submitted to the commercial bank, foreign investors can freely transfer within 5 days abroad:

  1. dividends, interest and other income resulting from their investments;
  2. shareholder loan repayments;
  3. proceeds of the sale of securities listed on the stock exchange;
  4. when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, the proceeds of the sale, when the purchaser is also a foreign investor and the amount to be transferred abroad by the seller is equal to the amount to be transferred from abroad by the purchaser, in foreign currency;

The transfer abroad of capital, requiring the purchase of foreign currency, when the participated entity is not listed on the stock exchange, requires prior exchange control approval when it relates to the following:

  1. The sale of the whole or a part of an investment;
  2. The dissolution of the participated entity;
  3. Any other corporate action that would reduce the capital of the participated entity.

There may be delays greater than 60 days if the documentation submitted to the BNA is not complete such as a tax due statement from the General Tax Agency and companies’ balance sheet statements.

The BNA has facilitated remittances of international supplies by introducing payment by letters of credit. Also, the 2018 NPIL grants foreign investors “the right and guarantee to transfer abroad” dividends or distributed profits, the proceeds of the liquidation of their investments, capital gains, the proceeds of indemnities and royalties, or other income from remuneration of indirect investments related to technology transfer after proof of implementation of the project and payment of all taxes due. The government continues to prioritize foreign exchange for essential goods and services including the food, health, defense, and petroleum industries.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In October 2012, former President Eduardo dos Santos established a petroleum funded USD 5 billion sovereign wealth fund called the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA). The FSDEA was established in accordance with international governance standards and best practices as outlined in the Santiago Principles.

In February 2015, the FSDEA was recognized as transparent by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), receiving a score of 8 out of 10. The FSDEA has the express purpose of profit maximization with a special emphasis on investing in domestic projects that have a social component ( http://www.fundosoberano.ao/investments/  ). Jose Filomeno dos Santos (Zenu), son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was appointed chairman of FSDEA in June 2013, but was removed by President Lourenco in 2017, and is appealing a five-year jail term pronounced in August 2020, following his trial for money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Former Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes was named new head of the FSDEA that same year.

Half of the initial endowment of FSDEA was invested in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and real estate in Angola and other African markets, and the other half was supposedly allocated to cash and fixed-income instruments, global and emerging-market equities, and other alternative investments. The FSDEA is in possession of approximately USD 3.35 billion of its private equity assets previously under the control of QG and given to economic and financial hardship, the fund’s equity was reduced by USD 2 billion to finance the Program for Intervention in the Municipalities in 2019 and USD 1.5 billion for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The FSDEA also announced that the government will use the remainder, USD 1.5 billion of the fund’s assets to support social programs on condition of future repayment through increased tax on the BNA’s rolling debts.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In Angola, certain SOEs exercise delegated governmental powers, especially in the mining sector where the government is the sole concessionaire. Foreign investors may sometimes find demands made by SOEs excessive, and under such conditions, SOEs have easier access to credit and government contracts. There is no law mandating preferential treatment to SOEs, but in practice they have access to inside information and credit. Currently, SOEs are not subject to budgetary constraints and quite often exceed their capital limits.

SOEs, often benefitting from a government mandate, operate mostly in the extractive; transportation; commerce; banking; and construction, building, and heavy equipment sectors. All SOEs in Angola are required to have boards of directors, and most board members are affiliated with the government. SOEs are not explicitly required to consult with government officials before making decisions. By law, SOEs must publish annual financial reports for the previous year in the national daily newspaper Jornal de Angola by April 1. Such reports are not always subject to publicly released external audits (though the audit of state oil firm Sonangol is publicly released). The standards used are often questioned. Not all SOEs fulfill their legal obligations, and few are sanctioned.

Angola’s supreme audit institution, Tribunal de Contas, is responsible for auditing SOEs. However, reports from the Tribunal de Contas are only made public after a few years. The most recently published report, for 2017, was published in 2019. Angola’s fiscal transparency would be improved by ensuring its supreme audit institution’s audits of SOEs and the government’s annual financial accounts are made public within a reasonable period. Publicly available audit reports would also improve the transparency of contracts between private companies and SOEs.

In November 2016, the Angolan Government revised Law 1/14 “Legal Regime on Issuance and Management of Direct and Indirect Debt,” which now differentiates between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ public debt. The GRA considers SOE debt as indirect public debt, and only accounts in its state budget for direct government debt, thus effectively not reflecting some substantial obligations in fact owed by the government. President Lourenço has launched various reforms to improve financial sector transparency, enhance efficiency in the country’s SOEs as part of the National Development plan 2018-2022 and Macroeconomic Stability Plan. The strategy included the prospective privatization of 195 SOE assets that are deemed not profitable to the state. The privatization will possibly include the restructuring of the national air carrier TAAG, as well as Sonangol and its subsidiaries. The latter intends to sell off its non-core businesses as part of its restructuring strategy to make the parastatal more efficient.

Angola is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Angola does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

In 2020 the GRA increased the number of assets to be privatized by 2022 from 90 to 195 through the Angola Debt and Securities Exchange market (BODIVA) and under the supervision of the Institute of Management of Assets and State Holdings (IGAPE). The privatization program “PROPRIV,” implements the Government’s Interim Macroeconomic Stabilization Program (PEM), which aims to rid the government of unprofitable public institutions. The GRA plans to privatize part of state-owned Angola Telecommunications Company, companies in the oil and energy sector, as well as several textile and beverages industries. The GRA has stated that the privatization process will be open to interested foreign investors and has guaranteed a transparent bidding process. The tenders are open to local and foreign investors. In 2020 PROPRIV helped the government raise over USD 500 million through the privatization of 33 assets following public tenders.

The oil company Sonangol, the State’s largest SOE, sold 14 of the 20 companies it planned to privatize in 2019. It also sold 19 out of 26 planned to be sold in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed privatization efforts, and the rest of the total 70 assets to be privatized will likely be sold in 2021 and 2022. The list includes divestments in the subsidiaries and assets of Sonangol Cabo Verde – Sociedade e Investimentos and Óleos de São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as stakes in Founton (Gibraltar), Sonatide Marine (Cayman Islands), Solo Properties Knightbridge (United Kingdom), Societé Ivoiriense de Raffinage (Cote d’Ivoire), Puma Energy Holdings (Singapore) and Sonandiets Services (Panama), by 2021.

Sonangol will sell its stake in WTA-Houston Express and French company WTA, as well as assets in Portuguese real estate companies Puaça, Diraniproject III and Diraniproject V, in Sonacergy – Serviços e Construções, Sonafurt International Shipping and Atlantis Viagens e Turismo. Sonangol also holds assets to be privatized in Angolan companies in the Health, Education, Transport, Telecommunications, Energy, Civil Construction, Mineral Resources and Oil and Banking sectors.

The sale of more than 60 non-core assets will make the company “financially more robust,” and allow it to focus on its core business.

The GRA created a privatization commission on February 27, 2018 and a website https://igape.minfin.gov.ao/PortalIGAPE/#!/sala-de-imprensa/noticias/5413/anuncio-de-concurso-tender-announcement   for submission of tenders. Full tender documents can be obtained by visiting the below link: http://www.ucm.minfin.gov.ao/cs/groups/public/documents/document/zmlu/mdu4/~edisp/minfin058842.zip

Alternatively, contact igape@minfin.gov.ao .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government has few initiatives to promote responsible business conduct. On March 26, 2019, the UNDP launched the National Network of Corporate Social Responsibility, called “RARSE,” to promote the creation of a platform to reconcile responsible business conduct with the needs of the population. The government, through the Ministry of Education, also held a campaign under the theme, “Countries that have a good education, that enforce laws, condemn corruption, privilege and practice citizenship, have as a consequence successful social and economic development.” The government has enacted laws to prevent labor by children under 14 and forced labor, although resource limitations hinder adequate enforcement. In June 2018, the government passed a National Action Plan (2018-2022) to eradicate the worst forms of child labor (the PANETI). With limitations, the laws protect the rights to form unions, collectively bargain, and strike. Government interference in some strikes has been reported. The Ministry of Public Administration, Employment, and Social Security has a hotline for workers who believe their rights have been infringed. Angola’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry established the Principles of Ethical Business in Angola.

The GRA does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons but is making significant efforts to do so. Those efforts to Angola being led to Angola being upgraded to Tier 2 in 2020. A National Action Plan to Combat and Prevent Trafficking in Persons in 2019 included measures to improve the capacities of coordination agencies, investigating more potential trafficking cases, convicting more traffickers, training front-line responders, conducting some awareness-raising activities, and improving data collection on trafficking crimes through use of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional data collection tool.

The government continues to strengthen its bilateral efforts on anti-corruption and improved governance. On July 1, 2019, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Security and Public Order with the United States. The MOU enables the two governments to cooperate in the fields of information exchange related to the prevention, investigation, and combatting of criminal activity, including the collection and processing of evidence. The MOU encourages the exchange of information on criminal investigation techniques, the implementation of professional training programs, and exchange of delegations.

To support increasing fiscal transparency and sustainable debt management, the U.S. Government offers ongoing technical assistance to the Financial Intelligence Unit on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). The United States also provides periodic technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance and communicates with the Angolan banking sector to adopt international best practices that will help Angola prepare for the Financial Action Taskforce review starting in 2021.

In 2015, Angola organized an interagency technical working group to explore Angola’s possible membership in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Angola formally announced its intention to join the EITI in September 2020. Angola has been a member of the Kimberley Process (KP) since 2003 and chaired the KP in 2015.

Angola is not a party to the WTO’s GPA, and does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate for SOEs.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Angola occupies the 142nd place out of 180 in the Corruption perception index  of the organization Transparency International, in clear progress since the last report (+19 places).

Corruption remains a strong impediment to doing business in Angola and has had a corrosive impact on international market investment opportunities and on the broader business climate. Angola has a comprehensive anti-corruption legal framework, but implementation remains a severe challenge.

In January 2020, the government issued a general conduct guide mostly for the National Public Procurement Service, the regulatory and supervisory body of public procurement in Angola, outlining whistleblowing responsibilities for corruption and related offences in public procurement. Since coming into office on an anti-corruption platform, President Lourenco has led a concerted effort to restore investor confidence by prioritizing anti-corruption and the fight against nepotism. Following approval in October 2019, a new law on anti-money laundering, combating the Financing of Terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction came into force in January 2020, superseding Law No. 34/11, of 12 December 2011. The new law incorporates several IMF and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. Importantly, it now recognizes and politically exposed persons as any national or foreign person that holds or has held a public office in Angola, or in any other country or jurisdiction, or in any international organization, and subjects them to greater scrutiny by the financial sector. Other significant improvements in the new law include:

  • The definition of “ultimate beneficial owner” was expanded to encompass, notably, all persons that hold, directly or indirectly, a controlling interest in a company, including the control of the share capital, voting rights or a significant influence in the company. There is no longer a minimum threshold to determine the existence of control.
  • Identification and diligence duties are now applicable to occasional transactions executed via wire transfers in an amount of more than USD 1,000, in national or foreign currency.
  • The scope of the duty to communicate suspicious transactions in cash or wire transfers has been amended and is now applicable to transactions between USD 5,000 and USD 15,000, depending on the underlying operation.
  • Payment service providers that control the ordering and reception of a wire transfer must consider the information received from the sender and the beneficiary to determine whether there is a duty to report.
  • The Tax Authorities now have a duty to report suspicious cross-border payments.

The president approved a set of amendments to the Public Contracts Law on November 16, 2018, which imposed further requirements for the declaration of assets and income, interests, impartiality, confidentiality, and independence in the formation and execution of public contracts. In December 2018, the Government of Angola rolled out a national anti-corruption strategy (NACS) billed under the motto, “Corruption – A fight for all and by all.” The five-year strategy, developed in concert with the UNDP, is designed to improve government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to citizen needs. The NACS focuses on three pillars in the fight against corruption – prevention, prosecution, and institutional capacity building.

Crimes linked to corruption are enforced through the Public Probity Law of 2010. President Lourenco’s mandate for senior government officials requires all public officials to disclose their assets and income once every two years, and it prohibits public servants from receiving money or gifts from private business deals. The Attorney General’s Office has indicted two members of Parliament on corruption charges since the publication of the country’s anti-corruption strategy in 2018. The Penal Code makes it a criminal offense for private enterprises to engage in business transactions with public officials.

Angola has incorporated regional anti-corruption guidelines and into their domestic legislation, including: the SADC “Protocol Against Corruption,” the African Union’s “Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption,” and the United Nation’s “Convention against Corruption.” Angola does not have an independent body to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, and enforcement of existing laws is generally weak or non-existent. However, the Attorney General’s office has a department focused on investigating of corruption crimes and recovering Assets. Three institutions – the Audit Court, the Inspector General of Finance, and the Office of the Attorney General – perform many of the anti-corruption duties in Angola. http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/sub-saharan-africa/angola/initiatives/public-anti-corruption-initiatives.aspx  

The government also passed the Law on the Repatriation of Financial Resources in June 2018, which established the terms and conditions for the repatriation of financial resources held abroad by resident individuals and legal entities with registered offices in Angola. The law exempted individuals and legal entities, who voluntarily repatriated their financial resources within a period of 180 days following the date of entry into force of the Law, by transferring the funds to an Angolan bank account, from any obligation or liability of tax, foreign exchange and criminal charge. Upon expiry of the grace period for repatriation, the law allowed for the possibility of forced repatriation by the government. The government estimates that USD 30 billion of Angolan assets are sheltered overseas though some estimates point to as much as USD 100 billion. In early 2019, the government established the National Asset Recovery Service (SNRA), an institution linked to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), in charge of ensuring compliance with the repatriation law. Attorney General Helder Pita Groz announced in December 2020 that since the establishment of the SRNA, Angola had recovered more than USD 5 billion in assets and cash. Also, in January 2019, the National Assembly approved the new Penal Code, which includes harsher punishment for active and passive corruption. While a substantial proportion of Angolans (44%) see corruption as declining, a majority (54%) say the GRA is doing a poor job in fighting corruption. The perception persists that the GRA is using the fight against corruption as a tool to crack down on political opponents within the ruling MPLA party. More than half (55%) believe that people who report corruption to the authorities risk retaliation or other negative consequences. The national police are widely perceived as more corrupt than any other public officials with whom citizens regularly interact.

Private sector companies have individual internal controls for ethics, compliance and tracking fraudulent activities. However, they do not have a mechanism to detect and report irregularities related to dealings with public officials. It is important for U.S. companies, regardless of their size, to assess the business climate in the sector in which they will be operating or investing, and to have an effective compliance program or measures to prevent and detect corruption, including foreign bribery. U.S. individuals and firms operating or investing in Angola, should take the time to become familiar with the relevant anticorruption laws of both Angola and the United States in order to properly comply with them, and where appropriate, to seek legal counsel.

Angola is not a member state to the UN Anticorruption Convention or the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. On March 26, 2018 it ratified and published in the national gazette the African Union Convention on the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and now takes legislative measures against illicit enrichment (Article 8), confiscation and seizure of proceeds and means of corruption (Article 16), and international cooperation in matters of corruption and money laundering (Article 20).

Resources to Report Corruption

Hélder Pitta Grós
Procurador Geral da Republica (Attorney General of the Republic)
Procurador Geral da Republica (Attorney General’s Office)
Travessa Antonio Marques Monteiro 22, Maianga
Telephone: 244-222-333172

10. Political and Security Environment

Angola maintains a politically stable environment. Politically motivated violence is not a high risk, and incidents are rare. The last significant incident of political violence happened in 2010 during an attack against the Togolese national soccer team by FLEC-PM (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda—Military Position) in the northern province of Cabinda. FLEC threatened Chinese workers in Cabinda in 2015 and claimed in 2016 that they would return to active armed struggle against the Angolan government forces. No attacks have since ensued and the FLEC has remained relatively inactive.

President Lourenco has pledged to govern for all Angolans and to combat two of the country’s major problems: corruption and mismanagement of public funds. President Lourenco’s government seeks reform of the state and national cohesion. Local elections – “Autarquias” –were anticipated to take place in 2020 but have not yet occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of key legislation governing the elections.

Angola is also becoming more assertive and demonstrating a more steadfast commitment to peace and stability in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region. In 2019 and 2020 it facilitated an agreement to end mounting tensions between the Rwanda and Uganda. Angola maintains the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and has played an important convening role on the situation in the Central African Republic.

With Angola’s economy continuing to struggle, social dissatisfaction is on the rise and is triggering reactions particularly among Angolan young adults who take to the streets occasionally to protest against overall economic hardship and unrealized political pledges. Large pockets of the population live in poverty without adequate access to basic services, and the country could benefit from more inclusive development policies. According to the 2018/2019 Expenditure and Income Survey from the National Institute of Statistics, the poverty index was at 40.6%. A social protection scheme program has been launched with a pilot cash transfer project which will benefit over 1.6 million vulnerable families until 2022 around the country.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Angolan labor force has limited technical skills, English language capabilities, and managerial ability. Many employers find it necessary to invest heavily in educating and training their Angolan staff. Angola’s labor force was estimated to be 13.1 million in 2019. The literacy rate is estimated to be 70 percent (82 percent male, 60.7 percent female). According to the National Statistics Institute, in 2019, the unemployment rate in the population aged 15 and above was around 31 percent, although more than 60 percent of all jobs are in the informal sector. Eighty-six percent of primary school age children attend school. The law mandates that children must attend school for six years beginning at age six. Twenty-nine percent of boys and seventeen percent of girls attend high school.

There are gaps in compliance with international labor standards which may pose a reputational risk to investors. Children are sometimes employed in agriculture, construction, fishing, and coal industries. Forced labor is sometimes used in agricultural, fishing, construction, domestic services, and artisanal diamond mining sectors. Additional information is available in the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, (https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-trafficking-in-persons-report/angola/), 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices (https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/angola/), and 2019 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, ().

Angola’s General Labor Law (Law No. 2/00), updated in 2015, recognizes the right of workers, except members of the armed forces and police, to form and join independent unions, to collectively bargain, and to strike, but these rights are either limited or restricted. To establish a union, a minimum of 30 percent of workers from a sector at the provincial level must participate and prior authorization by authorities with accompanying bureaucratic approvals is required. Unlike workers in the private sector, civil service employees do not have the right to collective bargaining. While the law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference, it also places some restrictions on engaging in a strike. Strict bureaucratic procedures must be followed for a strike to be considered legal. The government can deny the right to strike or obligate workers to return to work for members of the armed forces, police, prison staff, fire fighters, other “essential services” public sector employees, and oil workers. The government may intervene in labor disputes that affect national security, particularly strikes in the oil sector. The definition of civil service workers providing “essential services” is broadly defined, encompassing the transport sector, communications, waste management and treatment, and fuel distribution.

Collective labor disputes are to be settled through compulsory arbitration by the Ministry of Labor, Public Administration and Social Security. The law does not prohibit employer retribution against strikers, but it does authorize the government to force workers back to work for “breaches of worker discipline” or participation in unauthorized strikes. The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and stipulates that worker complaints be adjudicated in the labor court. Under the law, employers are required to reinstate workers who have been dismissed for union activities.

The General Labor Law also spells out procedures for hiring workers. For work contracts of indefinite duration, the law provides for a basic probationary period of up to six months, during which the worker or employer can terminate the contract without notice or justification. After the probationary period ends, dismissed workers have the right to appeal to a labor court. Many employers prefer to reach a monetary settlement with workers when a dispute arises, rather than bring cases before the labor court. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report found that fired workers with one to ten years of service received on average 13.6 weeks of salary compensation. The notice period before dismissing a worker is 4.3 weeks.

The government conducts annual surveys of the oil industry to implement a requirement that oil companies hire Angolan nationals when qualified applicants are available. If no qualified nationals apply for the position, then the companies may request the government’s permission to hire expatriates. Outside of the petroleum sector, policies to encourage “Angolanization” of the labor force, i.e., the hiring of locals, discourages bringing in expatriates. However, the associated visa processes for the oil industry are currently easier and faster due to a special process the Angolan Ministry of Petroleum offers companies in that sector. Additionally, working visas for other sectors have also become easier to obtain and the GRA launched an investor’s visa in 2018.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2020 $62.72 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $-254 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 -4.8% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Dorcas Makaya, Economic Specialist
United States Embassy, Luanda
Rua Houari Boumedienne 32 Miramar, Angola
Telephone: +244 222 641 154
Email: MakayaDC@state.gov

Benin

Executive Summary

Benin has been a stable democracy since 1990, enjoying until recently a reputation for regular, peaceful, and inclusive elections. In 2019 and 2021, the government held legislative and presidential elections, respectively, which were not fully competitive. Elections-related unrest in 2019 and 2021 resulted in several deaths. In April, President Patrice Talon was reelected for a second five-year term.

Benin’s overall macroeconomic conditions were positive in 2020, though growth declined compared to previous years. According to IMF estimates, GDP growth slowed from 6.9 percent in 2019 to 2.0 percent in 2020. Most of the slowdown was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and Nigeria’s partial closure of its borders that lasted from August 2019 to December 2020. In December 2020, Benin’s National Assembly unanimously passed the Government of Benin (GOB) 2021 budget, which projects economic growth to accelerate to 7.6 percent in 2021, higher than estimates from multilateral institutions. The IMF projection for growth in 2021 is 5.0 percent, and the African Development Bank projection is 4.8 percent. Port activity and the cotton sector are the largest drivers of economic growth. Telecommunications, agriculture, energy, cement production, and construction are other significant components of the economy. Benin also has a large informal sector. The country’s GDP is roughly 51 percent services, 26 percent agriculture, and 23 percent manufacturing.

President Talon launched an ambitious $15 billion five-year Government Action Plan (PAG) in 2016. The PAG lays out a development plan structured around 45 major projects, 95 sector-based projects, and 19 institutional reforms.  With the goals of strengthening the administration of justice, fostering a structural transformation of the economy, and improving living conditions, the projects are concentrated in infrastructure, agriculture and agribusiness, tourism, health, and education.  The government estimates that full implementation of the PAG will result in the creation of 500,000 new jobs and a leap in national economic and social conditions. The government intended that 61 percent of the PAG be funded through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Through the end of 2020 no public-private partnerships had been secured. Government critics allege that the Talon administration is using the PAG in part to channel resources and contracts to administration insiders.

Benin continues efforts to attract private investment in support of economic growth amidst reports of high-level corruption among government insiders and occasional failure to respect foreign investment contracts. The Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (APIEX) is a one-stop-shop for promoting new investments, business startups, and foreign trade. In 2020, APIEX worked with foreign companies to facilitate new investments, though some companies reported that the agency was under-resourced and hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape in other agencies and ministries. APIEX reported that business creation increased to 40,000 in 2020 from 13,000 in 2015.

In June 2017, a five-year, $375 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Benin entered into force. The Benin Power Compact is advancing policy reforms to bolster financing for the electricity sector, attract private capital into power generation, and strengthen regulation and utility management. Through the compact MCC is expanding the capacity and increasing the reliability of Benin’s power grid in southern and northern Benin. As two thirds of Benin’s population does not have access to electricity, the compact also includes a significant off-grid electrification project via a clean energy grant facility that supports private sector investment in off-grid power systems. This follows Benin’s 2006-2011 compact, which modernized the country’s port – the principal source of government revenue – and improved land administration, the justice sector, and access to credit.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 83 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 149 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 126 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 2 million https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 1,250 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Beninese government encourages foreign investment, which it views as critical for economic development and successful implementation of the $15 billion PAG. APIEX aims to promote foreign direct investment and reduce administrative barriers to doing business. APIEX serves as the single investment promotion center and conduit of information between foreign investors and the Beninese government. It is the technical body responsible for reviewing applications for approval under the Investment Code and the administrative authority for special economic zones (SEZs). The agency has significantly reduced processing times for registration of new companies (from 15 days to one day) and construction permits (from 90 to 30 days), but the World Bank 2020 Doing Business report indicates that it takes 88 days to deal with construction permits. In practice, APIEX faces capacity constraints, processing times can be longer than stated, and its website is often out of date and lacks information on the latest regulations and laws. The Investment Code, amended in 2020, establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. Additional information on business startup is available at https://monentreprise.bj/  .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Beninese law guarantees the right to own and transfer private property. The court system enforces contracts, but the judicial process is inefficient and suffers from corruption. Enforcement of rulings is problematic. Most firms entering the market work with an established local partner and retain a competent Beninese attorney. A list of English-speaking lawyers and legal counselors is available on the Embassy’s website: https://bj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Business Facilitation

In an effort to facilitate business travel and tourism, Benin implements a visa-free system for African nationals and an online e-visa system for other foreign nationals. The country is working to open four new trade offices abroad to enhance Benin’s international business opportunities. One is already underway in Shenzhen, China; others are planned for Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

Benin’s 2017 Property Code made property registration simpler and less expensive in order to boost the real estate market, improve access to credit, and reduce corruption in the registration process. The measures apply to real personal property, estate and mortgage taxes, and property purchase receipts. In order to register property, individuals and businesses must present a taxpayer identification number (registration for which is free). Land registration and property purchase certifications are free, but there is a fee for obtaining a property title.

Benin Control – a private company operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – is charged with expediting customs clearances and minimizing processing barriers to clearing cargo at the Port of Cotonou. Benin Control makes it possible to obtain cargo clearance within as little as 48 hours after its off-loading at the Port of Cotonou, though in practice this can take longer. The reinstitution of the cargo inspection and scanning program known as PVI, first tried in 2012, resumed operations at the Port of Cotonou in 2017. Under the PVI program, Benin Control scans between 30 and 45 randomly selected shipping containers per hour. Benin Control bills all containers exiting the Port of Cotonou – regardless of whether they are selected for scanning – at the rate of 35,000 FCFA ($68) for a 20-foot container, and 45,000 FCFA ($78) for a 40-foot container.

The government, through the state-owned Benin Water Company (SONEB) and Beninese Electric Energy Company (SBEE), provides service connections to potable water and electricity free of charge to Small and Medium Size Enterprises and Industries.  Eligible companies are responsible for paying the water and electricity meter installation fees.  Online application is available at https://www.soneb.bj/soneb15/pme-pmi-raccordement-gratuit and https://www.sbee.bj/site/demande-de-raccordement-des-pme-pmi-conditions/

Outward Investment

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Benin has bilateral investment treaties signed and in force with the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, Burkina Faso, Canada, Germany, Kuwait, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  Benin is listed as a member country to International Investment Agreements with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), and the African Union.  The United States and WAEMU have an Agreement Concerning the Development of Trade and Investor Relations, which contains investment provisions.  Benin does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States, though as of 2021 it was eligible under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to export certain items duty-free to the United States.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Benin is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures. Foreign and domestic investors can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations at https://unctad.org/news/how-un-helped-benin-become-worlds-fastest-place-start-business-mobile-phone , including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time, and legal bases justifying the procedures. There is no rule to prevent a monopoly over a particular business sector. The Benin Private Investment Council ( http://www.cipb.bj/ ) is the only business-related think-tank or body that advocates for investors. Generally, draft bills are not available for public comment though promulgated laws are available at https://sgg.gouv.bj/documentheque/lois/ . Individuals, including non-citizens, have the option to file appeals about or challenge enacted laws with the Constitutional Court.

International Regulatory Considerations

Benin is a member of WAEMU and the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA) and has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies within member countries. Benin is also a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and the creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin is a member of the WTO and notifies all draft technical regulations to the organization’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Benin has a civil law system. The legal framework includes various legislative and regulatory texts covering family law, land law, labor law, criminal law, criminal procedure, and civil, commercial, social, and administrative proceedings. The Cotonou commercial court, created in 2017, enforces commercial laws and regulations. In 2018, Benin created an anti-terrorism, drugs, and economic crimes court (CRIET), which until recently lacked a mechanism for substantive appeal. The CRIET has convicted and sentenced numerous government detractors and political opponents, raising concerns about its independence. In February 2020, Benin created an appeals chamber within the CRIET. In general, judicial processes are slow, and challenges to the enforcement of court decisions are common. Magistrates and judges, though independent by law, are appointed by the Executive. Benin’s courts enforce rulings of foreign courts and international arbitration.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Code provides the legal framework for foreign direct investment. The Code establishes conditions, advantages, and rules applicable to domestic and foreign direct investment. The GOB website https://benindoingbusiness.bj/  makes available online information on foreign direct investment regulations and procedures, though its website is often incomplete and out of date. Benin is a member of OHADA’s Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) and the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Investors may include arbitration provisions in their contracts in order to avoid prolonged entanglements in the Beninese courts. The United Nations investment guide for Benin ( https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/benin/ ) provides a general guide for foreign direct investment steps and procedures.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Benin’s legal framework does not address anti-trust or competition issues. The government does not have an agency or office that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

The government is forbidden by law from nationalizing private enterprises operating in Benin.

In July 2020 West African hotel developer Teyliom International filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in relation to the Beninese government’s expropriation of a hotel the company had been constructing in Cotonou. The arbitration case is currently pending at ICSID.

In 2017, the government announced that it was terminating concessions for the management of four state-owned hotels (two in Cotonou and two in northern Benin), and instructed the Minister of Justice to file reparations claims against the concessionaires on the grounds that they had not fulfilled their concession agreements.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Benin is a member of ICSID. Benin is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Benin does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

There is an ongoing investment dispute between the Beninese government and a U.S. immigration and aviation security company. In 2016, the U.S. company alleged the government canceled a contract for the provision of immigration security systems at Cotonou’s airport. In 2017, the U.S. company filed a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In 2019, the ICC found the government at fault for cancelling the contract and issued a $95 million judgment in favor of the U.S. company. In 2020, the ICC upheld its earlier decision. The government has not respected the ICC decision.

Since 2010, three other disputes between U.S. investors and the Beninese government were resolved in favor of the U.S. investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Benin has adopted OHADA’s Universal Commercial Code (codified law) to manage commercial disputes and bankruptcies. Benin is a member of the OHADA, CCJA, and ICSID.

Bankruptcy Regulations

OHADA provisions govern bankruptcy. Debtors may file for reorganization only, and creditors may file for liquidation only. Benin ranked 108 out of 190 in the “Resolving Insolvency” category of the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Depending on the size of the investment, investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits or imported industrial equipment for up to one year from the date of business registration. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. The Investment Control Commission monitors companies that receive these incentives to ensure compliance.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Investment Code allows for the creation of SEZs and establishes incentives such as tax reductions for investors. There are currently three SEZs in Benin, but only one, located in southern Benin, is active. SEZ zone investors may benefit from reduced tax liability on profits and exemptions for import and export duties. Investors must meet several criteria including employing a minimum number of Beninese nationals, safeguarding the environment, and meeting nationally accepted accounting standards. Local entities and foreign investors enjoy the same opportunities.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest and there is no “forced localization” policy pertaining to the use of domestic content in goods or technology. There are no requirements in place for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption.

The Benin Post and Communications Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) ensures the confidentiality of the content of all communications by the service provider or operator, whether this is information or other data the service provider obtains in the course of providing the services offered. No information may be disclosed without the written consent of ARCEP or a signed order of the competent judicial authority. Additional information may be found at www.arcep.bj .

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Land Act, amended in 2017, codifies real property rights. Land ownership disputes account for roughly 80 percent of the cases seen by Beninese tribunals. The Land Act is designed to ensure fair access to land and protect ownership rights. The Land Act establishes a transparent legal procedure for obtaining and documenting ownership, reduces property speculation in urban and rural areas, and encourages land development. The Land Act stipulates that development projects financed by international or multinational agencies cannot implement or result in forced evictions. The state is obligated to do everything possible at each stage of project development to ensure due respect of economic, social, and cultural rights recognized by international conventions and the Beninese constitution.

Secured interests in real and personal property are recognized and enforced. Secured interests in property are registered with the Land Office of the Ministry of Finance. However, it is recommended that foreign and non-resident investors buy land with title deeds and the services of a notary public in order to avoid land disputes that may result from the acquisition process. Large land leases for investment in rural areas are enforced by local city halls in conformity with the Land Act. Additional information regarding the acquisition of property may be found at the Beninese Land Agency’s website at https://www.andf.bj/ 

Intellectual Property Rights

The 2005 Law on Copyright and Related Rights regulates intellectual property rights. Benin is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has acceded to WIPO treaties and conventions on copyrights and intellectual property protection. However, enforcement of intellectual property rights in Benin is constrained by the government’s limited capacity.

Benin is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policy supports free financial markets, subject to oversight by the Ministry of Finance and the West African States Central Bank (BCEAO). Foreign investors may seek credit from Benin’s private financial institutions and the WAEMU Regional Stock Exchange (Bureau Regional des Valeurs Mobilieres – BRVM) headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with local branches in each WAEMU member country. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to establish a bank account in Benin and obtain loans on the local market. However, proof of residency or evidence of company registration is required to open a bank account.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is generally reliable. Twelve private commercial banks operate in Benin in addition to the BCEAO and a planned subsidiary of the African Development Bank. Taking into account microfinance institutions, roughly 22.5 percent of the population had access to banking services in 2018, the latest year for which data is available. In recent years, non-performing loans have been growing; 15 percent of total banking sector assets are estimated to be non-performing. The BCEAO regulates Beninese banks. Foreign banks are required to obtain a banking license before operating branches in Benin. They are subject to the same prudential regulations as local or regional banks. Benin has lost no correspondent banking relationships during the last three years. There is no known current correspondent banking relationship in jeopardy. Foreigners are required to present proof of residency to open bank accounts.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

All funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes require reporting and registration with the Ministry of Finance at the time of arrival of funds. Evidence of registration is required to justify remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan/lease repayments, or royalties. Such remittances are allowed without restrictions. Funds entering the country from abroad for investment purposes must be converted into local currency. For the purposes of repatriating such funds, either the invested funds or the interest/earnings or royalties can be converted into any world currency.

The currency of Benin is BCEAO-CFA Franc (international code: XOF). XOF has a fixed parity with the Euro and fluctuates against all other currencies based on this parity. This parity was established at the time of the Euro’s creation (January 1, 1999) and has not changed since then. The parity stands at XOF 655.957= EUR 1.00, guaranteed by the French government under an arrangement between the Treasury of France and the European Union.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to investment remittance policies. Banks require documents to justify remittances related to investments. The waiting time to remit investment returns does not exceed 60 days in practice.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Benin does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are several wholly owned SOEs operating in the country, including public utilities, fixed and mobile telecommunications, postal services, port and airport management, gas distribution, pension funds, agricultural production, and hotel and convention center management. There is also a number of partially owned SOEs in Benin. Some of these receive subsidies and assistance from the government. There are no available statistics regarding the number of individuals employed by SOEs.

With the exception of public utilities, pension funds, and landline telephone service for which the public telephone company retains a monopoly, many private enterprises compete with public enterprises on equal terms.

SOE senior management may report directly to a government ministry, a parent agency, or a board of directors comprised of senior government officials along with representatives of civil society and other parastatal constituencies. SOEs are required by law to publish annual reports and hold regular meetings of their boards of directors. Financial statements of SOEs are reviewed by certified accountants, private auditors, and the government’s Bureau of Analysis and Investigation (BAI). The government audits SOEs, though it does not make available information on financial transfers to and from SOEs.

SOEs are established pursuant to presidential decrees, which define their mission and responsibilities. The government appoints senior management and members of the Board of Directors. SOEs are generally run like private entities and are subject to the same tax policies as the private sector. The courts process disputes between SOEs and private companies or organizations.

Privatization Program

Foreign investors may participate in privatization programs. The Talon administration has targeted divestiture programs rather than total privatization of state-owned enterprises.  The state-owned telecommunications company, Benin Telecom Infrastructure, is targeted for either a divestiture program or dissolution by 2021.  With support from MCC, SBEE is managed privately through a management contract through 2023, even though the government retains full ownership.  The government is pursuing major transactions to attract private investment into thermal and solar power generation, as well as natural gas supply for power generation. In 2017, the government signed a three-year renewable management contract for the Port of Cotonou with the Belgian firm Port of Antwerp International (PAI).  PAI took over management of the port in May 2018. The move was intended to improve port management and attract foreign investors to fund a planned project to modernize and expand the port.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

In general, government policies and public tenders are made public online and in the newspapers. Anti-corruption and human rights NGOs and activists are active in Benin, though their ability to report misconduct and violations of good governance has weakened under the current government. There are government-funded agencies in charge of monitoring business conduct. They include the High Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (HCPC) created in April 2020 (replacing the National Anti-Corruption Authority), ARCEP, the Court of Accounts, the National Financial Information Processing Unit, and the National Commission on Systems and Freedom.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Benin has laws aimed at combatting corruption, though corruption remains a recurring problem in areas including public administration, government procurement, customs and taxation, and the judiciary. The new HCPC is the lead government entity on corruption issues and has the authority to refer corruption cases to court. The HCPC has the authority to combat money laundering, electoral fraud, and economic fraud in the public and private sectors. Benin’s State Audit Office is also responsible for identifying and acting against corruption in the public sector. The CRIET processes cases related to economic crimes, which can include corruption. In 2018, the National Assembly approved the lifting of parliamentary immunity of a small number of opposition parliamentarians accused of corruption or embezzlement during their past positions in former governments.

Bribery is illegal and subject to up to 10 years’ imprisonment, but enforcement is uneven. Private companies often establish their own codes of conduct.

Beninese procurement law allows for open and closed bid processes. Contracts are often awarded based on government solicitations to short-listed companies with industry-specific expertise, often identified based on companies’ commercial activities conducted in other overseas markets. The government often uses sole sourcing for projects, including for PAG implementation, and in these cases does not publish procurement requests before selecting a vendor. Foreign companies have expressed concerns about unfair treatment, biased consideration, and improper practices specific to the process of selecting short-listed companies.

Benin is a signatory of the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government of Benin Haut-Commissariat a la Prevention de la Corruption (HCPC)
Haut-Commissariat a la Prevention de la Corruption (HCPC)
01 BP 7060 Cotonou, Benin
+229 21 308 686
anlc.benin@yahoo.fr

Ms. Blanche Sonon
President
Social Watch Benin
02 BP 937, Cotonou, Benin
+229 21042012 – 229 95961644
swbenin@socialwatch-benin.org

10. Political and Security Environment

Benin has been a stable democracy since 1990, enjoying until recently a reputation for regular, peaceful, and inclusive elections. In 2018, the National Assembly adopted, and the government implemented stringent rules for political parties to qualify to participate in legislative elections. In 2019 and 2021 the government held legislative and presidential elections, respectively, that were not fully competitive. The National Assembly is currently made up exclusively by two pro-government parties. Elections-related unrest in 2019 and 2021 resulted in several deaths. The largest security issues facing Benin are the threat of terrorism spilling across its porous northern borders and piracy offshore in the Gulf of Guinea.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The government adheres to internationally recognized rights and labor standards. Benin’s constitution guarantees workers’ freedom to organize, assemble, and strike. Government authorities may declare strikes illegal if they are deemed a threat to public order or the economy and may require those on strike to maintain minimum services. In 2018, the Constitutional Court reinstated a law prohibiting public employees in the defense, health, justice, and security sectors from striking, and a new law limited strikes to a maximum of 10 days per year for private-sector workers and public employees not covered by the existing ban. Approximately 75 percent of salaried employees belong to unions. There are several union confederations. Unions are obliged to operate independently of government and political parties, but in practice often act to further political aims. Benin’s labor code, as revised in 2017, is favorable to employers.

The official unemployment rate in 2018, the last year for which data is available, was 2.3 percent, though estimates of actual unemployment figures are significantly higher. Unskilled and skilled labor and qualified professionals are generally available. Nearly 90 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 29 work in the informal sector. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours and payment of overtime is allowed.

In 2017, the government adopted a law on the framework for private sector and government employment, termination of employment, and placement of labor in Benin.  The law sets a maximum limit of three to nine months’ salary (calculated using the last 12 months of salary) to be paid to an employee in case of abusive termination of employment or layoffs.  If fired on legitimate grounds, but short of being caught red-handed doing something unlawful, an employee with a minimum of one year on the job is entitled to receive two months’ salary as severance pay.  The law also allows for multiple renewals of limited time contracts. Under the former law, private companies who dismissed employees for unsatisfactory performance were routinely sued.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $14,391 www.worldbank.org/en/country/benin 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $2 BEA:   https://www.bea.gov/
international/di1usdbal 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $0.00 BEA:  https://www.bea.gov/
international/di1fdibal 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 17.1% UNCTAD:
https://unctad.org/topic/
investment/world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data:  Recent GOB data not available

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $2,910 100% Total Outward $458 100%
France $977 33.57% France $180 39.30%
China PR: Mainland $475 16.32% Togo $64 13.97%
Niger $386 13.60% Niger $60 13.10%
India $263 9% Côte-d’Ivoire $40 8.73%
 Sào Tomé and Principe $207 7.11% Ethiopia $39 8.51%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Contact for More Information
Political and Economic Section
U.S. Embasy, Boulevard de la Marina, Cotonou
00229-21300650
BeninCommercial@state.gov

Botswana

Executive Summary

Botswana has a population of 2.2 million. Its central location in Southern Africa enables Botswana to serve as a gateway to the region. Botswana has historically enjoyed high economic growth rates and its export-driven economy is highly correlated with global economic trends. Development has been driven mainly by revenue from diamond mining, which has enabled Botswana to develop infrastructure and to provide social services. The economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2019, down from its growth of 4.5 percent in 2018, driven by performance of the mining sector (GDP 2019 report – Statistics Botswana). COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on Botswana’s economy. The economic activity in the second quarter of 2020 (March to June) was 24 percent lower than it was in the same period in 2019 and Statistics Botswana projects a 7.7 percent contraction in 2020. Statistics Botswana’s figure is below the World Bank prediction of a 9.9 percent contraction. Both predictions are driven largely by diamond sales, with mineral revenues dropping by 67.2 percent. In the first quarter of 2021, diamond revenues recovered, but international tourism revenues did not. In recent years, inflation has remained at the bottom end of the central bank’s 3 to 6 percent spectrum, with headline inflation recorded at 2.2 percent in December 2020. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the total stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Botswana fell from USD 4.82 billion in 2018 to USD 260 million in 2019. The World Bank classifies Botswana as an upper middle-income country based on its per capita income of USD 7,961.

Botswana is a stable, democratic country with an independent judiciary system. It maintains a sound macroeconomic environment, fiscal discipline, a well-capitalized banking system, and a crawling peg exchange rate system. In March 2020, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded Botswana’s sovereign credit rating for long-term foreign and domestic currency bonds from “A-” to “BBB+” and in May 2020, Moody’s set its credit rating for Botswana to A2 with a negative outlook. Botswana has minimal labor strife. It is a member state to both the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and the 1958 New York Convention. Corruption in Botswana remains less pervasive than in other parts of Africa; nevertheless, foreign and national companies have noted increasing tender-related corruption. In 2020, the World Bank ranked Botswana 87 out of 190 economies on its Ease of Doing Business index, with Botswana’s rank falling by one place from 86 in 2019. Botswana also fell in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index to 91 out of 141, from 90 out of 140 in 2018.

The Government of Botswana (GoB) created the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) to assist foreign investors. It offers low tax rates and has no foreign exchange controls. The BITC’s topline economic goals are to promote export-led growth, ensure efficient government spending and financing, build human capital, and ensure the provision of appropriate infrastructure. GoB entities, including BITC, use these criteria to determine the level of support to give foreign investors. The GoB has committed to streamline business-related procedures, and remove bureaucratic impediments based on World Bank recommendations in a business reform roadmap. Under this framework, the GoB introduced electronic tax and customs processes in 2016 and 2017. The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) built and successfully integrated the Online Business Registration System (OBRS) with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Immigration Office. OBRS is designed to reduce the business registration process by more than 10 days. The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) has developed and is piloting an online bidding system to allow companies to bid for government projects regardless of where they are. The GoB also established the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) to streamline sector-targeted investment in Botswana’s different geographic areas.

Due to COVID-19-related economic shortfalls, Botswana drew down heavily on its foreign exchange reserves and government savings. Sectors such as mining, tourism, trade, hotels and restaurants, construction, and manufacturing suffered significantly; however, rough diamond sales recovered somewhat in the second half of 2020. The government seeks to raise revenues through a Value Added Tax (VAT) increase form 12 percent to 14 percent effective April 1, 2021. In addition, the Withholding Tax on dividend income will increase from 7.5 percent to 10 percent, and several fees and levies charged for government services will also increase.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 35 of 176 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 87 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 89 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD -24 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 7,650 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoB publicly emphasizes the importance of attracting (FDI) and drafted an investment facilitation law recommended by the 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Investment Review. While the draft was completed in 2016 with technical assistance from UNCTAD, it was never enacted. The draft is still under review and will be presented to Parliament for approval. The GoB has launched initiatives to promote economic activity and foreign investment in specific areas, such as establishing a diamond hub which brought more value-added businesses (i.e., cutting and polishing) into the country. Additional investment opportunities in Botswana include large water, electricity, transportation, and telecommunication infrastructure projects. Economists have also noted Botswana’s considerable potential in the mining, mineral processing, beef, tourism, solar energy, and financial services sectors. BITC assists foreign investors with projects intended to diversify export revenue, create employment, and transfer skills to Botswana citizens. The High Level Consultative Council (HLCC), chaired by the President, and an Exporter Roundtable organized by BITC and Botswana’s Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), are mechanisms employed by the GoB to focus on a healthy business environment for FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Botswana’s 2003 Trade Act reserves licenses for citizens in 35 sectors, including butcheries, general trading establishments, gas stations, liquor stores, supermarkets (excluding chain stores), bars (other than those associated with hotels), certain types of restaurants, boutiques, auctioneers, car washes, domestic cleaning services, curio shops, fresh produce vendors, funeral homes, hairdressers, various types of rental/hire services, laundromats, specific types of government construction projects under a certain dollar amount, certain activities related to road and railway construction and maintenance, and certain types of manufacturing activities including the production of furniture for schools, welding, and bricklaying. The law allows foreigners to participate in these sectors as minority joint venture partners in medium-sized businesses. Foreigners can hold the majority share if they obtain written approval from the trade minister.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) administers the citizen participation initiative and takes an expansive interpretation of the term chain stores, so that it encompasses any store with more than one outlet. This broad interpretation has resulted in the need to apply exemptions to certain supermarkets, simple specialty operations, and general trading stores. These exceptions were generally granted prior to 2015 and many large general merchandise markets, restaurants, and grocery networks are owned by foreigners as a result. Since 2015, the GoB has denied some exception requests, but reports they have approved some based on localization agreements directly negotiated between the ministry and the applying company. These agreements reportedly include commitments to purchase supplies locally and capacity building for local workers and industry. BITC conducts due diligence on companies that are looking to invest in the country and the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) handles background checks for national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December of 2014, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review on Botswana. ( http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/finance-and-investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-botswana-2014_9789264203365-en ).

Botswana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In 2016, the WTO conducted a trade policy review of the Southern African Customs Union to which Botswana belongs ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp322_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

To operate a business in Botswana, one needs to register a company with the GoB’s CIPA through the OBRS at:   https://www.cipa.co.bw/types-of-entities 

CIPA asserts that the company registration process can be completed in a day and is integrated with BURS which allows for a fast-tracked tax registration in 30 days. Additional work is required to open bank accounts and obtain necessary licenses and permits. The World Bank ranked Botswana 159 out of 190 in its ease of starting a business category.

BITC ( www.bitc.co.bw ), the GoB’s investment promotion agency, was designed to serve as a one-stop shop to assist investors in setting up a business and finding a location for operation. BITC’s ability to streamline procedures varies based on GoB entity and bureaucratic requirements. BITC assesses investment projects on their ability to diversify the economy away from its continued dependence on diamond mining, contribute towards export-led growth, and job creation for and skills transfer to Batswana citizens. BITC also hosts the Botswana Trade Portal ( https://www.botswanatradeportal.org.bw ) that is designed to ease trade across borders. It is a single point of contact for all information relating to import and export to and from Botswana and represents a number of ministries and parastatals.

Botswana has several incentives and preferences for both citizen-owned and locally based companies. Foreign-owned companies can benefit from local procurement preferences which are usually required for government tenders. MITI instituted a program in 2015 to give locally based small companies a 15 percent preferential price margin in GoB procurement, with mid-sized companies receiving a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin. Under this policy, MITI defines small companies as having less than five million pula in annual revenue reflected in their financial statements, medium companies with five to 20 million pula in revenue, and large companies with revenues exceeding 20 million pula. The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles, chemicals, and food, as well as a broad range of consultancy services. The government can also offer up to 50 million pula in funding through Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) to joint ventures between foreign and citizen owned companies.

For Companies Act registration purposes, enterprises are classified as: Micro Enterprises – fewer than six employees including the owner and an annual revenue below 60 thousand pula; Small Enterprises – fewer than 25 employees and an annual revenue between 60 thousand and 1.5 million pula; Medium Enterprises – fewer than 100 employees and annual revenue between 1.5 and 5 million pula; Large Enterprises – over 100 employees and an annual revenue of at least 5 million pula. This classification system permits foreigners to participate as minority shareholders in medium-sized enterprises in the 35 business sectors reserved for citizens.

Outward Investment

The GoB neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The United States and the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which includes Botswana, signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) in 2008. The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and trade and investment promotion.

SACU has free trade agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and the European Free Trade Association. SACU countries and MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) signed reciprocal preferential trade agreements (PTA) in December 2008 and April 2009, respectively. The PTA establishes fixed preference margins as a first step towards the creation of a free trade area between SACU and MERCOSUR. Botswana has ratified the agreement and is awaiting remaining Member States to complete ratification for the agreement to be implemented.

For more information on SACU’s tariff regime see the WTO document: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s222-00_e.doc .

Botswana is also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and is currently implementing the SADC Protocol on Trade. For more information about SADC, visit: www.sadc.int.

In June 2016, Botswana signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union as part of the SADC EPA Group. The EPA guarantees access to the EU market without any duties or quotas for Botswana and gives asymmetric access to the SADC EPA Group.

The EPA between the United Kingdom, the Southern African Customs Union, and Mozambique (UK-SACUM EPA) is complete and is expected to be implemented in the 2021/22 financial year.

Botswana has a trade agreement with Zimbabwe, which provides duty-free access for goods with at least 25 percent local content.

In 2018, Botswana signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement consisting of 26 countries of the three Regional Economic communities of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Commission (EAC), and SADC.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), of which Botswana is a signatory, commenced trading officially on January 1, 2021. AfCFTA was founded in 2018 to promote intra-African trade and to pave the way for a future continental customs union.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Bureaucratic procedures necessary to start and maintain a business tend to be transparent but slow. Regulatory procedures can be cumbersome to navigate. In 2018, Botswana launched a Regulatory Impact Assessment Strategy to improve the regulatory environment, ensure legislation is necessary and cost effective, reduce administrative burdens imposed by the regulatory environment to businesses, and to improve transparency, consultation, and government accountability. Most complaints by foreign investors are about the inefficiency and/or unresponsiveness of mid- and low-level government bureaucrats. The GoB has introduced a Performance Management System to improve the service and accountability of its employees. Unfair business practices or conduct can be reported to the Competition Authority, which seeks to level the playing field for all business operators and foster a conducive environment for business. Bills in Botswana, including investment laws, go through a public consultation process and are available for public comment. Bills are also debated in Parliament sessions that are open to the public.

The Companies Act of 2004 requires all companies registered in Botswana to prepare annual financial statements on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles. It further requires every public company, including non-exempt private companies, to prepare their Financial Statement in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) oversees all government tenders. Prospective government contractors are required to register with the PPADB. The PPADB maintains a process by which tender decisions can be challenged; bidders can also challenge a tender procedure in the courts. The PPADB publishes its decisions concerning awarded tenders, prequalification lists, and newly registered contractors. Since 2014, PPADB has partnered with the United States Trade and Development Agency’s (USTDA) Global Procurement Initiative, a shared commitment to utilizing best-value determination procurement practices and promoting professionalization in procurement.

PPADB successfully implemented the Integrated Procurement Management System (IPMS) to level the procurement playing field by automating contractor registration, e-bidding and other operations. This has enabled them to introduce a Procurement Plan Platform where government entities list all their procurement plans for the year, allowing companies to plan ahead. An e-bidding system, which is in the pilot stage, will allow companies to compete for and submit tenders online.

Online services are available at https://ipms.ppadb.co.bw/login 

The PPADB Act calls for preferential procurement of citizen-owned contractors for works, service, and supplies. It also calls for procurement through disadvantaged women’s communities, though it states that such preferences must be time-bound, phased in and out as necessary, and consistent with the country’s external obligations and its “market-oriented, macroeconomic framework.” When a procuring entity wishes to reserve a tender for citizen-only participation, it is required to publish a notice to that effect either in the bid document or the pre-qualification notice.

Health and safety laws, embodied in the Factories Act of 1973, provide basic protection for workers from unsafe working conditions. Minimum working conditions required on work premises include cleanliness of the premises, adequate ventilation and sanitation, sufficient lighting, and the provision of safety precautions. Health inspectors and the Botswana Bureau of Standards carry out periodic checks at both new and operating factories.

International Regulatory Considerations

Botswana is a member of SACU and SADC. Neither has authority over member state national regulatory systems. Botswana is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary system. Botswana’s legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law as influenced by English common law. This type of system exists with legislation, judicial decisions, and local customary law. The courts enforce commercial contracts, and the judicial system is widely regarded as being fair. Both foreign and domestic investors have equal access to the judicial system. Botswana does not have a dedicated commercial court. The Industrial Court, set up by the Trade Dispute Act of 2004, primarily addresses labor matters.

The GoB is planning to create a corps of commercially specialized judges within the civil court system. Under the new system, commercial cases will be overseen by these commercial judges to expedite handling and ensure relevant expertise. Botswana already has a specialized anti-corruption court that handles all corruption cases.

Some U.S. litigants have reported that the time to obtain and enforce a judgment in a commercial dispute is unreasonably long. The turnaround time for civil cases is approximately two years. To improve adjudications efficiency, the GoB has established a land tribunal, and industrial, small claims, and corruption courts. In the past several years, some dockets have improved, but progress has been uneven.

Local laws are accessible through the Botswana Attorney General’s Office website ( www.elaws.gov.bw ). It can take up to 24 months for a law, once passed, to appear on the website.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Under Botswana’s Company Act, foreigners who wish to operate a business are required to register, as well as obtain, the relevant licenses and permits as prescribed by the Trade Act of 2008.

Licenses are required for a wide spectrum of businesses, including banking, non-bank financial services, transportation, medical services, mining, energy provision, and alcohol sales. Although amendments to the Trade Act have eliminated the catchall miscellaneous business license category, investors have reported on local authorities insisting a business apply for a license even when it does not fall within the established categories. In addition, some businesses have observed that the enforcement of licenses, as well as the time taken for inspections to comply with licensing requirements, varies widely across local government authorities.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Botswana has developed anti-trust legislation and policies to ensure appropriate competition in business. Under the Competition Act, the Competition Authority (CA) monitors mergers and acquisitions. In 2019, the CA expanded its mandate by taking over the operations of the Consumer Protection Act from MITI and rebranded itself as the Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA). CCA has already taken up the responsibilities of consumer education and is also resuscitating consumer groups across the country. During the year 2019/2020, the CCA engaged in stakeholder education to combat bid rigging. The authority investigated a total of 32 competition related cases and successfully closed 50 percent of them; the remaining 50 percent are under investigation and have been carried over to the 2020/21 financial year. The CCA is empowered to reject mergers deemed not in the public interest. CCA interprets this power to mean that it can prohibit mergers that concentrate most shares in the hands of foreign investors.

Expropriation and Compensation

Section 8 of Botswana’s Constitution prohibits the nationalization of private property. The GoB has never pursued a forced nationalization policy and is highly unlikely to adopt one. The Acquisition of Property Act provides a process for any expropriation, including parameters to determine market value and receive compensation. The 2007 Amendment to the Electricity Supply Act allows the GoB to revoke an Independent Power Producer’s license and confiscate the operations, with compensation, for public interest purposes.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

GoB has ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). GoB is also a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID convention), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There are no known investment disputes involving U.S. persons. Botswana accepts international arbitration to settle investment disputes. Judgments by GoB-recognized foreign courts are enforceable in the local courts where the appropriate bilateral agreements between the countries exist.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

There are no known complaints about transparency or discrimination by local courts in Botswana.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Botswana’s commercial and bankruptcy laws are comprehensive. Secured and unsecured creditors enjoy similar rights under bankruptcy proceedings as those they would enjoy in the United States. Botswana ranks number 84 out of 190 countries on the ease of resolving insolvency according to the World Bank’s doing business report.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Botswana has several mechanisms in place to attract FDI. BITC assists local and foreign investors. BITC is responsible for promoting FDI, investor aftercare, and promoting locally manufactured goods in export markets. It assists investors with company registration, land acquisition, factory shells, utility connections, and work and residence permits for essential staff. Investors’ requests for support from BITC and other agencies are evaluated based on the proposed project’s potential to diversify Botswana’s economy, grow priority sectors, and provide employment and training to Botswana citizens. The GoB also makes grants available to investors who partner with citizens and will extend credit to investors presenting proposals that have undergone appropriate due diligence and that have completed a feasibility study. Foreign investors are encouraged to transfer technology to Botswana and skills to Botswana citizens with a view to preparing them for promotion into management positions.

Botswana’s tax rates are relatively low at 22 percent on corporate taxable income and 7.5 percent withholding tax on all dividends distributed. However, withholding tax increased to 10 percent on April 1, 2021. MITI can grant manufacturing companies the reduced level of 15 percent taxable income. Companies can pay the reduced rate of 15 percent of profit with accreditation from the Innovation Hub or the International Financial Services Centre on approved operations.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development has the authority to issue development approval orders that are used for specific projects, which include providing tax holidays, education, and training grants. The Minister must be satisfied the proposed project will benefit Botswana’s economy. Any firm, local or foreign, may apply for a Development Approval Order through the Permanent Secretary at the finance ministry. Applications are evaluated against the following criteria: job creation for Botswana citizens; the company’s training plans for Botswana citizens; the company’s plans to localize non-citizen positions; Botswana citizen participation in company management; amount of equity held by Botswana citizens in the company; the location of the proposed investment; the project’s effect on the stimulation of other economic activities; and the project’s effect on reducing local consumer prices. MITI also offers rebates on imported materials for manufacturers that produce products for export.

In 2017, Parliament approved and implemented a special incentive package for Selebi-Phikwe geared to promote economic growth and diversification. Some of the incentives include reduced corporate tax of five percent for the first five years and 10 percent thereafter (versus the 22 percent national tax rate), zero customs duty on imported raw materials, rebates for customs duty and value-added tax for any exports outside the SACU, and a minimum of 50 years on land leases (instead of the standard lease of 25 years).

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) was established with the mandate to develop and operate special economic zones around the country. It has earmarked five geographic areas with a total of eight zones, though they are not yet fully operational. In 2015, Parliament approved a Special Economic Zones (SEZ) law to streamline investment in sector-targeted geographic areas including two Gaborone area SEZs (multi-use, diamond processing, and financial services); two Selebi-Phikwe SEZs (mineral processing and horticulture); and additional SEZs in Lobatse (beef, leather, biogas); Palapye (energy); Pandamatenga (agriculture); and Francistown (mining and logistics). The Special Economic Zones Act is available for sale in hard copy at the GoB bookshop. SEZA has prioritized four SEZs—Lobatse (leather park), Gaborone Fairgrounds (Financial Services), Gaborone Sir Seretse Khama Airport (Diamond and Logistics) and Pandamatenga (Agriculture) – and is actively recruiting investors, private developers, and manufacturers. BURS has also introduced an electronic Customs Management System to replace the Automated System for Customs Data and launched the National Single Window, an electronic trade platform that makes trading more secure and efficient.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Performance requirements are not imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment in Botswana. Foreign investors are encouraged, but not compelled, to establish joint ventures with citizens or citizen-owned companies.

Foreign investors wishing to invest in Botswana are required to register the company in accordance with the Companies Act and comply with other applicable legislation. Investors are encouraged, but not required, to purchase from local sources. The GoB does not require investors to locate in specific geographical areas, use a specific percentage of local content, permit local equity in projects, manufacture substitutes for imports, meet export requirements or targets, or use national sources of financing for private-sector investments. However, GoB entities, including BITC, use the criteria of diversifying the economy, creating employment, and transferring skills to Botswana citizens in determining whether to assist foreign investors.

As a matter of policy, the GoB encourages foreign firms to hire qualified Botswana nationals rather than expatriates. The granting of work permits for foreign workers may be made contingent upon establishment of demonstrable localization efforts. The government may additionally require evidence that a local is being trained to assume duties currently being fulfilled by a foreign worker, specially focused at the middle-management level. The GoB offers incentives to companies that train local employees, including the deduction of 200 percent of training expenses when an accredited institution conducts the training.

Business leaders cite difficulty securing work permits combined with local skills deficits and constrained labor productivity among the foremost business constraints in Botswana. However, since President Masisi assumed power in April 2018, GoB reports indicate permits for foreign workers have increased with approval rates exceeding 90 percent. Select grants are available to foreign investors who partner with Botswana citizens. The Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency has established a venture capital fund to provide equity to citizens and ventures between citizens and foreign investors. Most GoB loans and grants are designed specifically for citizen-owned contracting firms or for small enterprises and are therefore not available to foreign investors.

The GoB, the largest procuring entity in the country, has directed central government, local authorities, and state-owned enterprises to purchase all products and services from locally based manufacturers and service providers if the goods and services are locally available, competitively priced, and meet tender specifications in terms of quality standards as certified or recognized by the Botswana Bureau of Standards. Local preferences arise from numerous sources. n 2015, MITI instituted a preferential procurement program for local companies based on company size – small companies receive a 15 percent preferential price margin on GoB procurement, mid-sized companies receive a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin. The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles to chemicals, and food, in addition to a broad range of consultancy services. In 2014, the GoB and the Chamber of Mines created a committee to oversee the purchasing of mining supplies with a 10 percent preference towards those produced locally. The 2012 Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy also emphasized the preference for local companies and the GoB’s PPADB registers citizen-owned companies for preference purposes. In 2020, the GoB announced new policy that all government contracts less than ~USD 900,000 were reserved for Motswana-owned businesses.

For a foreign firm to qualify with the Department of Industrial Affairs as a local manufacturer or service provider to sell goods or services to the GoB, the firm must be registered with the Registrar of Companies and possess a relevant license or waiver letter. These procedures can be completed online, however, companies may choose to engage the services of a Company Secretary to perform these and other required documentation services. Tenders are generally designed based on the products available in the local market and with locally based companies in mind. In addition, many tenders require local registration as a prerequisite for bids and the GoB frequently breaks up large-scale projects into a series of tenders. These requirements make it difficult to compete for tenders from outside Botswana.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are enforced in Botswana. The World Bank ranks Botswana 82 out of 190 in the Registering Property category. There are three main categories of land in Botswana: freehold, state land, and tribal land. Tribal and state land cannot be sold to foreigners. There are no restrictions on the sale of freehold land, but only an approximate five percent of land in Botswana is freehold. All minerals in Botswana, even those on private lands, are viewed as property of the State. In the capital city of Gaborone, the number of freehold plots is limited. In 2019, the GoB increased the rate of Transfer Duty on the sale and transfer of property to non-citizens (both individuals and companies) from five percent to 30 percent.

State land represents about 25 percent of land in Botswana. On application to the Department of Lands, both foreign-owned and local enterprises registered in Botswana may lease state land for industrial or residential use. Commercial use leases are for 50 years and residential leases are for 99 years. Waiting periods tend to be long for leasehold applications, but subleases from current leaseholders are available. In 2014, the GoB changed its implementing regulation to allow companies with fewer than five employees to operate in residential areas if their operations do not pose a health or safety risk to residents.

Tribal land represents 70 percent of land in Botswana. To obtain a lease for tribal land, the investor must approach the relevant local Land Board. Processes are unlikely to be streamlined or consistent across Land Boards.

Since independence, the trend in Botswana has been to increase the area of tribal land at the expense of both state and freehold land. Landlord-tenant law in Botswana tends to be moderately pro-landlord.

In addition to helping investors who meet its criteria obtain appropriate land leaseholds, BITC has also built factory units for lease to industrialists with the option to purchase at market value.

Intellectual Property Rights

Botswana’s legal intellectual property rights (IPR) structure is adequate, although some improvements are needed. The key challenge facing the GoB is effective implementation. CIPA was established in 2014 and is comprised of three offices: the Companies and Business Office, the Industrial Property Office, and the Copyright Office. Intellectual property is registered through CIPA. CIPA’s priorities are to strengthen and implement Botswana’s IPR regime and to improve interagency cooperation. IPR infringement occurs in Botswana primarily through the sale of counterfeit items in low-end sales outlets. According to CIPA, targeted raids by local law enforcement have reduced the availability of counterfeit goods across the country. In 2019, CIPA and the Botswana Police Service seized 3,888 counterfeit CDs and DVDs valued at USD 30,000 compared to nearly 13,000 counterfeits valued at over USD 107,000 seized in 2017. The U.S. government continues to work with the GoB to modernize and improve enforcement of IPR.

IPR is protected under the Industrial Property Act of 2010, which provides protections on patents, trademarks, utility designs, handicrafts, traditional knowledge, and geographic indicators. The 2000 Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act also protects art and literary works, and the 1975 Registration of Business Names Act oversees corporate name and registration procedures. Other IPR-related laws include the Competition Act, the Value Added Tax Act, the Botswana Penal Code, the Customs and Excise Duty Act, the Monuments and Relics Act, the Broadcasting Act, and the Societies Act.

Botswana is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Botswana is a signatory to the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Goitseone Montsho
Economic/Commercial Specialist
MontshoG@state.gov 
+267 373-2431

Local lawyers’ list: https://bw.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The government encourages foreign portfolio investment, although there are limits on foreign ownership in certain sectors. It also embraces the establishment of new and diverse financial institutions to support increased foreign and domestic investment and to fill existing gaps where finance is not commercially available. There are nine commercial banks, one merchant bank, one offshore bank, two statutory deposit-taking institutions, and one credit union operating in Botswana. All have corresponding relationships with U.S. banks. Additional financial institutions include various pension funds, insurance companies, microfinance institutions, stock brokerage companies, asset management companies, statutory finance institutions, collective investment undertakings, and statutory funds. Historically, commercial banks have accounted for 92 percent of total deposits and 98 percent of total loans in Botswana. A large portion of the population does not participate in the formal banking sector.

Money and Banking System

The central bank, the Bank of Botswana, acts as banker and financial advisor to the GoB and is responsible for the management of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, the administration of monetary and exchange rate policies, and the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in the country. Monetary policy in Botswana is widely regarded as prudent, and the GoB has successfully managed to maintain a sensible exchange rate and a stable inflation rate, generally within the target of three to six percent.

Banks may lend to non-resident-controlled companies without seeking approval from the Bank of Botswana. Foreign investors usually enjoy better access to credit than local firms. In July 2014, USAID’s Development Credit Authority (now DFC – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation), in collaboration with ABSA (formerly Barclays Bank of Botswana), implemented a program to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to access up to USD 15 million in loans in an effort to diversify the economy.

At the end of 2019, there were 25 companies on the Domestic Board and eight companies on the Foreign Equities Board of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). In addition, there were 46 listed bonds and three exchange traded funds listed on the Exchange. The total market capitalization for listed companies at year-end 2019 was USD 37 billion, though one company constitutes the majority of that figure, Anglo-American plc, which has a market capitalization of approximately USD 30 billion. The BSE is still highly illiquid compared to larger African markets and is dominated by mining companies which adds to index volatility. Laws prohibiting insider trading and securities fraud are clearly stipulated under Section 35 – 37 of the Securities Act, 2014 and charges for contravening these laws are listed under Section 54 of the same Act.

The government has legitimized offshore capital investments and allows foreign investors, individuals and corporate bodies, and companies incorporated in Botswana, to open foreign currency accounts in specified currencies. The designated currencies are U.S. Dollar, British Pound sterling, Euro, and the South African Rand. There are no known practices by private firms to restrict foreign investment participation or control in domestic enterprises. Private firms are not permitted to adopt articles of incorporation or association which limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control.

In general, Botswana exercises careful control over credit expansion, the pula exchange rate, interest rates, and foreign and domestic borrowing. Banking legislation is largely in line with industry norms for regulation, supervision, and payments. However, Botswana failed to meet the compliance requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), resulting in a grey listing in October 2018. Botswana is implementing an action plan to remedy the situation. In February 2021, FATF listed Botswana among the countries that had made significant progress toward combating money laundering and terrorist financing despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. FATF encouraged the GoB to continue to address the strategic deficiencies. The Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) was established in 2008 and provides regulatory oversight for the non-banking sector. It extends know-your-customer practices to non-banking financial institutions to help deter money laundering and terrorist financing. NBFIRA is also responsible for regulating the International Financial Services Centre, a hub charged with promoting the financial services industry in Botswana.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no foreign exchange controls in Botswana or restrictions on capital outflows through financial institutions. Commercial banks are required to ensure customers complete basic forms indicating name, address, purpose, and other details prior to processing funds transfer requests or loan applications. The finance ministry monitors data collected on the forms for statistical information on capital flows, but the form does not require government approval prior to processing a transaction and does not delay capital transfers.

To encourage portfolio investment, develop domestic capital markets, and diversify investment instruments, non-residents can trade in and issue Botswana pula-denominated bonds with maturity periods of more than one year, provided such instruments are listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). Only Botswana citizens can purchase Botswana’s Letlole National Savings Certificate (equivalent to a U.S. Treasury bond). Foreigners can hold shares in BSE-listed Botswana companies.

Travelers are not restricted to the amount of currency they may carry but are required to declare to customs at the port of departure any cash amount exceeding 10,000 pula (~USD 905). There are no quantitative limits on foreign currency access for current account transactions.

Bank accounts denominated in foreign currency are allowed in Botswana. Commercial banks offer accounts denominated in U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, Euros and South African Rand. Businesses and other bodies incorporated or registered domestically may open accounts without prior approval from the Bank of Botswana. The GoB also permits the issuance of foreign currency denominated loans.

Upon disinvestment by a non-resident, the non-resident is allowed immediate repatriation of all proceeds including profits, rents, and fees.

The Botswana Pula has a crawling peg exchange rate and is tied to a basket of currencies of major trading partner countries. In 2018 the weights of the pula basket currencies were maintained at 45 percent for the South African Rand and 55 percent for the Special Drawing Rights (consisting of the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, and Chinese Renminbi) respectively. Government maintained these exchange rate parameters for 2021. However, the downward rate of crawl of the pula exchange was adjusted from 1.51 percent to 2.87 percent per annum in May 2020. Movements of the South African Rand against the U.S. Dollar heavily influence the Pula. There is no difficulty in obtaining foreign exchange. Shortages of foreign exchange that would lead banks to block transactions are highly unlikely.

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Bank of Botswana maintains a long-term sovereign wealth fund, known as the Pula Fund, in addition to a regular foreign reserve account providing basic import cover. The Pula Fund was established under the Bank of Botswana Act and forms part of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, which are primarily funded by diamond revenues. The Pula Fund is wholly invested in foreign currency-denominated assets and is managed by the Bank of Botswana Board with input from recognized international financial management and investment firms. All realized market currency gains or losses are reported in the Bank of Botswana’s income statement. The Fund has been affected severely by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the GoB making withdrawals to address significant COVID-19-related revenue shortfalls. As a result, the Pula Fund, long a fiscal cushion against economic shocks, is significantly depleted from 20 percent of GDP in 2011 to 7 percent of GDP as of mid-2020 – from $1.69 billion to $510 million – a decline of more than 70 percent. Botswana is a founding member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Fund and was one of the architects of the Santiago Principles in 2008. More information is available at: https://www.bankofbotswana.bw/sites/default/files/BOTSWANA-PULA-FUND-SANTIAGO-PRINCIPLES.pdf

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs), known as “parastatals,” are majority or 100 percent owned by the GoB. There is a published list of SOEs at the GoB portal ( www.gov.bw ) with profiles of financial and development SOEs. Some SOEs are state-sanctioned monopolies, including the Botswana Meat Commission, the Water Utilities Corporation, Botswana Railways, and the Botswana Power Corporation.

The same business registration and licensing laws govern private and government-owned enterprises. No law or regulation prohibits or restricts private enterprises from competing with SOEs. Botswana law requires SOEs to publish annual reports, and private sector accountants or the Auditor General audits SOEs depending on how they are constituted. GoB ministries together with their respective SOEs are compelled on an annual basis to appear before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to provide reports and answer questions regarding their performance. Some SOEs are not performing well and have been embroiled in scandals involving alleged fraud and mismanagement. Botswana is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement within the framework of the WTO.

Privatization Program

The GOB has committed to privatization on paper. It established a task force in 1997 to privatize all of its state-owned companies and formed a Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) to oversee this process. Implementation of its privatization commitments has been limited to the January 2016 sale offer of 49 percent of the stock of the state-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation to Botswana citizens only. In February 2017, the GoB issued an Expressions of Interest for the privatization of its national airline, but progress stopped due to the decision to re-fleet the airline before privatization. In early 2019, President Masisi announced the Botswana Meat Commission was being placed in the hands of a private management company prior to privatization. Conversely, the GoB has created new SOEs such as the Okavango Diamond Company, the Mineral Development Company, and Botswana Oil Limited in recent years. A Rationalization Strategy covering all parastatals has been developed and its implementation will address issues such as duplication of activities, overlapping mandates, and issues of corporate governance. This may finally result in some SOEs being privatized or merged while some may be closed.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The GoB, some foreign and local firms, and customers, recognized and embraced Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), although Botswana is not an adherent of the OECD’s RBC Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and has not specified its definition of RBC. Large companies in the mining, communications technology, food supply, and financial services sectors have established RBC programs, sponsor projects, and support local nonprofit concerns. However, the ethos has not taken hold in many smaller firms. The U.S. Embassy worked with the local chamber of commerce, Business Botswana, on the issue of corporate social responsibility and ethical compliance to help enlist companies to sign onto a Corporate Code of Conduct that covers, among other things, conflicts of interest, bribery, political interference, political party funding, procurement and bidding, and issues surrounding residence and work permits. To date more than 300 firms have signed the Code of Conduct.

The Companies Act also sets out the expectations of business conduct and governance for directors and shareholders for both private and public companies. Botswana is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Botswana’s Mines and Minerals Act and associated regulations govern mineral contracts and licenses. Botswana’s laws and procedures for awarding mining contracts are fairly well developed. Mining licenses are required to undergo a public comment period before they are awarded, and that rule is followed.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Botswana has a reputation for relatively low corruption levels and a willingness to prosecute corrupt officials. Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa (35th worldwide). Investors with experience in other developing nations describe the relative lack of obstruction or interference by law enforcement or other government agents as among the country’s most important assets. Nevertheless, private sector representatives note rising corruption levels in government tender procurements.

The major corruption investigation body is the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). Anecdotal reports on the DCEC’s effectiveness vary. The DCEC has embarked on an education campaign to raise public awareness about the cost of corruption and is also working with GoB departments to reform their accountability procedures. Corruption is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years, a fine of USD 50,000, or both. The GoB has prosecuted high-level officials. Corruption allegations have surfaced recently around pension fund management and government procurement procedures and are still under investigation.

The 2000 Proceeds of Serious Crime Act expanded the DCEC’s mandate to include combatting money laundering. The 2009 Financial Intelligence Act provides a comprehensive legal framework to address money laundering and establishes a financial intelligence agency (FIA). The FIA, which operates under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, cooperates with various institutions, such as Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Botswana Police Service, Bank of Botswana, the Non-Banking Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the DCEC, and foreign FIAs to uncover and investigate suspicious financial transactions. Botswana is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, a regional standards-setting body for ensuring appropriate laws, policies, and practices to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. In October 2018, Botswana was “grey-listed” by the Financial Action Task Force and is currently implementing an action plan to address shortcomings that led to the listing.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Botswana is not a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, but it is a party to the 2005 United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contacts for agencies responsible for combating corruption:

Mr. Tymon Katlholo
Director General
Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime
Madirelo Extension 6, Gaborone, Botswana
+267 3914002/+267 3604200
dcec@gov.bw 

Mr. Kgakgamalo Ketshajwang (Acting)
Executive Director
Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board
Private Bag 0058, Gaborone, Botswana
+267 3602000
webmaster@ppadb.co.bw 

Dr. Abraham Sethibe
Director
Financial Intelligence Agency
Private Bag 0190, Gaborone, Botswana
+267 3998400
asethibe@gov.bw 

Complainants can also reach out to ministers of the relevant ministries for a particular tender and provide a copy of the complaint to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Executive Chairperson.

10. Political and Security Environment

The threat of political violence is low in Botswana. Public demonstrations are rare and seldom turn violent. The last large-scale strikes which involved public sector employees occurred April-June 2011 and were not violent. In September 2015, roughly 200 people participated in a peaceful march organized by an opposition political party to protest water shortages in the capital. In August 2016, police forcefully dispersed a small demonstration protesting unemployment outside the National Assembly. In February and March 2017, some student-led protests occurred at tertiary institutions necessitating police deployment but were not overtly political. There were multiple reports of police brutality, including the use of rubber whips and rubber bullets. Another peaceful march against corruption was held in March 2018. This followed allegations of embezzlement of the National Petroleum Fund by a company charged with the management of the funds together with some GoB officials. In late 2019, following general election, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) held a peaceful march of no more than 200 people protesting the election results.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Botswana has a high unemployment rate and a constricted worker skills base. The latest statistics released in 2019 showed an increase of unemployment from 17.7 percent to just over 20 percent, although the real rate is likely higher due to the way the GoB counts who is included in the statistic. Statistics Botswana recorded unemployment for the quarter ending December 2020 at 24.5 percent. This was slightly higher than the 23.2 percent recorded during the first quarter of 2020, showing the effects of the lockdown and other disruptions caused by the pandemic. The numbers are expected to rise when the State of Emergency (SOE) is lifted as a significant number of companies have been affected by COVID-19 and the SOE forbids them from laying off staff. Employers can expect to engage in significant training efforts, depending on the industry. Retention of workers and absenteeism can pose problems. In addition, managers often cite workforce productivity as a point of frustration. The lack of trained local citizen professionals is generally addressed by contracting expatriates if they can secure work permits. There is minimal labor strife in Botswana. In 2015, there were a handful of small and peaceful strikes, the most notable of these was by a portion of BURS officials, but as with most unions across sectors, only a portion of BURS officials were unionized, allowing the GoB to maintain customs operations.

The Employment Act provides basic guidelines for employment in Botswana. The legislation sets requirements for a minimum wage, length of the workweek, annual and maternity leave, hiring and termination. Standards set by the Act are consistent with international best practice as described by International Labor Organization (ILO) model legislation and guidelines.

Employment-related litigation occurs and is both an example of trust in the court system and a cost to doing business in Botswana. Employers avoid considerable expense and frustration if they observe the provisions of the Employment Act, relevant labor regulations, and prudence in advance of potential litigation. Before a potential litigant goes to one of 11 labor courts, the parties must attempt mediation through the Department of Labor. Court cases offering severance terms for employees laid off due to fluctuating market conditions are also common. Section 25 of the Employment Act allows employers to terminate contracts for reducing the size of their work force, known as redundancy, using the first-in-last-out principle. This method of terminating contracts is separate from firing for serious misconduct as specified by Section 26 of the Act. The GoB has social safety net programs in place to assist the unemployed and destitute.

Collective bargaining is common in government and the private sector and the Labor Commissioner can grant collective bargaining authority upon request. The largest unions are comprised of public sector workers.

In August 2016 Parliament passed a Trade Disputes Act with a list of services deemed “essential” and barred from striking that exceeds international labor standards. The Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is coordinating with the ILO and other partners to review labor laws to ensure they align with ILO standards. The tri-partite labor law committee recommended that all services listed as essential be cancelled except aviation, health, electrical, water and sanitation, fire, and air traffic control services.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD) 2018 $17.2 2018 $18.6 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $4.34 2019 $-24 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $0 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as percent host GDP N/A N/A 2019 1.4percent UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html  

* Source for Host Country Data: Bank of Botswana 2019 Annual Report

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

According to the Bank of Botswana, investment in Botswana totaled 86.3 billion Pula in 2018, of which 30.8 billion Pula were non-FDI investments. Africa (36 percent) and Europe (54 percent) accounted for most of the 55.5 billion Pula influx of FDI. Within these regions, South Africa and the United Kingdom were the predominant players, accounting for 10.9 and 27.4 billion Pula respectively. Little data on FDI sources is available for countries and regions with limited investments in Botswana. Mining accounted for 38.6 percent of Foreign Investment inflows in 2018.

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100percent Total Outward Amount 100percent
Europe 2,698.42 54percent N/A
Africa 1,784.54 36percent
North & Central America 172.65 3.5percent
Asia 102.03 2.1percent
Middle East 32.58 0.7percent
Other 178.91 3.6percent
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey data are not available for Botswana. 2019 estimates for Botswana’s net international investments increased by 9.1 percent from 57.8 billion Pula in 2018 to 62.6 billion Pula in 2019. On the assets side, direct investments, portfolio investments increased by 9.3 percent, 20.7 percent respectively, while foreign exchange reserves and other investments decreased by 8.7 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. Portfolio investment increased due to the rise in equity and debt securities invested abroad.

14. Contact for More Information

Goitseone Montsho
Economic/Commercial Specialist
+267 395-3982 / 373-2431
MontshoG@state.gov 

Burundi

Executive Summary

Burundi is located in Central Africa and is one of the six member states of the East African Community (EAC). Burundi is one of the world’s most impoverished countries, with almost two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line, approximately 90 percent of the population reliant on subsistence farming, and a youth unemployment rate of about 65 percent. Economic growth is insufficient to create employment for Burundi’s rapidly growing population and the new administration of President Ndayishimiye, in power since June 2020, is actively seeking to increase existing value chains and find new sources of employment and revenue.

The government of Burundi (GoB) is also seeking to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). In sharp contrast with the isolationist tendencies of the last administration, since taking office President Ndayishimiye has made or hosted multiple state visits with potential trade and development partners in the region, including Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Given the importance of agriculture, the GoB is promoting initiatives to modernize and diversify agricultural production, seeking to increase production of crops beyond coffee and tea. In order to attract FDI, the GoB must address longstanding issues of poor governance and weak institutional capacity, corruption, instability of the local currency, financial restrictions and capital controls that limit access to and expatriation of foreign exchange, a low-skilled workforce, poor internet connectivity, and limited/unreliable economic statistics. Since 2008, members of the executive branch have granted large discretionary tax or related exemptions to private foreign companies by presidential decree or ministerial order to attract FDI. These direct government-to-company agreements undermine the Burundian tax law and the investment code. In addition to reducing revenues for the state, these exemptions disadvantage private companies already operating in Burundi by granting advantages to select competitors. The corporate tax rate is 30 percent, with reductions for companies that employ certain numbers of Burundian nationals.

The GoB is also working to develop infrastructure, including photovoltaic and hydroelectric power plants, road construction to improve access to the country and projects that will contribute to regional trade, such as the rehabilitation of Bujumbura Port and the construction of a railway joining Burundi and Tanzania. Burundi’s landlocked location and infrastructure constraints severely limit transportation of goods. Demand for electricity and water significantly exceeds capacity, and the transmission system is old and poorly maintained, leading to rolling blackouts and outages. In the mining sector, which some industry players believe has great potential for development, activity has increased but overall yields remain low, and infrastructure needed to support an expansion of mining, including electricity and transportation, are insufficient.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 165 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 166 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
 
Global Innovation Index 2019 128 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 1.0 million https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 280 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD
 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Burundi (GoB) is generally supportive of FDI and seeks investment as a means to promote economic growth. Uneven implementation of laws and regulations, however, limits the predictability of the environment for Burundian and foreign investors alike. The GoB has not implemented laws, regulations, or economic or industrial strategies that limit market access or discriminate against foreign investors. There is a minimum initial foreign investment of $50,000, which does not apply to domestic investors. An overview of the legal framework for foreign investment can be found at: http://www.eatradehub.org/burundi_investment_policy_assessment_2018_presentation 

Based on the Burundi Investment Code enacted in 2008, the government established the Burundi Investment Promotion Agency (API) in 2009. API is the government authority in charge of promoting investment, improving the business climate, and facilitating market entry for investors in Burundi. API offers a range of services to potential investors, including assistance in acquiring the licenses, certificates, approvals, authorizations, and permits required by law to set up and operate a business enterprise in Burundi. API has set up a “one-stop shop” to facilitate and simplify business registration in Burundi. For now, investors must be physically present in country to register with API. API provides investors with information on investment and export promotion, assists them with legal formalities, including obtaining the required documents, and intervenes when laws and regulations are not properly applied. API also designs reforms required for the improvement and the ease of doing business environment and ensures that the impact of investments on development is beneficial and sustainable.

The GoB conducts dialogue with national and foreign investors to promote investment. API is the initial and primary point of entry for investors, but government ministries meet regularly with private investors to discuss regulatory and legal issues.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic companies have the same rights to establish and own businesses in the country and engage in all forms of activities. However, there are restrictions on foreign investments in weaponry, ammunition, and any sort of military or para-military enterprises. There are no other restrictions nor are there any other sectors in which foreign investors are denied the same treatment as domestic firms. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control.

Article 63 of the 2013 mining code stipulates that the GoB must own at least 10 percent of shares in any foreign company with an industrial mining license and state participation cannot be diluted in the event of an increase in the share capital.

Burundi does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

No investment policy review from a multilateral organization has taken place in the last three years. The most recent review was performed in 2010 by UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

In addition to fiscal advantages provided in the investment code, Burundi has implemented reforms, including reinforcing the capabilities of the one-stop shop at API, simplifying tax procedures for small and medium enterprises, launching an electronic single window for business transactions, and harmonizing commercial laws with those of the East African Community.

Business registration takes approximately four hours and costs 40,000 Burundian francs (around $21). For more details and information on registration procedures, time and costs, investors may visit API’s website at https://www.investburundi.bi/ .

There is no specific mechanism for ensuring equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities.

Outward Investment

The host government does not have mechanisms for promoting or incentivizing outward investment. The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Although parts of the government are working to create more transparent policies for fostering competition, Burundi lacks much necessary regulatory framework. Many policies for foreign investment are not transparent, and laws or regulations on the books are often ineffective or unenforced. Burundi’s regulatory and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms on paper, but a lack of capacity or training for staff and political constraints sometimes limit the regularity and transparency of their implementation.

Rule-making and regulatory authority is exercised exclusively at the national level. Relevant ministries and the Council of Ministers exercise regulatory and rule-making authority, based on laws passed by the Senate and National Assembly. In practice, government officials sometimes exercise influence over the application and interpretation of rules and regulations outside of formal structures. The government sometimes discusses proposed legislation and rule-making with private sector interlocutors and civil society but does not have a formal public comment process. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private sector associations.

Draft bills or regulations are not subject to a public consultation process. There are no conferences that involve citizens in a consultative process to give them an opportunity to make comments or contributions, especially at the time of project development, and, even if this were the case, the public does not have access to the detailed information needed to participate in this process.

Burundi does not have a centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published; however, regulatory actions are sometimes posted on the websites of GoB institutions (typically that of the Office of the President or respective ministries).

Burundi has sectoral regulatory agencies covering taxes and revenues, mining and energy, water, and agriculture. Regulatory actions are reviewable by courts. There have been no recent reforms to the regulatory enforcement system.

The government generally issues terms of reference and recruits private consultants who prepare a study on the draft legislation for review and comment by the private sector. The government analyzes these comments and takes them into consideration when drafting new regulations. New regulations can be issued by a presidential decree or Parliament can make them into a law. This mechanism applies to laws and regulations on investment.

Information on public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) is published in the Burundi Central Bank’s Reports and on its website: https://www.brb.bi/  . However, some publications on the website are not up to date.

International Regulatory Considerations

Burundi is a member of the East African Community (EAC), a regional economic bloc composed by six member states, the republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The EAC Integration process is anchored on four pillars: a customs union, a common market, a monetary union, and political federation. Each member state must harmonize its national regulatory system with that of the EAC.

Burundian law and regulations reference several standards, including the East African Standards, Codex Alimentarius Standards, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and Burundi’s own standards. ISO remains the main standard of reference.

The country joined the WTO on July 23, 1995. According to the Ministry of Trade, Transport, Industry and Tourism, Burundi has not notified the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of all its draft technical regulations.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is civil (Roman), based on German and French civil codes. For local civil matters, customary law also applies. Burundi’s legal system contains standard provisions guaranteeing the right to private property and the enforcement of contracts. The country has a written commercial law and a commercial court. The investment code offers plaintiffs recourse in the national court system and to international arbitration.

The judicial system is not effectively independent of the executive branch. A lack of capacity hinders judicial effectiveness, and judicial procedures are not rigorously observed.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

There were no major laws, regulations, or judicial decisions pertaining to foreign investment in the past year. In 2014, API created a follow-up mechanism to make sure that investors are implementing projects for which they received tax exemptions and other advantages provided in the investment code.

In 2018, the Council of Ministers reviewed draft legislation updating the investment code and then referred it to a technical committee for review and improvement; it remains a work in progress. Among other changes, the draft contains new measures to ensure the protection of the property of foreign investors and penalties for malfeasance by foreign investors.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There is no Burundian agency in charge of reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Burundian law allows the GoB to expropriate property for exceptional and state-approved reasons, but the GoB is then committed to provide compensation based on the fair market value prior to expropriation.

There are no recent cases involving expropriation of foreign investments nor do any foreign firms have active pending complaints regarding compensation in Burundian courts.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Burundi is a full member of ICSID Convention since 1969 and became the 150th country to sign the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). Burundi’s commercial law allows enforcement of judgments in foreign courts by local courts.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Burundi is a signatory of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in which international arbitration of investment disputes is recognized. Burundi has no bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

There have been limited instances of foreign investors seeking restitution from the GoB over allegations of breach of contract and corruption.

In cases involving international parties, the GoB accepts international arbitration and recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In rare cases involving international elements, the GoB accepts international arbitration and recognizes and enforces foreign arbitral awards. In investment disputes between private parties, international arbitration is accepted as a means of settlement provided one of the parties is a non-national. In 2007, the GoB created a Center for Arbitration and Mediation (CEBAC) to handle such disputes, but it is not very active.

There is no operational commercial arbitration body in the country besides CEBAC. Foreign arbitral awards are recognized, but local courts are not legally equipped to enforce them. No Burundian private entity has been involved in a foreign arbitration. In the past, one registered case involved the GoB and a private gold refining company. The GoB lost the case, but enforced the ICSID’s against the GoB.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Burundi has two laws governing or pertaining to bankruptcy: Law N°1/07 of March 15, 2006, on bankruptcy and Law N°1/08 of March 15, 2006, on legal settlement of insolvent companies. Under Burundian law, creditors have the right to file for liquidation and the right to request personal or financial information about the debtors from the legal bankruptcy agent. The bankruptcy framework does not require that creditors approve the selection of the bankruptcy agent and does not provide creditors the right to object to decisions accepting or rejecting creditors’ claims.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The current Investment Code grants various potential fiscal and customs benefits to investors including: three or more years of tax-free operation; exemption of charges on property transfer; exemptions from duties on raw materials, capital goods, and specialized vehicles; tax exemptions for goods used to establish new businesses; exemptions from customs duties if investment goods are made within the EAC or COMESA; a corporate tax rate of 30 percent with a reduction to 28 percent if 50-200 Burundians are employed and to 25 percent if more than 200 are employed; and free transfer of foreign assets and income after payment of taxes due.

The GoB does not issue guarantees, but does co-finance foreign direct investment projects, albeit typically on an in-kind basis, such as by granting land for facilities.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Burundi already belongs to the trading blocs of the EAC, the CEPGL (Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries), COMESA, and the Economic Community of the States of Central Africa (CEEAC). In 2020, GoB adopted new laws to accelerate its integration into other trading blocs such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) between COMESA, EAC and SADC (Southern Africa Development Community). GoB also began harmonizing its policies and legal framework with those of regional entities to advance regional integration, improve its competitiveness, and take better advantage of external economic potentials. However, as the enabling regulations do not yet exist, Burundi does not yet have operational free economic zones.

One of the objectives on Burundi’s agenda is urgent integration into AfCTA, one of the largest free trade areas in the world since the formation of the World Trade Organization with a total of 55 member states. The AfCFTA aims to stimulate intra-African trade (BIAT) and Burundi wants to share in these gains. Burundi and Tanzania are the only countries within the East African Community that have not yet ratified the agreement. The GoB has already set up an ad hoc committee to accelerate the process of integration within AfCTA, and negotiations are underway with a view to ratifying the instruments of this agreement in the very near future. Burundi expects tangible benefits from this large continental market (1.2 billion people with a GDP of over USD 2.5 trillion and a purchasing power of more than USD 4 trillion) due to its strategic location and natural resources.

In addition, the GoB is working to establish its first Special Economic Zone (ZESB) in order to enhance growth and development after the breakdown of cooperation with several European countries. ZESB is still under construction on the Warubondo site (a strategic location of 5.43 square km area located between Burundi and neighboring DRC with easy access to Bujumbura city, Bujumbura International Airport, Bujumbura Port and Lake Tanganyika). ZESB is a result of a business partnership between GoB and private foreign investors and its main objective is to revive the industrial sector and to promote exports. The economic model behind this partnership is that the zone will be a window for foreign investors, but all the products produced within the zone will bear the label “Made in Burundi.”

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The current government policy for both domestic and foreign companies is mandatory employment of local workers unless it is not possible to find a local candidate with the required skills or expertise. The number of expatriate employees is limited to 20 percent of the total workforce. There is no policy mandating foreign companies to appoint local personnel to senior management or boards of directors.

Burundian visa requirements are not excessively onerous and do not generally inhibit the mobility of foreign investors and their employees. Since 2015, Burundi has removed the possibility for visitors to apply for a visa upon arrival at the airport unless authorized by the PAFE (immigration authority). Travelers to Burundi must apply for visas in one of the Burundian missions abroad. A foreigner holding a residency visa is permitted to work in Burundi. A two-year residence visa (renewable) costs USD500 and it can only be issued after making a refundable deposit of USD1,500 in a local bank (BANCOBU). There are no government/authority-imposed conditions to invest except for a minimum investment requirement of USD50,000 applicable to foreign investors only.

The 2000 Arusha Agreements for peace and reconciliation for Burundi and the Constitution recommend ethnic and gender quotas for new hires (60 percent from the Hutu ethnic group, 40 percent from the Tutsi ethnic group and 30 percent women) in state and security institutions. However, neither the Constitution nor the Arusha Agreements mention ethnic or gender quotas for the private sector. In 2017, a law was passed obliging International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) to recruit local staff while respecting the ethnic and gender quotas that apply to state institutions. Between December 2018 and April 2019, several INGOs decided to close their doors rather than submit to the requirements, arguing that the practices based on ethnicity were against their principles and values and the only recruitment criteria should be competency-based.

There are no requirements that investors purchase from local sources. However, the mining law requires a commitment from the investor to recruit staff or subcontractors of Burundian nationality as a precondition for granting a mining license, with mandatory quotas currently in place. The GoB imposes no performance requirements on investors as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding their investments or for access to tax and investment incentives.

There are no laws requiring foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption except for a law requiring that companies share user information with law enforcement authorities during terrorism investigations; this law applies equally to Burundian and foreign companies. There are no laws that prevent companies from transmitting data outside the country.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in both real and movable property are nominally recognized under Burundian law. The Burundi land code, adopted in 2011, recognizes the right to property and protection for Burundians and for foreigners. Foreigners enjoy the same rights and protection as nationals, subject to the principle of reciprocity (which means that the foreign country must in return recognize the same rights for Burundians). The state can give property to foreigners for industrial, commercial, cultural use, and can rent them out, but full ownership is reserved for Burundians. The legal system and the investment code are designed to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

The Land Titles Service registers real estate and security instruments, such as mortgages. Property titles are accepted as a guarantee by commercial banks, but documents for properties located outside the capital city of Bujumbura are less easily accepted because of multiple conflicts and crimes related to the land in rural areas (more than 80 percent of the litigations in courts and tribunals are related to conflicts over land).

Land titling in Burundi has historically been a lengthy, opaque and centralized process although the Burundian land code appears simple. As a result, some applicants, especially those with limited financial resources or contacts, fail to title their land while others with resources and good contacts sometimes bribe land titling agents to speed up the procedure. To address these issues, in December 2019, the GoB implemented several initiatives aimed at: (1) informing the population on the procedure for registering land and obtaining title deeds; (2) establishing in all provinces of the country one-stop windows where persons interested in titling land have access to all necessary government offices to carry out the titling, and; (3) combating, in accordance with the law, all forms of corruption related to the property’s registration process. The GoB has been slow to decentralize land titling for financial reasons and it is likely that the government will still need assistance to make its initiatives a reality.

The legal system and the investment code do not differentiate between local and foreign investors regarding land acquisition or lease. However, land acquisition is based on reciprocity between Burundi and the investor’s home country, obliging a foreign country to recognize the same rights for Burundians in the foreign country as the foreigners of their country enjoy in Burundi.

Properties in urban and rural areas must be registered. However, according to estimates, more than 90 percent of houses and land in rural areas are not registered and around 80 percent of the litigations in the Burundian courts and tribunals are conflicts over land. When a property has been legally purchased, it cannot be legally confiscated by the state except when it is the subject of an expropriation procedure in accordance with legal and regulatory procedures.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burundi has adopted the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS), which introduced global minimum standards for the protection and enforcement of virtually all intellectual property rights (IPR). The legal system and the investment code aim to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including intellectual property rights IPR. The law also guarantees protection for patents, copyrights, and trademarks. However, there is no record of enforcement action on intellectual property IPR infringement violations. No IPR-related law has been enacted during the past year and no bills are pending.

Agents of Burundian institutions in charge of the fight against piracy and counterfeiting (Burundian Revenue Office, Ministries of Trade and Public Health) have already benefited from various sources of support in terms of capacity building on industrial property rights and the fight against piracy and counterfeiting on the part of multilateral partners, but these institutions lack modern tools for detecting counterfeits. Although these institutions have already committed themselves to carry out reforms in this sector (a multisectoral committee responsible for promoting procedures to combat counterfeiting and piracy and monitoring has been set up), they still need to set up a database of recognized trademarks, in which all the information on trademarks registered at customs is compiled and to require this procedure for all companies or representatives of multinationals to be effective.For now, the Burundi Bureau of Standardization (BBN) is the state authority responsible for monitoring the quality of consumer products on the market; however, this Bureau lacks the necessary expertise and resources to be effective.  Counterfeiters who are apprehended are fined and their products are seized. There are no statistics available on seizures of counterfeit goods. Burundi is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Market List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Although there are no regulatory restrictions on foreign portfolio investment, Burundi does not have capital markets that would enable it. Capital allocation within Burundi is entirely dependent on commercial banks.

The country does not have its own stock market. There is no regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. Existing policies do not actively facilitate nor impede the free flow of financial resources into product and factor markets.

There is no regulation restricting international transactions. In practice, however, the government restricts payments and transfers for international transactions due to a shortage of foreign currency.

In theory, foreign investors have access to all existing credit instruments and on market terms. In practice, available credit is extremely limited.

Money and Banking System

Burundi has very limited banking services penetration according to the most recent national survey on financial inclusion conducted by the central bank. In this 2016 survey, the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB) found a penetration level of approximately 22 percent.  Several local commercial banks have branches in urban centers. Micro-finance institutions mostly serve rural areas. The Burundian government is a minority shareholder in three banks.The banking sector’s soundness has improved with capitalization and liquidity ratios above regulatory standards and profitability indicators on the rise. However, bank portfolio quality remains a concern, with the level of non-performing loans (NPLs) reaching six percent when five percent is the benchmark rate among East African Community states. The sector also suffered from shortages of foreign currency following the Central Bank’s establishment of de facto capital controls in 2019.

The financial sector includes 14 credit institutions (Banks) including a new youth investment bank and an agricultural bank, 40 microfinance institutions, 16 insurance companies, three social security institutions and three payment institutions. A bank for women is also under development. All these institutions aim at reducing unemployment by creating job opportunities, particularly small and medium-scale entrepreneurship. The banking market is dominated by the three largest and systemically important banks: Credit Bank of Bujumbura (BCB), Burundi Commercial Bank (BANCOBU), and Interbank Burundi (IBB).Foreign banks can establish operations in the country.  Foreign banks operating in the country include ECOBANK (Pan African Bank-West Africa), CRDB (Tanzanian Bank), DTB and KCB (both Kenyan Banks).  The central bank directs banking regulatory policy, including prudential measures for the banking system.  Foreigners and locals are subject to the same conditions when opening a bank account; the only requirement is the presentation of identification.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

According to the law, after paying taxes, there are no restrictions on expatriating funds associated with an investment. In practice, foreign investors have encountered difficulties in converting funds associated with investments into foreign currency due to de facto capital controls implemented by the BRB in 2019.

According to the GoB, funds associated with an investment can be converted into a freely usable currency at a legal market rate, pending their availability. Due to a shortage of foreign currency, the central bank prioritizes companies in specific strategic industries for access to foreign exchange accommodation. In practice, the Burundian franc (BIF) is not freely convertible at the official government rate.

The BRB publishes the daily exchange rate on its website each morning. In practice, the BIF fluctuates, and the government has imposed de facto capital controls to prevent abrupt exchange rate movements; there is a significant gap between the official rate and a floating parallel unofficial market rate.

Remittance Policies

The government has not passed any new laws regarding a change to investment remittances policies. The average delay for remitting investment returns (once all taxes have been paid) is three months due to general inefficiency in the banking sector and the rarity of such transactions in an environment with very little foreign direct investment.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Burundi does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are five SOEs in Burundi with 100 percent government ownership: REGIDESO (public utility company), ONATEL (telecom), SOSUMO (sugar), OTB (tea), COGERCO (cotton) and ODECA (Coffee). No statistics on assets are available for these companies as their reports are not available to the public. Board members for SOEs are appointed by the GoB and report to its ministries. The GoB has a minority (40 percent) share in Brarudi, a branch of the Heineken Group, and in three banking companies.

There is no published list of SOEs.

SOEs have no market-based advantages and compete with other investors under the same terms and conditions; however, Burundi does not adhere to the OECD guidelines on corporate governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

In 2002, Burundi entered an active phase of political stabilization, national reconciliation and economic reform. In 2004, it received an emergency post-conflict program from the IMF and the World Bank, paving the way for the development of the Strategic Framework for Growth and Poverty Alleviation (PRSP). After the 2005 elections, the GoB made the decision to open several state-owned enterprises in different sectors of the economy to private investment, including foreign investment. The Burundian government, considering coffee a strategic sector of its economy, decided to opt for the privatization of the coffee sector first in an effort to modernize it. However, following the crisis of 2015, the GoB decided to suspend immediately the privatization program. At that time, it had not yet privatized other sectors such as tea or sugar. In late 2019, the GoB regained control of the coffee sector, citing as its rationale perceived mismanagement on the part of the privatized companies during the 2015-2019. It is unclear if or when the privatization program will continue.

The privatization program was open to all potential buyers, including foreigners, and there was no explicit discrimination against foreign investors at any stage of the investment process. Public bidding was mandatory. The process is transparent and non-discriminatory. When the government intends to sell a business or shares in a business, offers are published in local newspapers.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

According to the investment code, any new enterprise is required to consider environmental issues and employee rights in its investment and business plan. The government has taken no comprehensive measures to implement policies or international standards regarding responsible business practices. The government routinely engages investors about including public and community benefits in investment projects, but has no clearly defined standards.

There have not been any high-profile or controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights violations in the recent past. No reliable information is available on the maintenance and enforcement of domestic laws with respect to labor and employment rights, consumer protections, and environmental protections. In January 2019, the BRB issued a regulation relating to the protection of consumers of financial products and services in view of the complexity and growing diversity of the range of the services and products offered in Burundi.

There are no corporate governance, accounting, or executive compensation standards in place to protect the interests of shareholders. There are no organizations focused specifically on RBC in the country.

As a member of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the government has acceded to the OECD due diligence mechanism and the regional system for certification and traceability of certain minerals extracted from national mines (tin, tantalum, and tungsten), as well as against conflict minerals that can be smuggled from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In May 2014, Burundi became the third country in the Great Lakes region of Africa to implement an internationally accepted system of due diligence and mineral traceability system. However, some civil society organizations report a noticeable lack of transparency in the Burundian mining sector (involvement of some senior GoB officials in the trafficking of gold from the DRC).

The government does not participate in the EITI yet. There are no domestic transparency measures/policies that require the disclosure of payments made to the government.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The government has an anti-corruption law and an enforcement organization, the Anti-Corruption Brigade, responsible for enforcing this legislation. Cabinet members, parliamentarians, and officials appointed by presidential decree have immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, insulating them from accountability. Laws designed to combat corruption do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties.

Article 60 of the April 2016 law “Bearing Measures for the Prevention and Punishment of Corruption and Related Offenses” regulates conflicts of interest, including in awarding government procurement. Burundian legislation criminalizes bribery of public officials, but there is no specific requirement for private companies to establish internal codes of conduct.

Burundi is a signatory to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. Burundi has also been a member of the East African Anti-Corruption Authority since joining the EAC in 2007. The country does not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

A number of U.S. firms have specifically noted corruption as an obstacle to direct investment in Burundi. Corruption is most pervasive in the award of licenses and concessions, which takes place in a non-transparent environment with frequent allegations of bribery and cronyism. Many customs officials are also reportedly corrupt, regularly extorting bribes from exporters and importers.

President Ndayishimiye has prioritized anti-corruption and efficiency efforts, particularly in state-owned enterprises, firing 40 director-level public employees and promising more punitive actions against corrupt or underperforming employees.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Name: Roger Ndikumana
Title: Commissaire Général
Organization: Anti-Corruption Brigade
Address: PO Box 890 Bujumbura
Telephone Number: (+257) 22 25 62 37
Email Address: brigadeanticorruption@yahoo.fr 

Contact at a “watchdog” organization (international, regional, local, or nongovernmental organization operating in the country/economy that monitors corruption, such as Transparency International):

Name: Gabriel Rufyiri
Title: President
Organization: OLUCOME
Address: 47, Chaussée Prince Louis Rwagasore, n°47, 1st Floor
Telephone Number: (+257) 79 30 82 97
Email Address: rufyirig@gmail.com  / olucome2003@gmail.com 

10. Political and Security Environment

Burundi has experienced cycles of ethnic and political violence since its independence in 1962. Periods before and after national elections have often been marked by political violence and civil disturbance. The May 2020 elections were largely peaceful, and the GoB has since consolidated power and security gains. Political tensions between the ruling party and opposition remain. The new administration has made efforts to reduce tensions with neighboring countries, including Rwanda, and to increase participation in regional security cooperation.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Unskilled local labor is widely available, while there are shortages for skilled workers in some sectors; no statistics are available on the shortage of specialized labor skills. According to government policy, the hiring of nationals should be prioritized except in cases in which no local expertise is available. Formal sector employment is limited, and official figures for unemployment are unreliable. Youth unemployment is estimated at approximately 65 percent.

According to the investment code, any new enterprise is required to take into account environmental issues and employee rights in its investment and business plan. The government has taken no comprehensive measures to implement policies or international standards regarding responsible business practices. The government routinely engages investors about including public and community benefits in investment projects but has no clearly defined standards.

No reliable information is available on the maintenance and enforcement of domestic laws with respect to labor and employment rights, consumer protections, and environmental protections. There are no known examples of labor laws being waived in order to attract or retain investment.

The labor code allows for employers to respond to fluctuating market conditions with layoffs of workers. Labor laws do not differentiate between layoffs and firing for severance. The government has a social insurance program that provides limited coverage to workers laid off for economic reasons.

Burundi is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and its domestic labor law is in compliance with international labor standards. Workers’ unions are legally authorized, and there are laws and regulations that prohibit child and forced labor and any kind of discrimination. In practice, child labor occurs, and some union activity is restricted. Burundi has ratified all of the ILO fundamental conventions protecting workers’ rights; however, protection of core labor rights continues to be inadequate. In the private sector, labor-management relations are usually conducted according to international standards that allow for collective bargaining. Burundi’s Labor Inspectorate has the authority to settle disputes between workers and employers, which can also be managed through civil judicial procedures. No strikes that posed an investment risk occurred during the past year. Since November 2020, a new labor code to replace the 1993 code was adopted with the main objective of complying with the various conventions that the country has since ratified, and above all responding to criteria for regional and international integration. This new code includes protections for employees and more flexibility and surety of contracts.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 3,324* 2019 3,012 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 1.0 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 N/A 2019 7.3 UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
* BRB (Bank of the Republic of Burundi), 2019 Annual Report (at official exchange rate of end of December 2019). 
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
N/A N/A N/A

14. Contact for More Information

NAME: Andrew Partin
TITLE: Economic Affairs Officer
ADDRESS OF MISSION/AIT: Embassy of the United States of America in Bujumbura
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (+257) 22 20 73 10
EMAIL ADDRESS: partinaj@state.gov

NAME: Tresor Ntandikiye
TITLE: Economic Specialist
ADDRESS OF MISSION/AIT: Embassy of the United States of America in Bujumbura
TELEPHONE NUMBER: (+257) 22 20 74 26
EMAIL ADDRESS: BujumburaEcon@state.gov

Cabo Verde

Executive Summary

The Government of Cabo Verde welcomes international investment, provides prospective investors “one-stop shop” assistance through its investment promotion agency Cabo Verde TradeInvest, and offers incentives and tax breaks for investments in multiple sectors, most notably tourism and information and communication technology.  The record amount of USD 1.5 billion – equivalent to 75 percent of GDP – in proposed investment projects Cabo Verde TradeInvest approved in 2020 suggests high investor confidence in the country’s post-pandemic recovery.  Remittances, donations, and overall foreign direct investment also increased.  Cabo Verde’s political stability, democratic institutions, and economic freedom lend predictability to its business environment.  Free and fair elections, good governance, prudent macroeconomic management, openness to trade, increasing integration into the global economy, and the adoption of effective social development policies all contribute to a favorable climate for investment.  Cabo Verde receives high marks on international indicators for transparency and lack of corruption.  There are few regulatory barriers to foreign investment in Cabo Verde, and foreign investors receive the same treatment as Cabo Verdean nationals regarding taxes, licenses and registration, and access to foreign exchange.  The country’s strategic location and growing connectivity with other West African nations make it a potential gateway for investors interested in a foothold from which to expand to the continent.

As Cabo Verde’s low proportion of arable land, scant rainfall, lack of natural resources, territorial discontinuity, and small population make it a high-cost economy with few economies of scale, the country relies on foreign investment, imports, development aid, and remittances.  Despite the challenges, in 2007 the country became one of the first to graduate from least developed to developed country status, and it met most of its Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the economy’s dependence on tourism, which accounted directly for 25 percent of GDP and more than 40 percent indirectly pre-pandemic, makes it vulnerable to external shocks.  In addition, the pandemic caused the government to put plans to privatize state-owned enterprises on hold, though privatization of ports and airports management and water and electricity could move forward later.  While the business and investment climates continue to improve, there remain bureaucratic, linguistic (relatively few English or French speakers), and cultural challenges to overcome.

The government’s new Cabo Verde Ambition 2030 plan builds on its earlier Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development (PEDS 2017-2021) and promises to open opportunities in sustainable tourism, renewable energy, blue and digital economies, and the transformation of Cabo Verde into a transportation and logistics platform.  Diversification of the economy remains a priority, but high public debt levels, which reached a record estimated 151 percent of GDP in 2020, limit government funding capacity.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 41 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 137 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 100 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 -$2.0 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/  
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $3,630 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cabo Verde seeks both domestic and foreign investment to drive economic recovery, diversification, and growth following the COVID-19 crisis.  The government’s Ambition 2030 strategy, completed in September 2020, emphasizes development of sustainable tourism, transformation of the country into a transportation and logistics platform, renewable energy, blue and digital economy, and export-oriented industries.  The government promotes a market-oriented economic model in which all investors, regardless of nationality, have the same rights and are subject to the same duties and obligations under the law.  Improvement of the business climate to attract investment remains an economic priority, as does reduction of the state’s role in the economy, though the COVID-19 pandemic has put plans to privatize state-owned enterprises on hold.    

In 2020, approved investment projects reached an all-time high of USD 1.5 billion, confirming investor confidence in Cabo Verde despite pandemic uncertainties.  Foreign investment continues to be concentrated in tourism and light manufacturing.  In 2020, 80 percent of the approved investment projects were in the tourism sector.  

Cabo Verdean law offers tax benefits for foreign citizens who decide to buy a second home in Cabo Verde and grants permanent residence to any foreigner whose investment exceeds 180 million escudos (USD 2 million).  The legal framework also establishes conditions for investment in the country by Cabo Verdean emigrants, including fiscal incentives.

Investment promotion agency Cabo Verde TradeInvest (CVTI) is a one-stop shop for all investors.  Through CVTI, the government maintains dialogue with investors using personalized and virtual meetings, round tables, conferences, and workshops.  CVTI offers investors a “One-Stop Shop for Investments” electronic platform and help in formalizing expressions of interest and monitoring the investment process.  It also provides investors and exporters information about trade agreements and benefits (including AGOA, ECOWAS), market information, details on trade fairs and events, and contacts with other state institutions and potential partners.  In addition, CVTI can assist with obtaining authorizations and licensing, tax and customs incentives, work permits for foreign workers, visas for company workers, registration of workers with social security, and introductions to service providers, such as banks, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents.

For investments of less than USD 500,000, government entities ProEmpresa and the Casa do Cidadao (Commercial Registry Department) provide similar services.  

The International Business Center (Centro Internacional de Negocios – CIN) provides a set of tax and customs benefits for companies that do international business, with the aim of promoting, supporting, and strengthening the emergence of new industrial, commercial, and service provision activities in Cabo Verde.  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Investment Law applies to both foreign and domestic investors, and it enshrines the principle of freedom of investment regardless of the nationality.  However, sectoral legislation imposes restrictions on some activities such as fishing and maritime transport.  The Investment Law further protects against direct and indirect expropriation.  Private property is protected from unilateral requisition and nationalization, except for public interest reasons, in accordance with the Law and the non-discrimination principle, subject to prompt, full, and fair compensation.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

During 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review (IPR) at the request of the Government of Cabo Verde.  The report contains strategic analysis on how Cabo Verde can utilize foreign direct investment (FDI) in the tourism sector to advance sustainable development objectives.  https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2248

Business Facilitation

Cabo Verde offers benefits to attract private-sector investment.  Although equality of treatment and non-discrimination are granted to all investors, certain investment projects, given their nature or size, may receive special treatment and support from the government.  

In an effort to reduce approval time for investment projects, the government has established a maximum period of 15 days for analysis and 30 days for approval of investment and export projects.  In addition, Cabo Verde has adopted measures to facilitate and stimulate business activity, including lowering the maximum personal income tax (IRPS) one percentage point to 24 percent, eliminating double taxation, and waiving tax installment payments for taxpayers who had negative results or began their business activity in the previous year.  Investments of at least 500 million escudos (USD 4.8 million) qualify for contractual benefits.  Those that create a minimum number of jobs or expand into new strategic sectors qualify for a 50 percent investment credit, which can be deducted over 15 years.

Laws commit the government to paying its bills within 45 days; the law further commits the government to paying interest on late payments.  These measures were adopted to ensure predictability in the payment of the state’s obligations to companies.  The 2021 budget prioritizes expenditures on measures to support families, save companies and jobs in the context of the pandemic, and includes benefits to attract private sector investments and improve the business environment.

Registering a company is straightforward.  The Commercial Registry Department (Casa do Cidadao) is a one-stop shop where a company can be created and registered in less than a day.  Information on business registration procedures is available at https://portondinosilhas.gov.cv/ and http://caboverde.eregulations.org/show-list.asp?l=pt&mid=1.  Step-by-step information on procedures, time, and cost involved in starting a company can be found at http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/cabo-verde/starting-a-business/.  The CVTI website also offers information on investing in Cabo Verde, including Cabo Verde’s Investment Law, the Code of Fiscal Benefits, and the Contractual Tax Benefits-Incentives:  https://cvtradeinvest.com/.

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  There is no information or data available on outward investments.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Cabo Verde has neither a bilateral investment treaty nor a taxation treaty with the United States.  

Cabo Verde has bilateral investment agreements with Angola, China, Cuba, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland.  It enjoys a special partnership with the European Union as a Peripheral Region Nation and is a member of ECOWAS.  Cabo Verde also has an agreement on mutual protection of investments with Hungary, published in February 2020.

Cabo Verde has tax treaties in force with Portugal, Macau, Spain, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal. 

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Cabo Verde is a regional model of transparency and good governance.  The government is committed to improving conditions for foreign investment and encouraging a more transparent and competitive economic environment.  Laws to promote exports and free-zone enterprises stress the government’s commitment to encouraging investment in export-oriented industries.  The tax regime encourages entrepreneurial activity, and government policies support free trade and open markets.

In Cabo Verde, there is free online access to all laws through the government’s official register website.  This is viewable at https://kiosk.incv.cv/.

Regulations on economic activity sectors can also be viewed on the Cabo Verde TradeInvest website:  http://cvtradeinvest.com/.

Public finance and debt obligations are in line with international norms and standards on budget credibility, thoroughness, and fiscal transparency.  Cabo Verde continues to improve its processes for the planning, execution, and control of its budgets.  The Ministry of Finance uses a digital platform to publish public accounts.  With this web portal, any institution or citizen can observe the execution of the budget in real time.  A Public Finance Council independently assesses the sustainability of budget and policies.  Cabo Verde has an independent Supreme Audit Institution (SAI), which operates in accordance with International Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions and the Mexico Declaration and is responsible for verifying and publishing the government’s annual financial statements.

International Regulatory Considerations

Cabo Verde formally acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2008.  Cabo Verde has not notified the WTO of any measures that are inconsistent with its Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIM)s obligations.

Cabo Verde is committed to integration into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) but has postponed the implementation of the ECOWAS Common External Tariffs to 2022 and does not foresee adoption of an ECOWAS single currency.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Cabo Verde’s legal system is based on the civil law system of Portugal.  The 1992 constitution provides for a judiciary independent from the executive branch.  The judicial system is composed of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and regional courts.  Judges cannot be affiliated with political parties.

The Ministry of Justice and Labor appoints local judges.  The judiciary generally provides due process rights; however, an overburdened and understaffed judicial system constrains the right to an expeditious trial.  Cabo Verde has modern commercial and contractual laws.  The judicial system in Cabo Verde is transparent and independent.  There is no government interference in the court system, but judicial decisions are often delayed by years.

The right to private ownership and establishment is guaranteed under the constitution.  Property rights are also recognized and guaranteed by several Cabo Verdean laws.  There is a legal entity that records secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate.  The legal system also protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Cabo Verdean laws concerning FDI include the Investment Law of 2012, which applies to both foreign and domestic investors, and preserves the principle of freedom of investment.  The Industrial Development Statute regulates incentives and the investment approval process.  Other relevant legislation includes Law n. 41 / 2016 of 2016, which defines the mandate of Cabo Verde TradeInvest as a one-stop shop for external investors.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Regulatory agencies in charge of and responsible for competition-related concerns differ according to sector.

The law protects competition in all economic activities.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Investment Law protects against direct and indirect expropriation.  Private property is protected against requisition and nationalization, except for public interest reasons (Investment Law, art. 6.1).  Under the law, in the event of expropriation, the government is to compensate the owner on the basis of prevailing market prices or the actual market value of the property.  To date there have been no cases of unlawful expropriation or claims of discriminatory behavior against foreigners by the government.  

In case of noncompliance of investment projects, the law states that land can be recovered by the state and made available to new investment projects.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

In 2011, Cabo Verde became a contracting state to the ICSID convention.  Cabo Verde is not a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Disputes between the government and investors concerning the interpretation and application of the law which cannot be resolved amicably or via negotiation are submitted for resolution by the judicial authorities, in accordance with Cabo Verdean law.  Disputes between the government and foreign investors on investments authorized and made in the country are settled by arbitration if no other process has been agreed upon.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The law favors arbitration as a mechanism for settling investment disputes between the Government of Cabo Verde and foreign investors, under national and international dispute resolution rules, and the courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.  Generally, arbitration will be carried out in Cabo Verde and in Portuguese unless the parties agree on another location and language.  The decision of the single referee or the arbitration committee is final and there is no appeal.  In 2018, the Tax Arbitration Center was created to resolve disputes regarding tax matters.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Cabo Verde law provides for a reorganization procedure and a framework that allows creditors more involvement in insolvency proceedings.  The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report ranked Cabo Verde 168th in the category of Resolving Insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Cabo Verde reduced the corporate income tax rate to 22 percent from 25 percent in 2019.  The Investment Law establishes incentives for investment in the country by Cabo Verdean emigrants as well as a framework for a one-stop shop for emigrants.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Companies must obtain authorization and define areas of economic activity in industrial, commercial, or financial services to be eligible to take part in Special Economic Zones.  Fiscal benefits and incentives will be issued on a case-by-case basis in a maritime special economic zone the government is planning.  The International Business Center (CIN) will assess the investments and incentives that apply.  

The government also plans to create a tax-free Special Economic Zone for Technology (ZEET) with special incentives to attract international companies.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Access to work and residence permits for foreign workers, managers, and investors is regulated by the Labor Code and Law 80/VIII/2014.  Foreigners are required to apply for a work permit, but the authorization process is not onerous.  There is no “forced localization” in any sector in Cabo Verde.  Investors are granted work and residence permits independently of the amount they invest.

The regime for foreign hires differs depending on category.  The Labor Code regulates residence permits for foreign workers, managers, and investors.  There are four categories of permits for foreigners:  investors, employees, independent professionals, and highly qualified employees.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The access, use, and transfer of land and real estate are recognized under the constitution, Civil Code, and Legislative Decree 2/2007 (Land Law).  Everyone, regardless of nationality, may acquire ownership rights or obtain special permits to occupy and use land.

A legal entity records secured interests in property.  Property documents are obtained in the land registry (Certidão de Registo Predial), including an official map with the property’s exact location (Planta de Localização).  A tax information certificate (Certidão Matricial) is requested at the municipality.  

If the property is unregistered, it is possible to register the property with a certificate confirming that the property is not registered in anyone else’s name (Certidao Negativa) and a tax certificate confirming this.  Under Cabo Verde’s second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, the islands of Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio, and the rural and high potential tourism zone parcels on the island of Sao Vicente, finalized a land information management system and clarified parcel rights and boundaries.  Cabo Verde now ranks 69th in Registering Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

Legislation on intellectual property rights (IPR) aligns with international standards.  The legal framework has been revised in accordance with provisions of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreements and those of the WTO.  The body responsible for standardization in Cabo Verde is the Institute of Quality and Intellectual Property (IGOPC).  

Officially, the IGOPC protects against IP infringement, but enforcement capacity is quite limited due to resource constraints including poor digitalization (though online registration and search of trademarks were made available recently), weakness of the judicial system, and lack of awareness of intellectual property rights among businesses and consumers.

Cabo Verde is a party to international copyright treaties.  Cabo Verde is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.  

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Limited capital market and portfolio investment opportunities exist in Cabo Verde.  The Cabo Verdean stock market, Bolsa de Valores de Cabo Verde (BVC), is fully operational.  It has been most active in the issuance of bonds.  Foreign investors must open an account with a bank in Cabo Verde before buying stocks or bonds from BVC.

Foreign interests may access credit under the same market conditions as Cabo Verdeans.

Money and Banking System

Cabo Verde has a small financial sector supervised and regulated by the Central Bank of Cabo Verde (BCV).  According to data from BCV, more than 90 percent of the Cabo Verdean population is served by banks.  Internet-based tools and services in the banking sector continue to grow in Cabo Verde, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, changing the model of the client-bank relationship.  New ICT products allow customers alternatives to in-person support as well as making certain decisions outside of working hours and through the internet.

Banking represents more than 80 percent of the assets of the entire Cabo Verdean financial system.  Two banks – Banco Comercial do Atlantico (BCA) and Caixa Economica de Cabo Verde (CECV) – together held 67.3 percent of the market share in credit and 71.8 percent in deposits pre-pandemic.

Legislation approved by the National Assembly in January 2020 terminated the issuance of restricted licenses for offshore banking operations, calling for generic licenses and operations with resident clients.  BCV subsequently informed that banks with a restricted license (offshore), serving non-residents would have to adjust to the new requirements.  Otherwise, BCV would revoke their authorization and enforce administrative liquidation.  Offshore banks operating in Cabo Verde have until December 2021 to complete the transition.    

To establish a bank account, the client must provide proper identification and obtain a taxpayer number from the Commercial Registry Department (Casa do Cidadao), a process that takes approximately 10 minutes.  Bank credit is available to foreign investors under the same conditions as for domestic investors.  The private sector has access to credit instruments such as loans, letters of credit, and lines of credit.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Foreign investors have the right to convert their investment to any other freely convertible currency and transfer all their income.  The government gives foreign investors important guarantees, such as privately managed foreign currency accounts, which can be credited from abroad or from other foreign accounts in Cabo Verde.  In addition, it allows undisputed repatriation of dividends, profits, and capital from foreign investment operations.  To receive these benefits, the investor has to qualify for foreign investor status through the government’s investment promotion agency, CVTI.

Regulatory legislation specifies that for a company’s first five years of operation, its dividends may be freely expatriated without tax and that for the next 15 years dividends may be expatriated with a flat tax rate of 10 percent.  Incentives for outward investment in developing countries are not included in the legislation, but they have been provided on an ad hoc basis.

Cabo Verde’s exchange-rate fluctuation risk is low as the country’s currency, the escudo, is pegged at the rate of 110.27 to the Euro.  This fixed exchange rate arrangement is under the Credit Facility Contract, granted to Cabo Verde by Portugal and managed by a joint Cabo Verdean and Portuguese body named the Commission on the Agreement for Exchange Cooperation (Comissao do Acordo de Cooperaçao Cambial – COMACC).  In 2018, the government liberalized foreign exchange operations in Cabo Verde, allowing the free movement of money overseas.

Remittance Policies

Current law permits a foreign investor to request transfer, loan repayment, revenue/profits, and capital gains overseas from the BCV within 30, 60, and 90 days, respectively.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The government created a Sovereign Private Investment Guarantee Fund in 2019.  The fund aims to guarantee the issuance of securities, in particular debt securities, by private commercial companies to fund large private investments.  BCV will oversee the fund, which is to maintain a rating of at least “A” from financial rating agencies.  The initial share capital of approximately USD 120 million is guaranteed by the state.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Starting in the mid-1990s, Cabo Verde implemented a series of reforms that have transformed a centrally planned economy into a market-oriented economy.  Since then, the number of major enterprises of which the state is a majority owner has decreased from 40 to six.  State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are most active in the transportation sector.  They are generally managed by a board of directors nominated by the minister in charge of the respective sector.  These boards of directors have between three and five members.  SOEs are generally evaluated based on their economic or financial performance.  All SOEs are required to produce annual reports and must submit their books to independent auditors.  Even though not all directors are politically appointed, they must maintain the confidence and support of the government.

Cabo Verde is not a party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the WTO.  In principle, it tries to adhere to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines on Corporate Governance.

Privatization Program

The government continues to look at privatizations and concessions as tools to bring new dynamics to the economy, through new business and investment opportunities for the domestic and international private sectors. 

 Both foreign and domestic investors can participate in the public bidding process, which is transparent and non-discriminatory.  On hold due to the COVID-19 crisis are the privatizations or concessions for the management of the national port and airport authorities (ENAPOR and ASA, respectively), the pharmaceutical company (EMPROFAC), and the electric and water utility (Electra).

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector, government, and regulators are increasingly aware of the importance of environmental and corporate social responsibility in Cabo Verde.  The government encourages companies to engage in responsible business conduct.  Many companies conduct campaigns to promote social awareness in areas such as health, environmental protection, and cultural preservation.  Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, private companies supported vulnerable populations with essential goods.  Women represent 24 percent of elected parliamentarians and 35 percent of leadership in businesses.  

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

Comply Chain (https://www.dol.gov/ilab/complychain/)

9. Corruption

Cabo Verde has signed and ratified the UN Convention against Corruption.  Under Cabo Verdean law, giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal act punishable by up to eight years in prison.  To combat corruption effectively, the Cabo Verdean government established the High Authority against Corruption, and the National Assembly has added three additional prosecutors to enforce the law in this area.  Other institutions active in combating corruption include the Judicial Police, the Prosecuting Counsel, and the courts.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption:
Luis Jose Tavares Landim
Attorney General (Procuradoria Geral da Republica)
CP 268 Praia – Cabo Verde
Phone +238 261 1665

Contact at international organizations:
Cristina Andrade
Senior National Coordinator
UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Av OUA, ASA
Praia – Cabo Verde

10. Political and Security Environment

Cabo Verde is a model of political stability with a tradition of peaceful transitions of power.  There have been no political, social, or religious conflicts resulting in violence in recent years.  Civil liberties are generally protected, but access to justice is impaired by an overburdened court system, and crime remains a concern.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Labor is widely available in Cabo Verde.  Unskilled labor represents 30 to 40 percent of the total labor force.  Technical, managerial, and professional talent with English and French language skills is more difficult to find.  Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is a significant challenge, aggravated by the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the tourism sector and small business.  During the pandemic, the government implemented a furlough mechanism, providing for 70 percent of the salaries of laid off workers (35 percent covered by the employer and 35 percent covered by government social security) until the end of December 2020.  In January, the government announced the extension of the furlough regime until the end of March, reducing the contribution of the employer to 25 percent and increasing the government’s contribution to 45 percent.  The government estimated that unemployment rose to 20 percent in 2020 from 11.3 percent in 2019 and 12.2 percent in 2018.  

Cabo Verde has ratified all of the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s eight fundamental conventions.  Minimum wage is currently 13,000 CVE (USD 141) per month.  The National Social Security Institute (INPS) manages unemployment benefits.  The legal workweek is limited to 44 hours for adults, with 12 consecutive hours per week for rest, and premium rates of pay for overtime mandatory.  Larger employers generally respect this restriction, but agricultural and domestic laborers work longer hours.  

Labor strikes are generally peaceful.  All workers except those in restricted sectors are free to form and join unions without interference from the government.  The government respects workers’ right to strike, but the law allows the government to act in emergency situations or when essential services might be affected.  Few companies adopted collective bargaining, but the ILO has worked with local unions and government bodies to provide guidance on conducting dialogue between parties.  The Directorate General for Labor (DGT) has a conciliation mechanism to promote dialogue.  There have been no instances in which labor laws were waived in order to attract or retain investment.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and African Development Bank (AfDB) consider the rigidity of the labor laws and severance pay requirements to be an obstacle to industrial investment and development.  

Cabo Verde does not impose local employment quotas.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance and Development Finance Programs

DFC does not currently support any investment projects in Cabo Verde.  DFC’s predecessor agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), signed an insurance agreement with Cabo Verde in 1985. 

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $1,982 2019 $1,982 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019   N/A 2019   -$2 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019   N/A 2019   $0 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 6.0% 2019 5.2% UNCTAD data available at

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html     

* Source for Host Country Data: National Statistics Institute (INE) and Cabo Verde Central Bank (BCV)

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment – 2019 Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 2,162 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
United Kingdom    402   19%               N/A
Portugal   370   17%
Spain   279   13%
Italy   120     6%
Ireland     50 2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic and Commercial Section
U.S. Embassy Praia – Cabo Verde
Rua Abilio Macedo no 6
Tel: +238 260 8900
PraiaEconComm@State.gov

Cameroon

Executive Summary

Efforts to combat COVID-19 and measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the economy were the focal point of 2020. The economy dipped into recession in 2020, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast a rebound in 2021, with growth forecast to reach 3.4 percent. Development projects, especially in road infrastructure, transport, energy, and health experienced severe and costly delays, but are on course to be completed. Cameroon also hosted the international African Nations Championship soccer tournament at the beginning of 2021, which likely resulted in a rise in COVID-19 cases and whose economic impact was dubious.

As a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), Cameroon is committed to regional fiscal discipline, while complying with the monetary policies and regulations of the regional central bank. Cameroon serves as a key link between West and Central Africa and neighbor to Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. With this strategic geographical position, the country could benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). In 2020, Cameroon adopted a new national development strategy plan and a new budget, which attempted to control borrowing, modernize public finances, and maintain incentives to attract foreign investors. Although the mobilization of the national private sector and international investors is one of the pillars of the new national development strategy, the government has not outlined clear steps on how it will achieve these goals.

Cameroon has strong competitive advantages through its location as a gateway to the region. It offers immense investment potential in infrastructure, extractive industries, consumer market and modern communication technology (for example, internet broadband, fiber optic cable, and data centers). However, Cameroon’s telecommunication infrastructure is overutilized and in need of upgrades, which often results in network outages. Agricultural processing and transport infrastructure, such as seaports, airports, and rail, need investments, especially for modernization and maintenance. More investment opportunities exist in the financial sector as only 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services. However, to draw benefits from these natural advantages and achieve its ambition to become an emerging economy by 2035, the country must improve governance and profoundly reform its inefficient civil service.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 149 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 167 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 119 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD (-2) mil https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 1.490 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD
https://www.imf.org/en/Countries/CMR#countrydata

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign direct investments is a corner stone of Cameroon’s development strategy. Governance and strategic management of the state constitutes one of the four pillars of the National Development Strategy 2030 (NDS 30), which was launched on November 16, 2020. The government of Cameroon acknowledges that the challenging nature of the domestic business climate remains a concern. To fight corruption, rebuild a weak legal system, and modernize an inefficient public service, the NDS 30 has adopted a holistic approach to governance, which includes political and institutional governance, administrative governance, economic and financial governance, regional governance, and social and cultural governance.

Cameroon has put in place an arsenal of institutions and laws to improve governance. The country has prevention programs and has reinforced the powers of the judiciary through the creation of the Special Crime Tribunal on corruption and economic crimes. This special tribunal, which began activities on December 14, 2012, is empowered to trial perpetrators of economic crimes amounting to at least $100,000. The court specifically targets custodians of public funds as well as officials who have the prerogatives to collect or spend money on behalf of the state. Since its creation, the tribunal has tried 225 cases and recovered $323 million. However, corruption and administrative mismanagement continue to hamper the business climate in Cameroon. Cameroon consistently ranks at the bottom of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167 of 190 on the Ease of Doing Business index and 149 of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Despite the active presence of state-owned companies in important sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government. There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property (IP)/technology transfer requirements. Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors have legitimate registered businesses and are able to meet criteria, such as employment creation and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) was created in 2010. To date, the CIPA has signed 172 investment agreements and generated the creation of over 60,000 jobs. CIPA’S mission, in collaboration with other state institutions and private bodies, is to contribute to the development and implementation of government policy in the field of investment promotion. The agency seeks also to foster an enabling environment for investments in Cameroon.

The investment incentives offered by CIPA cover existing and emerging economic sectors. The agency also serves as a one-stop-shop facilitator through the assistance it provides to foreign and domestic investors. It processes application files for approval in compliance with its investment charter and assists in the alignment of projects with the general tax code. It can support potential foreign investors for visas applications. The agency also follows up to monitor the implementation of commitments made by approved companies.

CIPA’s sector coverage

Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) Sector Coverage

Sources: National Institute of Statistics, IMF, Internal estimates 2019-2020

The government maintains dialogue with business associations such as the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and Enterprise Cameroon through the Cameroon Business Forum, which is sponsored by the World Bank.  Over the past year, GICAM has been critical of the government handling of the negative impact of COVID-19 on business.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Apart from national defense and security areas, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. Despite an active government presence in most sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.

Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property/technology transfer requirements.  Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors meet the criteria, such as employment and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

On June 22, 2020, the Minister of Economy and Regional Planning (MINEPAT) announced an economic stimulus package to counter the negative economic and social impacts of the COVID –19 pandemic. With a total expected budget of $798 million, the package planned to allocate funds to five areas, which include strengthening the health system ($97.3 million), supporting economic and financial resilience ($625 million), and maintaining strategic suppliers of essential goods ($9.1 million). In addition to these financial measures, the government introduced a set of temporary tax rebates, incentives, moratoria, and deferred payments for private companies. Cameroon has also benefitted from regional measures introduced by the regional central bank, Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC). Throughout 2020, BEAC maintained low interest rates, increased liquidity provisions, and widened the range of private financial instruments accepted as collateral for monetary policy operations.

The pandemic emerged as Cameroon prepared to close a three-year Extended Credit Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it signed in June 2017.  The program included structural reforms to accelerate and consolidate growth and control spending.  Under the terms of the agreement, the IMF has conducted five policy reviews outlined below.  Copies of the reviews can be found on the IMF website.

  • First Review (January 2018)
  • Second Review (July 2018)
  • Third Review (December 2018)
  • Fourth Review (July 24, 2019)
  • Fifth Review (February 14, 2020)

The evaluation and closure of the program has been disrupted by the eruption of COVID-19. But on January 22, 2021, IMF said the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The IMF indicated that the CEMAC economic outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices. Before COVID-19, IMF expressed satisfaction with the progress of the implementation of reforms, while urging the country to implement stronger measures on budget transparency and improvement of the business climate.

Cameroon: Historical and Forecast Growth and Inflation 2015-2024

Sources: Cameroon Ministry of Finance and IMF

The IMF estimates that the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for Cameroon and other CEMAC members. The IMF has granted financial resources to individual countries in the region to fight the pandemic. This emergency financial support has contained the initial economic fallout. Uncertainties remain in the long-term impact, especially in the context of stagnating oil prices. The IMF outlook projects that CEMAC’s fiscal and external adjustments will be slower than previously envisaged, entailing large external financing needs (around $7.7 billion for 2021–23). The IMF concludes that the outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices.

Business Facilitation

Entrepreneurs obtain a unique tax identifying number when they open a company in Cameroon. This taxpayer’s identification number, known as the single identification number, is attributed to the business owners immediately when they start the registration procedure of their business. Any entity or sole proprietor starting a business in Cameroon is attributed this single identification number by the Directorate General of Taxation. The number is attributed on a permanent basis upon effective localization of the taxpayer and only after the taxpayer has filed an application to register the business with the competent tax authority within 15 working days following the commencement of activities.

According to the World Bank, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and economic capital.  This process is lengthier and more complex than regional and global averages.  For foreign investors, a declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning operations. In addition, if the company wants to engage in international trade, registration in the importers’ file is required to obtain an automated customs systems number (Système Douanier Automatisé, or “sydonia”).  This number facilitates the entry and exit of goods produced by the company.  The authentication of the parent company’s documentation abroad is required only to establish a subsidiary. Foreign-owned resident companies that wish to maintain foreign currency bank accounts must obtain prior approval.  The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) as per Section 24 of the exchange control regulations.  This approval takes on average 38 days to obtain.  There is a minimum paid-in capital requirement of CFA 1,000,000 (~USD 1,800) for establishing LLCs.

In Cameroon, business registration remains manual after the failure of a registration portal launched by the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises that was supposed to automate the process. To register, entrepreneurs must go to one of the regional centers for the creation of enterprises, which can complete the registration procedure within one week.

Outward Investment

The Cameroonian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Cameroon has Bilateral Investment Treaties or Free Trade Agreements with the following countries:

  • Belgium-Luxemburg: convention between the Union Belgo-Luxembourg Union for the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (1980)
  • Canada:  Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (2014)
  • China:  Bilateral Investment Treaty Agreement (1997)
  • Egypt:  Memorandum of Understanding with the General Authority for Investment
  • Germany:  Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal Republic of Cameroon concerning the encouragement of investments (1962)
  • Guinea:  Mutual Discussions and Framework Agreement
  • Italy:  Economic, Technical, and Financial Development Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Italy and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon (1989)
  • Mali:  Cultural Agreement and Commercial Agreement (1964)
  • Mauritania:  Framework Agreement for General Bilateral Cooperation following recognition After Independence
  • Mauritius: Framework Agreement for General Bilateral Cooperation following recognition after independence
  • Morocco:  Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (1974)
  • Netherlands:  Agreement (1967)
  • Romania:  Agreement between the Government of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon on the mutual promotion and protection of investments (1980)
  • Switzerland:  Cameroon-Switzerland Bilateral Investment Treaty (1964)
  • Turkey:  Cultural and Scientific Cooperation Agreement (2002), Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (2002), Joint Economic Commission Protocol (2003)
  • United Kingdom:  Agreement between Great Britain and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon for the promotion and protection of investments (1982). UK and Cameroon signed a new Economic Partnership Agreement on March 09, 2021.
  • United States of America:  Bilateral Investment Treaty (1986)
  • On December 1, 2020, Cameroon became the 33rd country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

Cameroon does not have a Bilateral Tax Treaty with the United States; it has tax treaties with Canada, France, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and other members of CEMAC (Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Chad, and Central African Republic).

The latest finance law, passed in December 2020, is the main new legal instrument to have been published in the past year.  It contains new taxes and a few exonerations for specific sectors, for example, for the import of aquaculture equipment.  The main innovations are the prohibition of the payment of taxes and duties in cash, which is replaced by electronic and digital electronic payment, or payment by bank transfer. Second, the government maintains and increases advantages granted to companies located in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North Regions. Full implementation of these measures began on February 2021. During the first quarter of 2021, the government extended tax declaration deadlines to companies to cushion the impact of COVID-19 as part of its economic relief measures.

The new 2021 finance law can be found  here .

Tax disputes tend to emerge from penalties imposed by the Taxation Directorate. In case of suspected wrongdoing, for example, late filing or payment, interest on the amount due may be imposed at 1.5 percent of the tax due per month. Regarding the monthly payments of taxes, late declarations are subject to a penalty of 10 percent per month, which shall not exceed 30 percent. Penalties are calculated as follows: 30 percent (if there is evidence of force majeure which prevented the payment in time or “good faith”), 100 percent (if there is evidence of deliberated delays not ascribed to force majeure or “bad faith”) and 150 percent (fraud). Where a taxpayer initiates the process to settle outstanding taxes, no penalties will be assessed. In case of dispute, the taxation director generally requires the payment of penalties upfront. But it takes years to recover these payments even when the company eventually wins the case.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Cameroon laws are consistent with international business and legal norms. Cameroon legal architecture is made of national, regional (CEMAC), and supra-national regulations, most of which are applicable to domestic and foreign businesses. Weak implementation and investigating capacity, a lack of understanding of international business practices, and corruption in the judiciary limit the effectiveness of the rule of law. In many circumstances, judicial loopholes persist, leading to arbitrary interpretations of the texts.

Some government ministries, though not all, consult with public and private sector organizations through targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. There is no formal process for such consultations. Ministries do not report the results of consultations, but there is no evidence that such processes disadvantage U.S. or other foreign investors.

Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate pass laws. The Executive proposes bills and then executes laws. Though there is technically a separation of powers, the Presidency is the supreme rule-making and regulatory authority. Decentralized institutions in the regions and municipalities have little additional regulatory authority. Draft bills and regulations are not made available for public comment. The website for the Office of the Prime Minister (www.spm.gov.cm) contains PDF versions of most new regulatory actions published in the Cameroon Tribune, the country’s newspaper of record.

Ministries and regulatory agencies do not have a list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified period. Ministries do not have a legal obligation to publish the text of proposed regulations before their enactment. There is no period set by law for the text of the proposed regulations to be publicly available. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.

Cameroon has administrative courts that specialize in the application and enforcement of public laws. From a strictly legal perspective, the Supreme Court has oversight on enforcement mechanisms, but a lack of separation of powers prevents the judiciary from carrying out its responsibilities. There have been no new regulatory or enforcement reforms announced since the 2020 Investment Climate Statement.

Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency. This is partly because many of the state-owned enterprises do not have public accounts. But companies that are listed or aspire to be listed on the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE) have more stringent transparency requirements. There are only four publicly listed companies on the CASE. All four use the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system, which does not align completely with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) standards. Cameroon is a member of CEMAC and is thus subject to its regulations, though implementation remains weak. CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, controls monetary policy and is the de facto finance sector regulator, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

The National Institute of Statistics (INS) conducts surveys and produces statistics, which are meant to inform policy decisions. Some of these statistics are cited in government documents when ministries are drafting legislative proposals or during parliamentary debates. Quantitative analysis conducted by the INS have often been used by multilateral lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. However, empirical evaluation and data-driven assessments of the impact of new and existing regulations are limited. Similarly, public comments are not the main drivers of regulations. However, some consultations take place for the national budget, which is produced each year, but there is little oversight to ensure adherence to the document. The framework of the IMF’s 2017 Extended Credit Facility has induced the publication of more information on public debt by the Debt Management Office (better known by its French acronym CAA).

International Regulatory Considerations

Cameroon is a CEMAC member. CEMAC regulations supersede those of individual members, though areas such as the free movement of people, goods, and services are not respected by some states. Recent reforms by CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, have met stiff resistance and delays in their application by individual member states, including Cameroon.

The government requires use of OHADA accounting standards, which is used by 14 African nations. No other norms or standards are referenced in the country’s regulatory system.

Cameroon joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 13, 1995 and was previously a member of the General Agreement on Taxes and Tariffs. On March 11, 2019, Cameroon was suspended from the WTO for failure to meet its designated 180 million CFA (USD 308,000) contribution to the organization. The government of Cameroon is expected to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Cameroonian legal system is a legacy of French, German (Codified Laws), English (Common law), and domestic national customs, which varies for each ethnic group. The government wants to harmonize these different legal traditions to equip Cameroon with laws that are applicable across the country and to reduce the need to navigate different legal opinions. This project, however, is being met with stiff resistance from English-speaking lawyers, who believe that the initiative will undermine the English system to which they are accustomed.

In terms of standards, Cameroon’s commercial legal system follows the OHADA rules, which are supposed to be aligned with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  Enforcement is weak partly because of lack of capacity. Cameroon does not train enough specialized judges in the commercial and economic fields. Consequently, poor enforcement of laws and accounting standards tends to create confusion for foreign investors. Despite efforts to align OHADA standards to international norms, government accounting regulations remain obsolete in the context of rapid developments in international finance and capital markets.  To circumvent the problem, U.S. enterprises and investors often maintain two sets of accounting records, one in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and government reporting requirements.

The judicial system is not independent of the executive branch.  The executive regularly interferes in judiciary matters.  The current judicial process is not procedurally competent, fair, or reliable. Endemic corruption, lack of funding, and political considerations makes the courts unable to function as independent arbiters of disputes.

Arbitration is becoming the solution of choice to solve business disputes in Cameroon.  Arbitration is in the OHADA corporate law. Since OHADA is a supra-national law, Cameroon is bound by its decisions. In OHADA, regulations and enforcement actions are appealable, and they can also be adjudicated in the national court system. Due to the court’s lack of objectivity, few businesses attempt to appeal unfavorable rulings.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investments are governed by Law No. 2013/004 of 18 April 2013, which defines incentives for private investment in Cameroon, while proposing generic and special incentives and affirming the government’s responsibilities towards private investors.  The law remains valid for domestic and foreign investors.  Additional laws and regulations that refer to specific economic sectors are available on the website of the Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfi.gov.cm/index.php/en/documents ).

The 2021 finance law is the main new legal instrument to have been published in the past year.  The new finance law has created new taxes, while maintaining some existing exonerations, notably on value-added taxes and life insurance savings. Full implementation started on February 2021. The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency maintains a list of relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors ( https://investincameroon.net/en/ ).

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The National Competition Commission handles anti-competition and anti-trust disputes.  In some cases, the regulator of a specific economic sector can play the anti-trust role. State-owned companies tend to have quasi-monopoly or monopsony status in their markets.

Expropriation and Compensation

Decree N°.85-9 of 4 July 1985 and the subsequent implementation of Decree N°.87-1872 of 16 December 1987 outline the procedure governing expropriation for public purposes and conditions for compensation. Some of the provisions of these legal texts were repealed by Instruction n°005/I/Y.25/MINDAF/D220 of 29 December 2005. Essentially, for the public interest the state may expropriate privately-owned land. The laws also explain the formalities to be observed within the context of the procedure, both at the central and local levels.

In recent years, the government of Cameroon has expropriated in the context of the construction of large infrastructure projects, such as roads and hydroelectric dams. The government has a compensation process in place to meet the losses of those affected by such decisions.

Despite weakness in the actual implementation and execution of laws on the ground, compensation after expropriation generally follows a due process. There are no cases of indirect expropriation, confiscatory tax regimes, or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments. However, serious allegations of corruption have plagued compensation procedures over the last decade. These incidents, often carried out by civil servants, have undermined trust in the process.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention  

Cameroon ratified the “International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes” (ICSID) Convention on January 3, 1967 and the New York Convention on February 19, 1988. There is no specific domestic legislation providing for enforcement under the 1958 New York Convention and for the enforcement of awards under the ICSID Convention.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement  

The OHADA-signatory nations adopted a uniform act on arbitration (the Uniform Act) on March 11, 1999. The Uniform Act sets out the basic rules applicable to any arbitration, where the seat of arbitration is in an OHADA member state.  The Uniform Act is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law.  It supersedes the national laws on arbitration of the OHADA states. Cameroon’s arbitration law is contained in its code of civil and commercial procedure in the third volume, Articles 576 to 601.

Cameroon has a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States. There have been no claims against the BIT since it came into force in 1989. While there have been disputes between Cameroonian partners and U.S. companies, few have risen to the level of requiring arbitration. Misunderstandings between partners have led to conflicts, but such cases have been infrequent over the past 10 years.

Local courts may recognize foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but they are not well-equipped to enforce such decisions. Post is aware of several such awards against state-owned companies that have not been enforced. In general, foreign investors complain more about administrative harassment or bottlenecks, and less about extrajudicial actions.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts  

The OHADA system serves both as domestic and primary reference legislation for alternative dispute resolution but is rarely used. GICAM, the country’s largest business lobby group, has an arbitration center based in Douala. In principle, local courts have the power to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government if found at fault. As a treaty, OHADA standards prevail over domestic laws.  An international arbitration award can prevail especially if operating through the OHADA framework. The Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) enforced under OHADA are both an arbitration institution and a judicial court, with jurisdiction overall OHADA states.

Judicial processes are bureaucratic, expensive, time-intensive, and lengthy. This is true even for domestic and state-owned companies, which like their foreign competitors, also suffer from the weaknesses of the legal system and are not guaranteed any better treatment in case of dispute.

In a prominent November 2019 case, the general manager of a state-owned hydrocarbon distribution company complained that debts owed by the state-owned electricity company, in combination with frequent power cuts, had caused millions of dollars in financial losses. Instead of addressing the issue or seeking arbitration, the company fired the manager.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Cameroon has bankruptcy laws, which recognize the right of creditors, the equity of shareholders and other types of liabilities. Bankruptcy is not criminalized unless it can be proven that it is a deliberate collusion to avoid tax or mislead investors. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167th out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s ranking of the ease of doing business and 129th on its ability to resolve insolvency. In bankruptcy situations, it takes 2.8 years on average and costs 33.5 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold piecemeal. The average recovery rate is 15.8 cents on the dollar.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Cameroon’s investment incentives remain in place. The 2013 investment law lists several types of investment incentives for investors and specifies the conditions that they must meet in order to benefit from those incentives. This law specifies incentives available to Cameroonian or foreign legal entities, whether established in Cameroon, conducting business therein, or holding shares in Cameroonian companies, with a view to encouraging private investment and boosting national production. For example, during the establishment phase (which cannot exceed five years), the new code provides for exemptions from VAT and duties on key services/assets (including an exemption from stamp duty on the lease of immovable property). During the operation phase (which cannot exceed 10 years), further exemptions from, or reductions of, other taxes (including corporate tax), duties (such as stamp duty on loans), and other fees are granted. Overall, the law seeks to facilitate, promote, and attract productive investment to develop activities geared towards strong, sustainable, and shared economic growth as well as job creation. In a context where businesses must navigate between national and regional incentives, U.S. companies and investors must seek local and regional expertise if they plan to operate in the CEMAC region.

Common incentives are granted to investors during the establishment and operation phases.  During the operation phase, which may not exceed 10 years, the investor may enjoy exemptions from or reductions of payment of several taxes, duties, and other fees including corporate tax, tax on profit and stamp duty on loans. In addition, any investor may benefit from a tax credit provided he or she meets one of the following criteria: (1) employs at least five graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, and (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas.

The investor shall enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed five years, with effect from the date of issuance of the approval:

  • Exemption from stamp duty on establishment or capital increase;
  • Exemption from stamp duty if immovable property used exclusively for professional purposes and that is part of an integral part of the investment program;
  • Exemption from transfer taxes on the acquisition of immovable property, land, and buildings essential for the implementation of the investment program;
  • Exemption from stamp duty on contracts for the supply of equipment and construction of buildings and installations that are essential for the implementation of their investment program;
  • Full deduction of technical assistance fees in proportion to the amount of the investment made, calculated on the basis of the total amount of the investment;
  • Exemption from VAT on the provision of services related to the execution of the project and obtained from abroad;
  • Exemption from stamp duty on concession contracts;
  • Exemption from business license tax;
  • Exemption from taxes and duties on all equipment and materials related to the investment program;
  • Exemption from VAT on the importation of equipment and materials;
  • Immediate removal of equipment and material related investment program during clearance operations;
  • The right to open in Cameroon and abroad local and foreign currency accounts and to carry out transactions on such accounts;
  • The right to freely use and or keep abroad funds acquired or borrowed abroad, and to freely use the funds;
  • The right to freely keep abroad dividends and proceeds of any kind from capital invested, as well as proceeds from the liquidation or sale of their assets;
  • The right to directly pay abroad non-resident suppliers of goods and services essential for conduct of business; and,
  • Free transfer of dividends and proceeds from the sale of shares in case of disinvestment.

With respect to foreign staff employed by the investor and resident in the Republic of Cameroon, they shall enjoy free conversion and free transfer to their country of origin of all or part of amounts due them, subject to prior payment of various taxes and social security contributions to which they are liable in compliance with the regulations in force. Finally, the government shall institute facilities necessary for the establishment of a specific visa and a reception counter at all airports throughout the national territory for investors, subject to their presentation of a formal invitation from the body in charge of investment promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises. There are additional incentives in priority economic sectors. In addition to the above-mentioned incentives, specific incentives may be provided to enterprises, which carry out investments that contribute to the attainment of the following priority objectives:

  • Development of agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and plant, animal or fishery product packaging activities;
  • Development of tourism and leisure facilities, social economy, and handicrafts;
  • Development of housing, including social housing;
  • Promotion of agroindustry, manufacturing industries, industry, construction materials, iron and steel industry, construction, maritime and navigation activities;
  • Development of energy and water supply; encouragement of regional development and decentralization;
  • The fight against pollution and environmental protection;
  • Promotion and transfer of innovative technologies and research and development;
  • Promotion of exports; and,
  • Promotion of employment and vocational training.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In Cameroon, Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) are demarcated and fenced geographic areas, with controlled access, where some standard trade barriers, tariffs, quotas, or other bureaucratic requirements are lifted or lowered to attract investments. Cameroon passed a special law instituting FTZs in 1990. Applications for an authorization to establish an industrial free zone are submitted to the National Office for Industrial Free Zones.  The authorization to establish an Industrial Free Zone is granted by the Minister in Charge of Industrial Development.  Some of the benefits of the FTZ are built into commercial, fiscal, custom, and labor codes.  The status of FTZs has not changed since the last reporting period.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government of Cameroon does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment. It encourages investors to create jobs and employ local labor. There are no compulsory or legal requirements on senior management and boards of directors either, although local managers can facilitate the understanding of the domestic business environment. Prospective investors and their employees can travel to Cameroon on standard intentional visas. The fees may vary per country of application. Once they settle in Cameroon, they can apply for long-term residence permits. The government of Cameroon applies the visa reciprocity rules to a limited extent, but companies have in the past complained about the difficulty of obtaining work permits or the fact that work visas expire after six months and frequently are single entry. Longer term work permits are now said to be available, but they have not been issued to Post’s interlocutors unless included as residency work permits, a different category with more complicated application procedures. The government does not impose rules on the recruitment of senior management nor excessively onerous visa, residence, work permit, or similar requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

The government does not impose conditions on permission to invest in Cameroon. It gives incentives to investors to transform local raw materials, goods, and services in their production or their projects. There is no “forced localization” policy. Enforcement procedures for performance requirements are not yet standardized, but the government generally develops terms of reference on a case-by-case basis for contract performance. The government has not stated intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements.

Investment incentives, described above, are available to both domestic and foreign investors.  Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, but they can be required to provide them in cases of cybercrime under the national cybercrime law. Post is unaware of any measures designed to prevent or impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Cameroon.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights are recognized by law, but Cameroon’s weak judiciary makes enforcement sporadic. For mortgage transactions between two private parties, a proper contract is required for the agreement to be binding and enforceable in the courts. Liens must be recorded in the contract. A registry of land title exists in Cameroon. The land rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, and farmers are recognized in the Constitution. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.

Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (French acronym “MINDAF”) indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times.  Between 1884 and 2005, only 125,000 title deeds were issued.  On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year, covering less than two percent of the land in Cameroon. In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership. For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60 percent) than in rural areas. According to the World Bank, the registration process can cost up to 13.7 percent of the property value.

Land disputes are common among Cameroonian citizens. The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land. Illegal occupations of lands are also common. Globally, Cameroon ranks 175th out of 190 economies on the ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak.  IP infringement and theft are especially common in the media, pharmaceuticals, software, and print industries. To secure a trademark registration right, a Cameroonian attorney must prepare and file a trademark application with the African Organization for Intellectual Property Rights (OAPI). The courts are responsible for enforcement.

There were no new IPR-related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year. The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods. These actions are not documented systematically, and no cumulative data exists on the seizures. Cameroon is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Cameroonian government is open to portfolio investment. With the encouragement of IMF and BEAC, Cameroon and other members of the CEMAC region have designed policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The Financial Markets Commission (CMF) of Cameroon physically merged with the Libreville-based Central African Financial Market Supervisory Board (CONSUMAF) in February 2019.  The merger has led to the establishment of a unique regional stock exchange called the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE). Cameroon’s financial sector is underdeveloped, and government policies have limited bearing on the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets. Foreign investors can get credit on the local market and the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. In 2016, Cameroon sought to encourage the development of capital markets through Law No 2016/010 of 12 July 2016, governing undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities in Cameroon.

Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment system. The country is a CEMAC member, which maintains a central bank, BEAC.  The current governor of BEAC is Abbas Mahamat Tolli (from Chad). CEMAC’s central bank works with the IMF on monetary policies and public finance reform.  BEAC respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.  Despite generally respecting Article VIII, BEAC has instituted several restrictions on payments to boost foreign exchange reserves. Throughout much of 2019-2020, financial institutions and importers complained of a backlog of requests for foreign exchange. BEAC is currently negotiating with several international oil companies on repatriation of revenues before external payments. While the situation has improved over the last six months, investors should be aware that timely repatriation of profits may be a stumbling block.

In 2020, with the support of the IMF, BEAC took steps to address the economic impact of COVID-19 in the region. The central bank eased monetary policy and introduced accommodative measures to ensure adequate liquidity in the banking system to supporting internal and external stability. Concomitantly, the regional banking sector controller (Commission Bancaire de l’Afrique Centrale or COBAC) eased prudential regulations to help banks delay pandemic-related losses.

Money and Banking System

Less than 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services. The Cameroonian government has often spoken of increasing access, but no coherent policy or action has been taken to alleviate the problem. Mobile money, introduced by local and international telecom providers, is the closest tool to banking services that most Cameroonians can access.

The banking sector is generally healthy.  Large, international commercial banks do most of the lending.  One local bank, Afriland, operates in multiple other countries. Most smaller banks deal in small loans of short duration. Retail banking is not common. According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016. The Cameroonian government does not keep statistics on non-performing assets. Cameroon’s largest banks are:

  1.  Afriland First Bank ($3 billion)
  2.  Société Générale Cameroon ($2.5 billion)
  3.  Banque Internationale Du Cameroun Pour L’Epargne Et Le Crédit-BICEC ($2.1 billion)
  4.  EcoBank ($1.4 billion)
  5.  BGFI Bank Cameroon ($918 million)
  6.  Union Bank of Africa Cameroon ($ 811 million)

(Source: Jeune Afrique, October 2020)

Foreign banks can establish operations in Cameroon.  Most notably, Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank have operated in Cameroon for more than 20 years. They are subject to the same regulations as locally developed banks. Post is unaware of any lost correspondent banking relationships within the past three years. There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing, or other such transactions.

The country has 412 registered microfinance institutions, 19 insurance companies, 4 electronic money institutions, and one Post Office bank. Two major money transfer operators are also present, essentially offering over-the-counter services. The Cameroon market is at the startup stage for its digital financial system. This emerging market segment is currently provided by banks in partnership with telecom operators. According to the World Bank (June 2020), in Cameroon, mobile money accounts are held by 15.1 percent of the adult population, which falls right after Gabon (43.6 percent). The specific market for e-payments is also less developed when compared to peer countries in the region such as Côte d’Ivoire (38.9 percent) and Senegal (31.8 percent).

Financial inclusion is low despite some progress brought about by mobile telephony. There were 21 million mobile telephony subscriptions at the end of 2019 in Cameroon (Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications – ART, 2018). Putting aside the multi-SIM effect, the penetration rate in terms of unique subscribers was about 50 percent at the end of 2019, which puts Cameroon in the lower end in the Central African region.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

In May 2020, the BEAC reported that foreign reserves had increased by 30 percent compared to 2019. According to the central bank, this is the result of the tightening of regulations after foreign exchange reserves plummeted in the aftermath of the 2014 oil shock. At the time, the IMF estimated that the volume of foreign exchange assets illegally held outside the CEMAC zone by local firms and institutions was five trillion CFA ($8.3 billion).

On March 1, 2019, CEMAC members states through BEAC adopted a new foreign exchange currency regulation, which restricts payments in foreign currency by individuals and businesses. All sectors of the economy without exception will be subject to the new regulations. Given the importance of the oil sector in the economy of the region and the challenges in the implementation, BEAC allowed for an implementation period until December 31, 2020. In November 2020, this moratorium on implementing the foreign exchange regulations was extended until December 31, 2021. In addition, the bank has tightened administrative procedures. Each request for a foreign exchange transaction requires a “dossier” that would include various documents. The documents required vary based on the type of transaction to demonstrate the “legitimacy” of the planned purchase in foreign exchange that BEAC would approve. The formal list of required documents from BEAC includes a significant number of required supporting documents.

The IMF has stated that forex transactions of less than one million U.S. dollars only require approval by local BEAC representatives in each country and should take place in a matter of days. Forex transactions exceeding one million U.S. dollars require approval from BEAC headquarters in Yaoundé and should occur in less than 48 hours. Banks and other financial institutions complain that requests are often rejected on minor technical grounds. In practice, approved requests often take more than two weeks to process.

As of May 2020, BEAC is requiring international oil companies to repatriate 70 percent of proceeds from the sale of oil and gas and then apply to receive dollars or euros. Several Ministers of Finance and/or Energy in CEMAC countries have assured oil companies that they do not need to comply with the regulation, creating uncertainty for the operators.  In theory, funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency, but the current BEAC restrictions are causing currency conversion concerns at financial institutions and oil companies.

The Central African CFA Franc is the currency of six independent states in Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. It is administered by BEAC and is currently pegged at roughly 657.02 CFA to one Euro (April 08, 2021).

Remittance Policies and Sovereign Wealth Funds

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, officially recorded inbounded remittances to Cameroon are estimated at $242 million and outbound remittances at $2.55 billion in 2017. Therefore, Cameroon is a net sender of remittances. Also according to UNHCR, ninety percent of the outbound remittances from Cameroon are sent to Nigeria.

Apart from the tightening of foreign exchange and remittance rules in 2019, Post is unaware of any recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There are no time limitations on transactions beyond the classic banking transactions timeline. BEAC regulates remittance policies and banking transactions. Foreign investors can remit through convertible and negotiable instruments through legal channels recognized by BEAC, subject to the recent issues mentioned above. Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Cameroon has at least 200 SOEs. Roughly 70 percent of SOEs are profit-oriented, though most are a net negative on government finances. Some provide public services. Many SOEs are so dominant in their markets that they act as de facto regulators, specifically in telecommunications and media. The Government of Cameroon has over 130 state-owned companies in which it has majority ownership, and which operate in key sectors of the economy including agribusiness, energy, and mining. SOEs are also present in real estate, transportation, services, information and communication technology, finance, and travel.

In 2017, the National Assembly voted into law a new regulation to govern SOEs. The stated objective is to improve the services offered and the competitiveness of public companies, in line with the country’s development objectives. Some of the innovations of this law include the diversification of the investment universe of SOEs, modern control through reporting requirements, and compliance with modern governance principles. As of 2021, it does not appear that any of these objectives have been completed.  SOEs competing in the domestic market receive non-market-based advantages from the Cameroonian government. They receive taxpayer subsidies, and in many markets, serve as de facto regulators. They also have a history of accumulating unpaid tax arrears while at the same time benefitting from preferential access to land and to public funds through state interventions.

The Supreme Audit Chamber of Cameroon indicates in its yearly reports that SOEs are not financially transparent. Only about 22 percent of these companies publish financial accounts. Other reports have highlighted corruption cases involving managers of SOEs, inefficiencies, severe dysfunctions, and opacity in the management of SOEs. These problems are exacerbated by the government’s failure to impose any performance targets, productivity requirements, and quality of service standards nor any significant budget constraints on SOEs. The governing boards and senior executive teams are political appointees and connected individuals.  The SOEs have means to avoid tax burdens levied on private enterprises, receive specialized consideration for subsidies and enhanced operating budgets, and obtain generally preferential treatment from the government (including courts).

Privatization Program

In general, privatization appears to be on hold. The government favors Public-Private Partnerships or some variations of outsourcing of contractual management, with the state retaining some ownership of assets or of the business, rather than outright privatization. In some cases, the state also prefers to participate in ventures, such as mining companies, rather than creating a state-owned company. Yet, in at least one case, the government has appeared to be reversing privatization.  This is the case for the country’s utility sectors, such as water and electricity, where the government has outsourced distribution to private operators. The state retains control of infrastructure, and there are no indications that this situation will change soon. There has been call for the government to list part of its stakes in state-owned companies on the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE).

Foreign investors can and do participate in the privatization programs. According to some analysts, of the 30 state-owned companies that were privatized before 2004, foreign bidders won the majority (22). For example, a British private equity firm owns the controlling share in ENEO, the country’s electricity monopoly. The public bidding on tender offers is transparent. They are advertised in the media, but the actual process of awarding contracts may still be tainted by corruption, particularly on large projects. The listing of public tenders in the Cameroon Tribune newspaper – the government-owned paper of record –and publication of which firms received the contract do not guarantee a fully transparent process of awards.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Post is unaware of a formal definition of responsible business conduct (RBC) within the Cameroonian government. It does not have a national ombudsman for stakeholders to get information or raise concerns about RBC.  The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC nor does it factor RBC into its procurement decisions. Post is not aware of any recent high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights. Cameroon does not have laws that regulate responsible business conduct. However, the government of Cameroon has enacted laws that cover issues related to what is locally considered corporate social responsibility. There are additional initiatives in the private sector to foster a corporate social responsibility culture.

All major infrastructure projects in Cameroon are compelled to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to establish the impact of the projects on people and nature. Cameroon’s ESIA law strives to follow World Bank standards. An August 1996 master law related to environmental management prescribes environmental impact assessment for all projects that can cause environmental degradation. The ESIA is fast becoming an important and unavoidable compliance step for foreign and domestic companies.

The Cameroonian government struggles to enforce laws in relation to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protection. This situation has been exacerbated by the conflicts in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North Regions. There is little corporate governance law in Cameroon, mostly since very few companies are open to portfolio investment. The Business Council for Good Governance, the American Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, and Transparency International promote RBC in Cameroon, though their ability to monitor RBC is limited. Post is unaware of any government efforts to adhere to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. Cameroon participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to governments are lacking.

The economy of Cameroon is modernizing, but most sectors experience disruptions from informal activities. Even though this sector provides crucial livelihoods to the most vulnerable in urban environments, labor conditions are generally precarious. In the agricultural sector for example, the government estimates that 70 percent of labor is informal with instances of child labor especially in subsistence agriculture. In other sectors, for example mining, allegations of human or labor rights abuses by Chinese mining companies have surfaced in the recent past.

Prevalence of informality in the economy of Cameroon
  Key Sectors % of GDP Example of informality
1 Agriculture 19 Unlicensed transport
2 Transportation 5.3 Motorbike taxis/Cross border trade
3 Information, Communication Technology (ICT) 5 Maintenance, repair, retail market
4 Extractive industry (Oil, Gas, Mining) 9 Artisanal mining/cross border trade
5 Banking and Finance 8.5 Informal microfinance institutions
6 Services and consumer retail market 12 Support services/home workers
7 Utilities (Electricity, Water, domestic gas, waste disposal-management) 3.1 Maintenance and repair
8 Real Estate and Infrastructure Construction 10.8 Labor, rental activities
9 Manufacturing 4 Artisanal manufacturing
10 Health services and pharmaceuticals 1 Counterfeit medicine
11 Public Administration 8 Unlicensed institutions and labor
12 Tourism, media, and Leisure Unlicensed institutions and labor

(Source: Cameroon Ministry of Finance, Finance laws 2016-2020)

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Resources to Report Corruption

Corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 Code of Cameroon. Despite these rules, corruption remains endemic in the country. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 149 of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Anti-corruption laws are applicable to all citizens and institutions throughout the national territory. Article 66 of the constitution requires civil servants and elected officials to declare their assets and property at the beginning and at the end of their tenure of office, but it has never been implemented. Similarly, the Civil Service Statute contains provisions and the procedures to be followed in the event of a conflict of interest. These provisions are enshrined in Law No. 003/2006 of 25 April 2006, which also created the Commission for the declaration of property and assets. Other codes of conduct in different public institutions have created gift registers to prevent bribes, but they are not implemented. In terms of public contracts, Decree N° 2018/0001/PM of January 5, 2018 created a portal called Cameroon Online E-procurement System (Coleps) for the digitalization, including application processing, award, and monitoring and evaluation of all tenders. Since the launch of the portal, technical issues and disregard by civil servants have curbed its effectiveness, leading to the parallel continuation of the bribe-prone paper-based procurement system. U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and taxation.

Since its inception in 2006 (Presidential Decree No. 2006/088 of 11 March 2006), the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) has encouraged private companies to establish internal codes of conduct and ethics committees to review practices. Post is unaware of how many companies have instituted either program. Bribery of government officials remains common. While some companies use internal controls to detect and prevent such bribery, Post is unaware of how widespread these internal controls are.

Cameroon is signatory to the United Nations and the African Union anti-corruption initiatives, but the international initiatives have practical limited effects on the enforcement of laws in the country. Post is unaware of any NGO’s involvement in investigating corruption. The government prefers the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) to investigate potential cases.  U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and taxation.

Resources to Report Corruption

Rev. Dieudonné MASSI GAMS
Chairman
National Anti-Corruption Commission
B.P. 33200 Yaoundé Cameroon
(+237) 22 20 37 32
www.conac-cameroun.net  infos@conac-cameroun.net 

Barrister Charles NGUINI
Country Representative
Transparency International Cameroon
Nouvelle route Bastos, rue 1.839,  BP : 4562 Yaoundé
(+237) 33 15 63 78
transparency@ti-cameroon.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Cameroon faces several security challenges. A conflict between security forces and armed separatists is entering its fifth year in the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest Regions.  Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa continue to attack civilians and security forces in the Far North Region. In the Adamoua and East Regions, a wave of kidnappings and the presence of refugees from the Central African Republic and from Nigeria, has led to increased military presence. Terrorists and separatists alike have targeted economic assets to affect political change. The country is growing increasingly more politicized and insecure.

In the Anglophone regions, separatist leaders have claimed responsibility on social media for the arsons that destroyed hospitals, schools, bridges, and roads. Separatists have also posted videos of executions and beheadings on the internet while also claiming multiple kidnappings for ransom. Human rights organizations have accused soldiers and separatists of grave human rights abuses. In the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa fighters have looted villages and cattle, kidnapped, and abused women. Consequently, several infrastructures projects have ground to a halt.

Cameroon is growing increasingly insecure. In 2020, despite public statements by the government of a willingness to dialogue to resolve the Anglophone crisis, it continues to rely on the military to control and curb the conflict. At the same time, security forces are stretched thin, allowing Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa to maintain a footprint in the country’s Far North Region. Political dissent is quickly stamped out. Several members of opposition political parties are still languishing in jail, in most cases without trial.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the labor market. Data from the National Institute of Statistics show that a large proportion of workers have seen a drastic reduction in wages (68 percent) and temporary job suspension (31.6 percent). Also, unemployment rate reached 7.47 percent in April 2020. Officially, the unemployment rate hovers around four percent based on International Labor Organization (ILO) standards but is believed to be much higher.  Most of the youth who possess skills that could be put to use in the economy are under-employed in the informal sector. Under-employment, which is generally under-reported, has continued to hover around 75 percent for youth under 30. Most Cameroonians find occupation in the informal sector, where unskilled labor is prevalent, especially in the agricultural and service sectors, manufacturing, commerce, technical trades, and mid-management jobs.

Other structural problems in the labor market include the chronic shortage of technical trade skills, for example for maintenance and repair of industrial machinery, in every sector of the economy. Truck and automotive maintenance are widely practiced in the informal sector, while rudimentary or artisanal agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacturing continue to hamper industrialization with unskilled labor.

The government of Cameroon does not require foreign companies to hire nationals. Foreign nationals are required, however, to obtain work permits prior to formal employment. While foreign nationals are automatically issued work permits for companies of the industrial free zones regime, their number may not exceed 20 percent of the total work force of a company after the fifth year of operation in Cameroon if it benefits from the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime.

Although union and contract agreements vary widely from sector to sector, in general, Cameroon functions as an “employment at will” economy, and labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. Layoffs are not caused by the fault of the employees and are often considered as alternative solutions to dismissing workers based on performance fault or economic grounds. There is no special treatment of labor in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports.

While the Labor Code applies to enterprises of the Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) regime, some matters are governed by special provisions under the 1990 law establishing IFZs. These include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers. The Ministry of Labor monitors labor abuses, health and safety standards, and other related issues, but enforcement is poor.  Labor laws are waived within the framework of IFZs to attract or retain investment. The waivers include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign nationals.

There are independent labor unions and others affiliated with the government that operate under existing laws and regulations. Over 100 trade unions and 12 union confederations are active in the country. However, the labor union movement is highly fractured and somewhat ineffective in promoting workers’ rights. Some union leaders accuse the government and company managers of promoting division within trade unions to weaken them, as well as protecting non-representative trade union leaders with whom they can negotiate more easily.

Cameroon’s labor dispute resolution mechanisms are outlined in the labor code. The procedure differs depending on whether the dispute is individual or collective. Individual disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court dealing with labor matters in the place of employment or residence of the worker. The legal procedure is initiated after the labor inspector fails to settle the dispute amicably out of the court system. Settlement of collective labor disputes is subject to conciliation and arbitration, and any strike or lock-out started after the procedures have been exhausted and have failed is deemed legitimate. While the conciliation procedure is conducted by the labor inspector, arbitration of any collective dispute that has not been settled by conciliation is handled by an arbitration board, chaired by the competent judicial officer of the competent court of appeal. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined.

Strikes occur regularly and are generally repressed by the police, though they are often due to lack of payment by the employer and are resolved quickly. The latest strike started on February 3, 2021 at the construction site of the Nachtigal hydroelectric dam, which will have a capacity of 420 megawatts. The dispute erupted after a new electronic time keeping system grossly reduced the wage of workers. On March 15, 2021, the construction company announced that the dispute had been resolved after the Minister of Labor and Social Security and the Minister of Energy and Water held talks with 1,350 workers.

Cameroonian labor code lays down principles of labor laws regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions.  But most jobs do not have binding contracts, and employers generally seem to have the upper hand in labor disputes. There is informality even in the formal sector, which is against the law. Because of this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with the local labor laws and to abide by international best practices. There were no new labor-related laws or regulations enacted during the last year.  Post is unaware of any pending draft bills.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy   
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2021 $44,41 2020 $39,04 https://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/
NGDPD@WEO/CMR 
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $ -2.00 mio 2018 $14.00 mio https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
factsheet.cfm?Area=404&UUID=0e2f7334-
3b04-42d5-b85f-315ca0718a52
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)  N/A N/A N/A N/A   N/A
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 $782.00 mio 2018 $765 mio https://unctad.org/topic/investment/
world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data: 2021 Cameroon Finance Bill, page 13 (converted at $1=563 Central African Francs as of March 16, 2021)    

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Mamouda Mbemap
Economic Specialist, Political and Economic Section
6050, Avenue Rosa Parks, Yaounde, Cameroon
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +237 222514000
EMAIL ADDRESS: mbemapm@state.gov

Chad

Executive Summary

Chad is Africa’s fifth largest country by geographic/surface area, encompassing three agro-climatic zones. Chad is landlocked, bordering Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, Central African Republic (CAR) to the south, and Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger to the west (with which it shares Lake Chad). The nearest port — Douala, Cameroon — is 1,700 km from the capital, N’Djamena. Chad is one of six countries that constitute the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a common market. Chad’s human development is one of the lowest in the world according to the UN Human Development Index (HDI), and poverty afflicts a large proportion of the population.

The Government of Chad (GOC) is favorably disposed to foreign investment, especially from North American companies. There are opportunities for foreign investment in Agribusiness; Agricultural, Construction, Building & Heavy Equipment; Automotive & Ground Transportation; Education; Energy & Mining; Environmental Technologies; Food Processing & Packaging; Health Technologies; Information Technology; Industrial Equipment & Supplies; Information & Communication; and Services.

Since oil production began in 2003, the petroleum sector has dominated economic activity and has been the largest target of foreign investment, including from U.S. companies. Agriculture and livestock breeding are also important economic activities, employing the majority of the population. The GOC has prioritized agriculture, solar energy production, gold mining, livestock breeding, meat processing, and information technology in recent years in an effort to diversify the economy and lessen fiscal dependence on volatile global energy markets.

Chad’s business and investment climate remains challenging. Private sector development is hindered by poor transport infrastructure, lack of skilled labor, minimal and unreliable electricity supply, weak contract enforcement, corruption, and high tax burdens on private enterprises. Frequent border closures with neighboring countries, exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions, complicate international trade. The COVID-19 pandemic halted Chad’s modest 2019 economic recovery following several years of recession caused by low global oil prices and disruptive debt payments to Glencore. Existing IMF and World Bank programs aim to improve governance, increase transparency, and reduce internal arrears. Private sector financing is limited, and low GDP growth constrains government investment and private sector spending. Frequent rotations of key ministers and overzealous customs inspectors present further roadblocks. The GOC’s interest in maintaining a stake in investment projects is a dual-edged sword, facilitating access to key decision makers while introducing financial and operational risks.

Despite these challenges, the success of several foreign investments into Chad illustrates the business opportunities for experienced, dedicated, and patient investors. Successful investors often operate with trusted local partners to navigate the challenges of operating in Chad. The oil sector will mark 20 years of operations in 2023 and features several prominent American international oil companies, including ExxonMobil. Olam International entered Chad’s cotton market in 2018 and dramatically increased national cotton production. Mindful of the imperative to enact reforms, the GOC operationalized a Presidential Council to Improve the Business Climate in January 2021. With rich natural resources, minimally developed agriculture and meat processing sectors, ample sunshine, increasing telecommunications coverage, and a rapidly growing population, Chad presents an opportunity for targeted investment in key sectors.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 160 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 182 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 N/A http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $700 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOC’s policies towards foreign direct investment (FDI) are generally positive. Chad’s laws and regulations encourage FDI, and there are few formal restrictions on foreign trade and investment. Under Chadian law, foreign and domestic entities may establish and own business enterprises.

The National Investment Charter of 2008 permits full foreign ownership of companies in Chad. The only limit on foreign control is on ownership of companies deemed related to national security. The National Investment Charter guarantees both foreign companies and individuals equal standing with Chadian companies and individuals in the privatization process. In principle, tenders for foreign investment in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and for government contracts are conducted through open international bid procedures. The National Investment Charter also offers incentives to certain foreign companies establishing significant operations in Chad, including up to five years of tax-exempt status.

Chad’s National Agency for Investment and Exports (ANIE, Agence Nationale des Investissements et des Exports), an agency of the Ministry of Industrial and Commercial Development & Private Sector Promotion, facilitates foreign investment. ANIE’s mandate is to contribute to the creation of a business environment that meets international standing, promote investment and exports, support the development of SMEs, and inform GOC decision makers about economic policy. ANIE acts as a one-stop shop for new investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. There are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for U.S. or other foreign investors, and no de facto anti-foreign discriminatory practices.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

UNCTAD published a French-language Investment Policy Review on Chad in July 2019 ( https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/publications/1212/investment-policy-review-of-chad ).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a joint trade policy review for Chad, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic in 2013 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp385_e.htm ), and a standalone trade policy review for Chad in 2007 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp275_e.htm ).

The OECD has not published any investment policy reviews of Chad.

Business Facilitation

Foreign businesses interested in investing in or establishing an office in Chad should contact ANIE, which offers a one-stop shop for filing the legal forms needed to start a business. The process officially takes 72 hours and is the most important legal requirement for investment. ANIE’s website ( www.anie-tchad.com ) provides additional information. Online business registration is not yet available via the Global Enterprise Registration web site ( www.GER.co ) or the Business Facilitation Program ( www.businessfacilitation.org ).

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Chad 182 out of 190 countries for ease of starting a business, which included factors beyond registration such as permitting and access to office space, energy, and capital.

Contracts are tailored to each investment and often include additional incentives and concessions, such as permissions to import labor or agreements to work with specific local suppliers. Some contracts are confidential. Occasionally, government ministries attempt to change the terms of contracts or apply new laws broadly, even to companies that have pre-existing agreements that exempt them. Chad’s judicial system is weak, and rulings, including those relating to contract disputes, are susceptible to government interference. There is limited capacity within the judiciary to address commercial issues, including contract disputes. Parties usually settle disputes directly or through arbitration provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture, Mining, and Crafts (CCIAMA) or through an outside entity, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris.

Outward Investment

The GOC does not offer any programs or incentives encouraging outward investment. The GOC does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Chad implements laws to foster competition and establish clear rules based on Uniform Acts produced by the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA, Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires, www.ohada.com ). However, certain Chadian and foreign companies may encounter difficulties from well-established companies with a corner on the market, discouraging competition.

Regulations and financial policies generally do not impede competition in the financial sector. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems pertaining to banking are transparent and consistent with international norms. Chad began using OHADA’s accounting system in 2002, bringing its national standards into harmony with accounting systems throughout the region. Several international accounting firms have offices in Chad. However, while accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, some local firms do not use generally accepted standards and procedures in their business practices.

Chad develops forward regulatory plans to encourage foreign investment and budget support. Government ministries draft regulations, subject to approval by the Secretary General of the Government, Council of Ministers, National Assembly, and President. National regulations are most relevant to foreign investors. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The GOC occasionally provides opportunities for local associations, such as the National Council of Employers (CNPT, Conseil National du Patronat Tchadien) or the CCIAMA to comment on proposed laws and regulations pertaining to investment. All contracts and practices are subject to legal review, which can be weak.

The Government publishes all budget information, including on the Ministry of Finance and Budget website. Other proposed laws and regulations are not published in draft form for public comment. The Observatory on Public Finance is an online framework for the dissemination of public finance data and the operationalization of the Code of Transparency and Good Governance. This code is an implementation of one of the six CEMAC Directives on the new harmonized framework for public financial management.

The Presidential Council to Improve the Business Climate was announced in 2018, met once in late 2019, and formally launched in January 2021 due to the negative impact of COVID-19 in 2020. This effort to reform Chad’s investment climate and improve Chad’s performance in World Bank assessments is still in its embryonic stage.

Chad is not listed on www.businessfacilitation.org .

International Regulatory Considerations

Chad has been a member of the WTO since October 19, 1996 and a member of GATT since July 12, 1963. Chad is a member of OHADA and the CEMAC ( www.cemac.int ). Since 2017, Chad is gradually implementing business and economic laws and regulations based on CEMAC standards and OHADA Uniform Acts. Chad’s banking sector is regulated by COBAC (Commission Bancaire de l’Afrique Centrale), a regional agency.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Chad’s legal system and commercial law are based on the French Civil Code. The constitution recognizes customary and traditional law if it does not interfere with public order or constitutional rights. Chad’s judicial system rules on commercial disputes in a limited technical capacity. The Chadian President appoints judges without National Assembly confirmation, and thus the judiciary may be subject to executive influence. Courts normally award monetary judgments in local currency, although it may designate awards in foreign currencies based on the circumstances of the disputed transaction.

Chad’s commercial laws are based on standards promulgated by CEMAC, OHADA, and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC, Communaute Economique des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale, http://www.ceeac-eccas.org ). The Government and National Assembly are in the process of adopting legislation to comply fully with all these provisions.

Specialized commercial tribunal courts were authorized in 1998 and operationalized in 2004. These tribunals exist in five major cities but lack adequate technical capacity to perform their duties. Firms not satisfied with judgments in these tribunals may appeal to OHADA’s regional court in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, that ensures uniformity and consistent legal interpretations across its member countries. Several Chadian companies have done so. OHADA also allows foreign companies to utilize tribunals outside of Chad, generally in Paris, France, to adjudicate business disputes. Finally, CEMAC established a regional court in N’Djamena in 2001 to hear business disputes, but this body is not widely used.

Contracts and investment agreements can stipulate arbitration procedures and jurisdictions for settlement of disputes. If both parties agree and settlements do not violate Chadian law, Chadian courts will respect the decisions of courts in the nations where particular agreements were signed, including the United States. This principle also applies to disputes between foreign companies and the Chadian Government. Such disputes can be arbitrated by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Foreign companies frequently choose to include clauses in their contract to mandate ICC arbitration.

Bilateral judicial cooperation is in effect between Chad and certain nations. Chad signed the Antananarivo Convention in 1970, covering the discharge of judicial decisions and serving of legal documents, with eleven other former French colonies (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal). Chad has similar arrangements in place with France, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The National Investment Charter encourages foreign direct investment. Chad is a member of CEMAC and OHADA. Since 2017, Chad is gradually implementing business and economic laws and regulations based on CEMAC standards and OHADA Uniform Acts.

Foreign investors using the court system are not generally subject to executive interference. In addition, the OHADA Treaty allows foreign companies to utilize tribunals outside of Chad, e.g., the ICC in Paris, France, to adjudicate any disputes. Companies may also access the OHADA’s court located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Foreign businesses interested in investing in or establishing an office in Chad should contact ANIE, which offers a one-stop shop for filing the legal forms needed to start a business. The process officially takes 72 hours and is the most important legal requirement for investment. ANIE’s website ( www.anie-tchad.com ) provides additional information.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Regulation of competition is covered by the OHADA Uniform Acts that form the basis for Chadian business and economic laws and regulations. The Office of Competition in Chad’s Ministry of Industrial and Commercial Development & Private Sector Promotion reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Chadian law protects businesses from nationalization and expropriation, except in cases where expropriation is in the public interest. There were no government expropriations of foreign-owned property in 2020. There are no indications that the GOC intends to expropriate foreign property in the near future.

Chad’s Fourth Republic Constitution adopted in May 2018 and amended in December 2020 prohibits seizure of private property except in cases of urgent public need, of which there are no known cases. A 1967 Land Law prohibits deprivation of ownership without due process, stipulating that the state may not take possession of expropriated properties until 15 days after the payment of compensation. The government continues to work on reform of the 1967 law.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Chad has been a signatory and contracting state of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (“ICSID Convention”) since 1966.

Chad is not a contracting state of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“New York Arbitration Convention”).

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Chad is signatory to an investment agreement among the member states of CEMAC, CEAC, and OHADA. The OHADA Investment Arrangement, with provisions for securities, arbitration, dispute settlement, bankruptcy, recovery, and other aspects of commercial regulation, has defined the commercial rights of several economic stakeholders, e.g., the Chadian Treasury, and provides for the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. Chad has no Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter with the United States.

There is no formal record of the government’s handling of investment disputes. Some U.S. and other foreign investors have been involved in disputes with the GOC, particularly over issues regarding taxes and duties, though there are no official statistics. Investment disputes involving foreign investors are frequently arbitrated by an independent body.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

In addition to independent courts, such as the ICC, Chad’s constitution recognizes customary and traditional law as long as it does not interfere with public order or constitutional rights. As most businesses operate in the informal sector, customary and traditional law function as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms when parties are from the same tribe or clan and express their desire to settle outside of the formal court.

Specialized commercial tribunal courts were authorized in 1998 and became operational in 2004. These tribunals exist in five major cities but lack adequate capacity to perform their duties. The N’Djamena Commercial Tribunal has heard disputes involving foreign companies.

Foreign investors using the court system are not generally subject to executive interference. In addition, the OHADA Treaty allows foreign companies to utilize tribunals outside of Chad, e.g., the ICC in Paris, France, to adjudicate any disputes. Companies may also access OHADA’s court located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Chad’s bankruptcy laws are based on OHADA Uniform Acts. According to Section 3, Articles 234 – 239 of OHADA’s Uniform Insolvency Act, creditors and equity shareholders may designate trustees to lodge complaints or claims to the commercial court collectively or individually. These laws criminalize bankruptcy and the OHADA provisions grant Chad the discretion to apply its own sentences.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Chad’s ease of resolving insolvency at 155 of 190 ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/chad/#resolving-insolvency ).

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Chadian tax code (CGI, Code General des Impôts) offers incentives to new business start-ups, new activities, or substantial extensions of existing activities. Eligible economic activities are limited to the industrial, mining, agricultural, forestry, and real estate sectors, and may not compete with existing enterprises already operating in a satisfactory manner (Articles 16 and 118 of the National Investment Charter).

To spur investment into target sectors, the GOC authorized tax credits, discounts, and exemptions for investments in the agriculture, animal husbandry, solar and wind energy, information technology, oil, and plastics sectors in the 2021 Finance Law.

Foreign investors may ask the GOC for other incentives through investment-specific negotiations. Large companies usually sign separate agreements with the government, which contain negotiated incentives and obligations. The possibility of special tax exemptions exists for some public procurement contracts, and a preferential tax regime applies to contractors and sub-contractors for major oil projects. The government occasionally offers lower license fees in addition to ad hoc tax exemptions. Incentives tend to increase with the size of a given investment, its potential for job creation, and the location of the investment, with rural development being a GOC priority. Investors may address inquiries about possible incentives directly to the Ministry of Industrial and Commercial Development & Private Sector Promotion.

The GOC does not issue guarantees but jointly finances some foreign direct investments, with mixed results.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are currently no foreign trade zones in Chad. The Chadian Agency for Investment and Exportation (ANIE) is examining the possibility of creating a duty-free zone.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Chad does not follow forced localization, the policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology.

Foreign companies are legally required to employ Chadian nationals for 98 percent of their staff. Firms can formally apply for permission from the Labor Promotion Office (ONAPE) to employ more than two percent expatriates if they can demonstrate that skilled local workers are not available. Most foreign firms operating in Chad have obtained these permissions. Foreign workers require work permits in Chad, renewable annually. Companies must present personnel files of local candidates not hired to the GOC for comparison against the profiles of foreign workers. Multinational companies and international non-governmental organizations routinely protest these measures.

There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software or turn over keys for encryption). There are no rules on maintaining a certain amount of data storage within Chad.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Chadian Civil Code protects property rights. Since 2013, landowners may register land titles with the One-Stop Land Titling Office (Guichet Unique pour les Affaires Foncieres). However, enforcement of these rights is difficult because a majority of landowners do not have a title or a deed for their property.

The office of Domain and Registration (Direction de Domaine et Enregistrement) in the Ministry of Finance and Budget is responsible for recording property deeds and mortgages. In practice, this office asserts authority only in urban areas; rural property titles are managed by traditional leaders who apply customary law. Chadian courts frequently deal with cases of multiple or conflicting titles to the same property. In cases of multiple titles, the earliest title issued usually has precedence. Fraud is common in property transactions. By law, all land for which no title exists is owned by the government and can only be given to a separate entity by Presidential decree. There have been incidents in which the government has reclaimed land for which individuals held titles, which government officials granted to other individuals without the backing of Presidential decrees.

The GOC does not provide clear definitions and protections of traditional use rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, or farmers.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Chad 131 of 190 in ease of registering property. The report cited the high cost of property valuation plus other associated costs for registering property as the major impediment. Time required and number of procedures are on par with the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. ( https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/chad#DB_rp )

Intellectual Property Rights

Chad is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Chad ratified the revised Bangui Agreement (1999) in 2000 and the Berne Convention in 1971. The GOC adheres to OAPI rules within the constraints of its administrative capacity.

Within the Ministry responsible for trade, the Department of Industrial Property and Technology addresses intellectual property rights (IPR) issues. This department is the National Liaison Unit (SNL) within the OAPI and is the designated point of contact under Article 69 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and artistic works, including music and videos, are common in Chad. Counterfeit watches, sports clothing, footwear, jeans, cosmetics, perfumes, and other goods are also readily available on the Chadian market. These products are not produced locally and are generally imported through informal channels. Despite limited resources, Chadian customs officials make occasional efforts to enforce copyright laws, normally by seizing and burning counterfeit medicines, CDs, and mobile phones.

Chad does not regularly track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. Occasionally, Chadian authorities will announce such a seizure in the local press. Customs officers have the authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods ex officio. The Government pays for storage and destruction of such goods.

Chad is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Chad’s financial system is underdeveloped. There are no capital markets or money markets in Chad. A limited number of financial instruments are available to the private sector, including letters of credit, short- and medium-term loans, foreign exchange services, and long-term savings instruments.

Commercial banks offer credit on market terms, often at rates of 12 to 25 percent for short-term loans. Access to credit is available but is prohibitively expensive for most Chadians in the private sector. Medium-term loans are difficult to obtain, as lending criteria are rigid. Most large businesses maintain accounts with foreign banks and borrow money outside of Chad. There are ATMs in some major hotels, N’Djamena airport, and in most neighborhoods of N’Djamena, and in major cities.

Chad does not have a stock market and has no effective regulatory system to encourage or facilitate portfolio investments. A small regional stock exchange, known as the Central African Stock Exchange, in Libreville, Gabon, was established by CEMAC countries in 2006. Cameroon, a CEMAC member, launched its own market in 2005. Both exchanges are poorly capitalized.

Money and Banking System

Chad’s banking sector is small and continues to streamline lending practices and reduce the volume of bad debt accumulated before and during the 2016-2017 economic crisis. While Chad’s banking rate remains low due to low aggregate savings and limited exposure to and trust in banks, according to the World Bank it increased from 9 to 22 percent between 2009 and 2017.

Chad’s four largest banks have been privatized. The former Banque Internationale pour l’Afrique au Tchad (BIAT) became a part of Togo-based Ecobank; the former Banque Tchadienne de Credit et de Depôt was re-organized as the Societe Generale Tchad; the former Financial Bank became part of Togo-based Orabank; and the former Banque de Developpement du Tchad (BDT) was reorganized as Commercial Bank Tchad (CBT), in partnership with Cameroon-based Commercial Bank of Cameroon. There are two Libyan banks in Chad, BCC (formerly Banque Libyenne) and BSCIC (Banque Sahelo-Saharienne pour l’Investissement et le Commerce), along with one Nigerian bank — United Bank for Africa (UBA). In 2018, the GOC funded a new bank Banque de l’Habitat du Tchad (BHT) with the GOC as majority shareholder with 50 percent of the shares and two public companies, the National Social Insurance Fund (Caisse Nationale de Prevoyance Sociale, CNPS) and the Chadian Petroleum Company (Societe des Hydrocarbures du Tchad, SHT), each holding 25 percent.

Chad, as a CEMAC member, shares a central bank with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon – the Central African Economic Bank (BEAC, Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale), headquartered in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Foreigners must establish legal residency in order to establish a bank account.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The BEAC implemented foreign exchange regulation in 2019 that required full repatriation of export earnings and centralizing foreign currency holdings with the BEAC, though extractive industry companies received an exemption through December 2021.

The government does not restrict converting funds associated with an investment (including remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan repayments, lease payments, royalties) into a freely usable currency at legal market-clearing rates. There are currently no restrictions on repatriating these funds, although there are some limits associated with transferring funds. Individuals transferring funds exceeding 1,000 USD must document the source and purpose of the transfer with the local sending bank. Transactions of 10,000 USD or more for individuals and 50,000 USD or more for companies are automatically notified to the COBAC. Companies and individuals transferring more than 800,000 USD out of Chad need BEAC authorization to do so. Authorization may take up to three working days. To request authorization for a transfer, companies and individuals must submit contact information for the sender and recipient, a delivery timetable, and proof of the sender’s identity. Approvals are routine, although the Central Bank has occasionally temporarily restricted capital outflows. Businesses can obtain advance approval for regular money transfers.

Chad is a member of the African Financial Community (CFA) and uses the Central African CFA Franc (FCFA) as its currency. The FCFA is pegged to the Euro at a fixed rate of one Euro to 655.957 FCFA exactly (100 FCFA = 0.152449 Euro). There are no official restrictions on obtaining foreign exchange, but in practice foreign exchange can be difficult to acquire.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes to or plans to change investment remittance policies. There are no time limitations on remittances, dividends, returns on investment, interest, and principal on private foreign debt, lease payments, royalties, or management fees.

Chad does not engage in currency manipulation.

Chad is a member state of the Action Group against Money Laundering in Central Africa (GABAC), which is in the process of becoming a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. On the national level, the National Financial Investigation Agency (ANIF) has implemented GABAC recommendations to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The GOC does not currently maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

All Chadian SOEs operate under the umbrella of government ministries. SOE senior management reports to the minister responsible for the relevant sector, as well as a board of directors and an executive board. The President of the Republic appoints SOE boards of directors, executive boards, and CEOs. The boards of directors give general directives over the year, while the executive boards manage general guidelines set by the boards of directors. Some executive directors consult with their respective ministries before making business decisions.

The GOC operates SOEs in several sectors, including Energy and Environmental Industries; Agribusiness; Construction, Building and Heavy Equipment; and Information and Communication. The percentage SOEs allocate to research and development (R&D) is unknown.

There were no reports of discriminatory action taken by SOEs against the interests of foreign investors in 2020, and some foreign companies operated in direct competition with SOEs. Chad’s Public Tender Code (PTC) provides preferential treatment for domestic competitors, including SOEs.

SOEs are not subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors and are often afforded material advantages such as preferential access to land and raw materials. SOEs receive government subsidies under the national budget; however, in practice they do not respect the budget. State and company funds are often commingled.

Chad is not a party to the Agreement on Government Procurement within the framework of the WTO. Chadian practices are not consistent with the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.

Privatization Program

Foreign investors are permitted and encouraged to participate in the privatization process. There is a public, non-discriminatory bidding process. Having a local contact in Chad to assist with the bidding process is important. To combat corruption, the GOC has recently hired private international companies to oversee the bidding process for government tenders. Despite the GOC’s willingness to privatize loss-making SOEs, there remain several obstacles to privatization.

The Chamber of Commerce submitted a ‘white paper’ (livre blanc) in 2018 with recommendations for the GOC to facilitate and simplify private sector operations, including establishing a Business Observatory and a Presidential Council, which would implement over 70 recommendations to improve the investment climate in Chad. The Presidential Council became operational in January 2021.

Chad is considering privatization in the following sectors:

  • Information & Communication (SOTEL Tchad)
  • Food Processing & Packaging (the Société Tchadienne de Jus de Fruit (STJF), which produces fruit juice in Doba; and the Société Moderne de Abbatoires (SMA), a slaughterhouse and meat packaging company in Farcha)

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a general awareness of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) among firms in Chad. Most Western firms operating in Chad engage in RBC, particularly those in the petroleum and telecommunications sectors. For example, Esso Exploration and Production Chad, Inc. (EEPCI), a significant oil producer, has implemented Environmental Management Plans (EMPs), prioritizing hiring local residents and local purchase of goods and services, establishing international safety standards, and protecting biodiversity. A critical part of EMP has been the Land Use Management Action Plan (LUMAP) that compensates individuals and communities for land used by the project. LUMAP has distributed approximately $1.7 million in cash, in-kind goods, and training. EMP’s efforts are complemented by the ExxonMobil Foundation, which supports projects to improve girls’ education and fight malaria.

Many foreign firms commit to extensive local staff training efforts, purchase local goods, and donate excess equipment to charities or local governments. Internet companies Airtel and Tigo, as well as some banks, continue to engage in RBC focused on public awareness campaigns countering violent extremism and promoting social cohesion.

While work safety and environmental protection regulations exist, the government does not always enforce them, and companies do not always adhere to them. There are a number of local NGOs, particularly in the southern oil-producing regions, which monitor safety and environmental protection in the oil sector, and which have held government and private companies publicly accountable. EEPCI adheres to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for recording accidents and injuries and implements a rigorous program of safety procedures and protocols.

Chad joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2010.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Trafficking in Persons Report

Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities

North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory

Department of Labor

Findings on the Worst forms of Child Labor Report 

List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor 

Sweat & Toil: Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World  and;

Comply Chain 

9. Corruption

Foreign investors should be aware that corruption remains common in Chad and constitutes a significant deterrent to U.S. investment. Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, dispute settlement, regulation enforcement, customs, and taxation.

Chad is not a signatory country of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Chad is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (“the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention”).

There is an independent Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes), equivalent to a supreme audit institution (SAI), to enhance independent oversight of government decisions, although its members are nominated by presidential decree. Concurrently, the GOC created a General Inspectorate for State Control within the Presidency to oversee government accountability. No reports have been published, however. In addition to these bodies, the National Assembly’s Finance Committee carries out verifications of the GOC’s annual financial statement. No audits have been made publicly available during the reporting period.

A February 2000 anti-corruption law stipulates penalties for corrupt practices. The law does not single out family members and political parties. As in other developing countries, low salaries for most civil servants, judicial employees, and law enforcement officials, coupled with a weak state system and a culture of rent seeking, have contributed to corruption.

The Ministry of Finance and Budget set up a toll-free number (700) to fight corruption and embezzlement. According to the Minister of Finance and Budget, the toll-free number 700 allows each economic operator or any other individual to alert the Inspectorate General of Finance to denounce any unscrupulous agent who seeks to be corrupted in the context of the issue of administrative paper or the payment of a tax. There are no specific laws to counter conflict of interest. The GOC does not require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.

Local NGO Center for Studies and Research on Governance, Extractive Industries, and Sustainable Development (CERGIED), formerly GRAMP-TC (Groupe Alternatif de Recherche et de Monitoring de Petrole – Tchad), tracks government expenditures of oil revenue. There are no indications that anti-corruption laws are enforced differently on foreign investors than on Chadian citizens. There is no specific protection for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government agency contact responsible for combating corruption:

Inspection Generale d’Etat

Ministry of Finance and Budget toll free number 700 (inside Chad)

Presidence de la Republique

Ndjamena, Chad +235 22 51 51 39 / 22 51 44 37

+235 22 51 51 39 / 22 51 44 37

Contact at watchdog organizations:

Gilbert Maoundonodji

Coordinator

CERGIED (formerly GRAMP –TC)

BP 4021, N’Djamena, Chad
+235 6058 2016 / 9317 7678

+235 6058 2016 / 9317 7678

infos@cergied.org  / secretariat@cergied.org  / https://cergied.org/ 

infos@cergied.org  / secretariat@cergied.org  / https://cergied.org/ 

10. Political and Security Environment

Chad has enjoyed political stability since 2008. There have been no reported incidents in recent years involving politically motivated damage to projects and/or installations, including during the 2008 disturbances. President Deby is completing his fifth elected presidential term and is eligible to participate in the next presidential elections, scheduled for April 2021. Socio-economic conditions occasionally spark demonstrations and protests against the Government. In many cases, the government either denied permits for demonstrations or suppressed them using tear gas, arresting participants and organizers. Extended periods of reduced oil revenues add to socioeconomic stress. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic strains Chad’s limited medical infrastructure and disrupts trade routes with neighboring countries and international air travel.

Regional violent extremist organizations threaten Chadian and Western interests. Boko Haram’s violence has choked off vital trade routes with Nigeria and the road between N’Djamena and Douala, Cameroon, the principal port serving Chad. This has increased costs for imports and decreased exports. Violent extremist organizations may threaten foreign investments along the Lake Chad Basin.

For up-to-date information on political and security conditions in Chad, please refer to the Consular Affairs Bureau’s Travel Warning and Country Specific Information at http://www.travel.state.gov. The Embassy encourages all U.S. Citizens visiting Chad to register with the Embassy upon arrival or online via the STEP program.

U.S. businesses and organizations in Chad are welcome to inquire at the Embassy about joining the Overseas Security Advisory Committee (OSAC).

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Chad has a shortage of skilled labor in most sectors. Although there is an increasing pool of university graduates able to fill entry-level management and administrative positions, skilled workers still represent a very small percentage of the total labor pool. Eighty percent of the Chadian labor force is estimated to work in the informal sector, with many engaged in subsistence activities including farming, herding, and fishing. Unskilled and day laborers are readily available. Few Chadians speak English. Acceptable translators and interpreters are available. Some government ministries and SOEs provide job-related training to their employees.

Chad’s population demonstrates a significant youth bulge, leading to widespread youth unemployment. Laborers are motivated but frequently undereducated. According to UNESCO, Chad’s literacy rate is 22 percent.

Chad has ratified all eight Fundamental Conventions of the International Labor Organization. International labor rights such as freedom of association, the elimination of forced labor, child labor, employment discrimination, minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and weekly work hours are recognized within the labor code. However, gaps remain in law and practice. Chadian labor law derives from French law and tends to provide strong protection for Chadian workers; priority is given to Chadian nationals. Labor unions operate independently from the government and, in fact, often challenge the government. The two main labor federations, the Confederation Libre des Travailleurs du Tchad (CLTT) and the Union des Syndicats Tchadiens (UST), to which most individual unions belong, are the most influential.

The labor court is the labor dispute mechanism in Chad. In case of a dispute, the aggrieved party contacts a labor inspector directly or through the labor union to settle the dispute or lodge a complaint with the labor court.

Labor unions practice collective bargaining, and the labor code monitors labor abuses, health, and safety standards in low-wage assembly operations. The enforcement of the code is not effectively conducted; most disputes are based on contract termination. Child labor remains a problem. Children were involved in the following sectors: street begging in urban centers, street work as hawkers and porters, carpentry, vehicle garages, gold mining in the north of the country, service industries such as waiters/waitresses, and as domestic workers. Child labor is common in the agriculture sector. Children are also involved in cattle-herding and charcoal production. In some regions, children are involved in catching, smoking, and selling fish. Chadian cattle are included on the U.S. Government’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.

The GOC may provide incentives for foreign businesses but does not waive laws to attract or retain investment, as the Chadian labor law strongly supports workers. 12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Please note that the following tables include FDI statistics from three different sources, and therefore will not be identical. Table 2 uses BEA data when available, which measures the stock of FDI by the market value of the investment in the year the investment was made (often referred to as historical value). This approach tends to undervalue the present value of FDI stock because it does not account for inflation. BEA data is not available for all countries, particularly if only a few US firms have direct investments in a country. In such cases, Table 2 uses other sources that typically measure FDI stock in current value (or, historical values adjusted for inflation). Even when Table 2 uses BEA data, Table 3 uses the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) to determine the top five sources of FDI in the country. The CDIS measures FDI stock in current value, which means that if the U.S. is one of the top five sources of inward investment, U.S. FDI into the country will be listed in this table. That value will come from the CDIS and therefore will not match the BEA data.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $11,315 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $0 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 59.4% UNCTAD data available at https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx 

* Source for Host Country Data: N/A.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Economic and Commercial Officer

U.S. Embassy N’Djamena,

Rondpoint Chagoua BP 413

N’Djamena Chad.
+235 2251-5017 Ext 24408 and 24289

NDjamena-Commercial@state.gov 

Côte d’Ivoire

Executive Summary

Côte d’Ivoire offers a fertile environment for U.S. investment, and the Ivoirian government is keen to deepen its commercial cooperation with the United States. The Ivoirian and foreign business community in Côte d’Ivoire considers the 2018 investment code generous with incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic slowed the economy in 2020 and created new financial burdens for the government as it sought to put health mitigation and economic stimulus measures in place. International organizations such as the IMF and World Bank see some cause for optimism for a recovery in 2021 and 2022. According to the IMF, Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP growth fell from 6.5 percent in 2019 to 1.8 percent in 2020, with a return to growth at a more robust 6.2 percent projected for 2021.

U.S. businesses operate successfully in the following Ivoirian sectors: oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure. In 2020, Côte d’Ivoire maintained its position of 110 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. Côte d’Ivoire was eleventh among the 48 sub-Saharan Africa countries, notably coming in ahead of Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

Economically, Côte d’Ivoire is among Africa’s fastest growing economies and is the largest economy in francophone Africa, attracting regional migrant labor. Also, home to the headquarters of the African Development Bank, Côte d’Ivoire attracts a significant expatriate professional community.

Doing business with the government remains a significant challenge. The government has awarded a number of sole-source contracts without competition and at times disregarded objective evaluations on competitive tenders. An overly complicated tax system and a slow, opaque government decision-making process hinder investment. Other challenges include weak access to credit for small businesses, corruption, and the need to broaden the tax base to relieve some of the tax-paying burden on businesses. The government is introducing a local-content law for the oil and gas sector that, once passed, will put additional requirements for local hiring and procurement on companies operating in that sector.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 104 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 110 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 112 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 -$495 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $2,290 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government actively encourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is committed to increasing it. Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM), which is based in Abidjan and covers the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). WAEMU members are part of the Regional Council for Savings and Investment, a regional securities regulatory body.

In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment. There are restrictions, however, on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies.

Land tenure is a complicated and sensitive issue. Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to multiple forms of traditional collective tenure and the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas. Companies that wish to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title. Surveying is tightly controlled by a small group of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land. Freehold land tenure in rural areas is difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead. There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.

The Ivoirian government’s investment promotion agency, the Center for the Promotion of Investment in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), promotes and attracts national and foreign investment. Its services are available to all investors, provided through a one-stop shop intended to facilitate business creation, operation, and expansion. CEPICI ensures that investors receive incentives outlined in the investment code and facilitates access to industrial land. More information is available at http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians. The government encourages foreign investment, including state-owned firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases of privatization the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.

There are no general, economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, and few sector-specific restrictions. There are no laws specifically directing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control in those firms, and no such practices have been reported.

Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to limit establishment of subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector. Investments in health, law and accounting, and travel agencies are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner. The Ivoirian government has, on a case-by-case basis, mandated using local providers, hiring local employees, or arranging for eventual transfer to local control.

The government does not have an official policy to screen investments, and its overall economic and industrial strategy does not discriminate against foreign-owned firms. There are indications in some instances of preferential treatment for firms from countries with longstanding commercial ties to Côte d’Ivoire.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Côte d’Ivoire has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD. The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review in October 2017, which can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp462_e.htm .

UNCTAD published an Investment Policy Review for Côte d’Ivoire in February 2020, which can be found at https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-cote-divoire 

The Government of Côte d’Ivoire provides information about sector policies and business opportunities in publicly available reports. More information can be found at: https://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Business Facilitation

The CEPICI manages Côte d’Ivoire’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration ( https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/ ). All the necessary documentation for registration is available online, however actual registration must be done in person. Further information on business registration is also available on CEPICI’s website ( http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ ).

Businesses can register at the CEPICI’s One-Stop Shop (Guichet Unique) in Abidjan. The One-Stop Shop allows businesses to register with the commercial registrar (Registre du Commerce et du Crédit Immobilier), the tax authority (Direction Générale d’Impôts) and the social security institute (Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale). The One-Stop Shop also publishes the legal notice of incorporation on CEPICI’s website. All necessary documents for registration are also available on the website. Registration takes between one and three days. The business licensing process, controlled by sector-specific governing bodies, is separate from the registration process.

Women have equal access to the registration process. There have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.

Outward Investment

Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

However, the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The government aims for transparency in law and policy to foster competition and provide clear rules of the game and a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors. Transparency of the Ivoirian regulatory system is a concern; both foreign and Ivoirian companies complain that new regulations are issued with little warning and without a period for public comment.

There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private-sector associations.

Regulatory authority and decision-making exist only at the national level. Sub-national jurisdictions do not regulate business. For most industries or sectors, regulations are developed through the ministry responsible for that sector. In the telecommunications, electricity, cocoa, coffee, cotton, and cashew sectors, the government has established control boards or independent agencies to regulate the sector and pricing. Companies have complained that rules for buying prices determined by the agriculture commodity regulatory agencies tend to be opaque and local prices are set arbitrarily without reference to world prices.

Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though both foreign and Ivoirian businesses often complain about the government’s poor communication. Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA), which is common to 16 countries and adheres to the WAEMU accounting system. In accounting, companies use the WAEMU system, which complies with international norms and is a source of economic and financial data.

Draft legislation and regulations are not published or made available for public comment. The government, however, often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.

Regulatory actions are published in the Journal Officiel de la République de Côte d’Ivoire (Official Journal of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire), which is available for purchase at newsstands and by subscription on the Journal’s website http://www.sgg.gouv.ci/jo.php  and at https://abidjan.net/ .

The Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics (National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement; ANRMP), polices transparency in public procurement and private sector compliance with public procurement rules. Consumers, trade associations, private companies, and individuals have the right to file complaints with ANRMP to hold the government to its own administrative processes.

The U.S. Government does not have any knowledge of regulatory system reforms that have been announced since the last ICS report, including enforcement reforms. The government has fully implemented regulatory reforms announced in prior years, with the goal of creating an enabling business environment, fostering competition, and building investor confidence.

Public and private institutions tasked with controlling and regulating various sectors make regulatory enforcement mechanisms available to the public.

Regulatory bodies regularly publish and promote access to their data for the business community and development partners, allowing for scientific and data-driven reviews and assessments. Quantitative analysis and public comments are made available.

The Ivoirian government promotes transparency of public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) with the publication of this information through the following websites: http://budget.gouv.ci 

https://www.tresor.gouv.ci/tres/fr_FR/rapport-de-la-dette-publique/ 

International Regulatory Considerations

The Ivoirian government incorporates WAEMU directives into its public procurement bidding policy, processes, and auditing. This includes separating auditing and regulating functions and increasing advance payment for the initial procurement of goods and services from 25 to 30 percent. The ANRMP regulates public procurement with a view to improving governance and transparency. It has the authority to sanction private-sector entities that do not comply with public-procurement regulations and to provide recommendations to ministries to address irregularities.

Ivoirian laws, codes, professional-association standards, and regional-body membership obligations are incorporated in the country’s regulatory system. The private sector often follows European norms to take advantage of the Ivoirian trade agreement with the EU – Côte d’Ivoire’s largest market.

Côte d’Ivoire has been a WTO member since 1995 but has not notified all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Côte d’Ivoire signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2013 and ratified it in December 2015. The National TFA Committee (NTFC) coordinates TFA implementation.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Ivoirian legal system is based on the French civil-law model. The law guarantees to all the right to own and transfer private property. Rural land, however, is governed by a separate set of laws, which makes ownership and transfer very difficult. The court system enforces contracts.

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to OHADA, which provides common corporate law and arbitration procedures for the 16 member states. The Commercial Court of Abidjan adjudicates corporate law cases and contract disputes. Mediation is also available through the Ivoirian legal framework in addition to the Commercial Court and the Arbitration Tribunal. The Commercial Court of Abidjan retains jurisdiction for the entire country.

The Ivoirian judicial system is ostensibly independent, but magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence. Judges sometimes fail to prove that their decisions are based on the legal or contractual merits of a case and often rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. The greatest complaint from investors is the slow dispute-resolution process. Cases are often postponed or appealed without a reasonable explanation, moving from court to court for years or even decades. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated through the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 2018 Investment Code is the primary governing authority for investment conduct. The Code does not restrict foreign investment or the repatriation of funds. The Code offers a mixture of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits to encourage investment. The government also offers incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurs, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development. Some sectors have additional laws that govern investment activity in those sectors. In mining, for example, the Mining Code allows a period for holding permits for ten years with a possibility to extend for two more years on a limited permit area of 400 square kilometers.

As of January 2021, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire has been preparing a bill detailing local content requirements for the petroleum sector for consideration by the legislature (see also Performance and Data Localization Requirements).

The CEPICI provides a one-stop shop website to assist investors. More information on Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements can be found at: www.apex-ci.org/ 

www.cepici.gouv.ci/ 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Small Business Promotion, through the Commission on Anti-Competition Practices, is responsible for reviewing competition–related concerns under the 1991 competition law, which was updated in 2013. ANRMP is responsible for reviewing the awarding of contracts.

No significant competition cases were reported over the past year.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Ivoirian constitution guarantees the right to own property and freedom from expropriation without compensation. The government may expropriate property with due compensation (fair market value) at the time of expropriation in the case of “public interest.” Perceived corruption and weak judicial and security capacity, however, have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, particularly when the entity in question is foreign and the plaintiff is Ivoirian or a long-established foreign resident.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

In cases where a firm does not meet the nationality conditions stipulated by Article 25 of the Convention, the dispute must be resolved within the provisions of the supplementary mechanisms approved by the ICSID.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to investment agreements subject to binding international arbitration of investment disputes. Côte d’Ivoire recognizes and has been known to enforce foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement is inconsistent.

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

In the past 10 years, foreign investors have had investment disputes, which have often been resolved through arbitration or amicable settlement. There have been no reported disputes involving U.S. firms in the past 10 years. As Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, local courts are obliged to enforce foreign arbitral awards.

The U.S. government is not aware of any history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, including U.S. firms.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Abidjan-based regional Joint Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) provides a means of solving contractual disputes. The arbitration tribunal has the ability to enforce awards more quickly, but most business contracts are written to specify that disputes will be settled in Ivoirian courts, thus the Ivoirian court system is the first resort.

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of OHADA, whose provisions adopted in 1999 have replaced domestic law on arbitration. The unified law is based on the model law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICITRAL).

Judgments of foreign courts are recognized but difficult to enforce in local courts. To avoid being forced to work through the Ivoirian legal system, some investors stipulate in contracts that disputes must be settled through international commercial arbitration. Yet, even if stipulated in the contract, decisions reached through OHADA are sometimes not honored by local courts.

The U.S. government is not aware of cases in which Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic courts have shown preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises involved in investment disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 85 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report. As a member of OHADA, Côte d’Ivoire has both commercial and bankruptcy laws that address the liquidation of business liabilities. OHADA is a regional system of uniform laws on bankruptcy, debt collection, and rules governing business transactions. OHADA permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation: an ordered suspension of payment to permit a negotiated settlement; an ordered suspension of payment to permit restructuring of the company, similar to Chapter 11; and the complete liquidation of assets, similar to Chapter 7. Creditors’ rights, irrespective of nationality, are protected equally by the Act. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. Court-ordered monetary settlements resulting from declarations of bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency.

The joint venture Credit Info – Volo West Africa manages regional credit bureaus in WAEMU.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The 2018 Investment Code offers a mixture of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits focusing on agriculture, agro-business, tourism, health, and education. These include a full exoneration of customs duties or suspended VAT, and tax exemptions to business operations in some remote areas, with incentives based on the type of investment, phase of operation, local content, and participation. There are also incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s broad-scale economic development. The Investment Code, the Petroleum Code and the Mining Code delineate incentives available to new investors in Côte d’Ivoire.

The government occasionally guarantees loans or jointly finances foreign direct investment projects. This is not a common practice.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Created in 2008, the Ivoirian free trade zone (FTZ) for information technology and biotechnology (VITIB) is located in the town of Grand Bassam in the greater Abidjan area. In 2014, VITIB established the Mahatma Gandhi Technology Park at Grand Bassam. Bonded warehouses do exist, and bonded zones within factories are allowed. High port costs and maritime freight rates have inhibited the development of in-bond manufacturing or processing, and there are consequently no general foreign trade zones.

An FTZ also exists at the Port of Abidjan specifically for fish processing. In force since December 2005, this FTZ is reserved for companies that earn at least 90% of their turnover from exports. Eligible companies are exempt from all duties and taxes, including on imported and exported goods and services. They also enjoy preferential rates for water, electricity, telephone, and fuel supplied by public or semi-public establishments. A fee applies to FTZ companies, the amount of which is fixed by decree.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government strongly encourages investors and firms to hire Ivoirian employees via incentives outlined in the Investment Code, but this is not a requirement. In January 2021, the Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energy announced plans to introduce a local content law for the oil and gas sector. A draft bill has since been endorsed by the Council of Ministers and is ready for submission to the legislature for deliberation. The text of the bill is not yet publicly available and specific measures have not been publicly reported.

The 2018 Investment Code guarantees the freedom to designate senior management and board members.

Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries can legally work in Côte d’Ivoire without additional permissions and do not need a residency permit. For other nationalities, visas and permits for work and residency are required. The investment promotion agency CEPICI facilitates the visa and permit process. The process is not onerous and does not inhibit the ability of foreign investors and their employees to enter and exit the country.

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest, including tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The government does occasionally place conditions on location, local content, equity ownership, import substitution, export requirements, host country employment, and technology. For example, the Ivoirian government required that one U.S. fast food franchise use locally sourced key ingredients, which it is able to do. The government also makes use of a number of tax exemptions and customs exonerations to incentivize companies to do more value-added processing in Côte d’Ivoire.

There are no performance requirements for investments.

Cellular telephone companies must meet technology performance requirements to maintain their licenses. The U.S. government does not know of any requirements that Côte d’Ivoire imposes on foreign information technology firms to give the government source code or provide access to encryption.

There are no requirements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data. Data transmission or transfer is subject to prior authorization of the telecom regulatory board Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Côte d’Ivoire; ART-CI).

Côte d’Ivoire’s law on data protection requests prior declaration or authorization by ART-CI for any data processing. ART-CI is responsible for the oversight of local data storage.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Ivoirian civil code provides for the enforcement of private property rights, and the government has undertaken reform efforts to secure property rights. Mortgages and liens exist. Secured interests in property are enforced by the Land Registry Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 112 out of 190 countries for registering property.

Foreign and/or nonresident investors who wish to lease land must obtain a permit for the development of the site, as well as a prefectural or sub-prefectural order recognizing occupation of the site.

The Audace Institute, an independent Ivoirian think tank, estimates that 96 percent of land does not have a clear title. The World Bank estimates that only 30 percent of property owners have clear title. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development requires that all land to be titled be professionally surveyed. The surveying, which must be performed by one of the few companies authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to execute land surveys in Côte d’Ivoire, can cost more than the value of the land. A lack of title and a conflict between modern land tenure law and traditional practice hinders resolution of land tenure disputes.

It is not necessary to occupy legally purchased property in order to retain title.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ivoirian Civil Code includes measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), but the government has limited capacity to enforce them. The government’s Office of Intellectual Property (Office ivoirien de la propriété intellectuelle; OIPI) is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names. Patents are valid for 10 years, with the possibility of two extensions of five years each. Trademarks are valid for 10 years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for 50 years. The Ivoirian Copyright Office (Bureau ivoirien du droit d’auteur; BURIDA) has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and to protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs. While Ivoirian IPR law is in conformity with standards established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the country lacks customs checks at its porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.

The government has not adopted any IPR-related laws or regulations in the past year. In 2020, the Ministry of Culture, Art, and Entertainment Business put committees in place to study and make recommendations for the reform and restructuring of BURIDA. BURIDA and the Ministry plan to implement the recommendations – which are not yet public – throughout 2021.

The National Committee to Combat Counterfeiting (Comité national de la lutte contre la contrefaçon; CNLC) coordinates national efforts against counterfeit and pirated goods. By law, the government must protect intellectual property on both exported and imported goods. Customs has the power to seize imported products that violate IPR laws even if installed with other equipment, including equipment detained, marketed, or illegally supplied. Such seizures, generally of counterfeit consumer goods (increasingly medicines), are routinely publicized on government websites and media outlets, although statistics on seizures are unavailable. IPR violations are prosecuted, and penalties vary from imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 100,000 to 5,000,000 CFA (USD 166 to 8,333 based on an average exchange rate of 600 CFA to one U.S. dollar).

Côte d’Ivoire is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies generally encourage foreign portfolio investment.

The Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM) is located in Abidjan and the BRVM lists companies from the eight countries of the WAEMU. The existing regulatory system effectively facilitates portfolio investment through the West African Central Bank (BCEAO) and the Regional Council for Savings Investments (CREPMF). There is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.

Government policies allow the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

The BCEAO respects IMF Article VIII on payment and transfers for current international transactions.

Credit allocation is based on market terms and has increased to support the private sector and economic growth, specifically for large businesses. Foreign investors can acquire credit on the local market.

Money and Banking System

As of December 2020, there were 29 commercial banks and two credit institutions in Côte d’Ivoire. Banks are expanding their national networks, especially in the secondary cities outside Abidjan, as domestic investment has increased up-country. The total number of bank branches has more than doubled from 324 in 2010 to 725 branches in 2019 (latest data available). According to the World Bank, in 2017 (latest data available) 41 percent of the population over the age of 15 have a bank account. Alternative financial services available include mobile money and microfinance for bill payments and transfers. Many Ivoirians prefer mobile money over banking, but mobile money does not yet offer the same breadth of financial services as banks.

Most Ivoirian banks are compliant with the BCEAO’s minimum capital requirements. Some public banks have large numbers of nonperforming loans. The government has been restructuring and privatizing the commercial banking sector over the past decade in order to remove low performers from government accounts.

The estimated total assets of the five largest banks are around USD 14 billion and account for more than half of total bank assets in the country.

The BCEAO is common to the eight member states of the WAEMU and manages banking regulations.

Foreign banks are allowed to operate in Côte d’Ivoire; at least one has been in Côte d’Ivoire for decades. They are subject to the WAEMU Banking Commission’s prudential measures and regulations. There have been no reports of Côte d’Ivoire losing any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. No correspondent banking relationships are known to be in jeopardy.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or on investments financed with convertible foreign currency. Once an investment is established and documented, the government regularly approves the remittances of dividends and/or repatriation of capital. The same holds true for requests for other sorts of transactions (e.g. imports, licenses, and royalty fees).

Funds associated with investments funded with convertible currency are freely convertible into any world currency.

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of WAEMU, which uses the West African CFA Franc (XOF). The French Treasury holds the foreign exchange reserves of WAEMU member states and supports the fixed exchange rate of 655.956 CFA to the Euro. In December 2019, the Ivoirian President, concurrently serving as chairman of WAEMU, announced in the presence of the French President the forthcoming transition from the CFA to a new common regional currency to be called the Eco; details about the timeline or modalities of the change have not yet been published.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.

There are no time limitations on remittances. Total personal remittances received by Ivoirians were about USD 338 million in 2019 or 0.6 percent of GDP.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Côte d’Ivoire does not have a sovereign wealth fund, although there are reports as of late 2020 that the government is in the process of creating one.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Companies owned or controlled by the state are subject to national laws and the tax code. The Ivoirian government still holds substantial interests in many firms, including the refinery SIR (49 percent), the public transport firm (60 percent), the national television station RTI (98 percent), the national lottery (80 percent), the national airline Air Côte d’Ivoire (58 percent), and the land management agency Agence de Gestion Foncière AGEF (35 percent). Total assets of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were USD 796 million and total net income of SOEs was USD 116 million in 2018 (latest figures). Of the 82 SOEs, 28 are wholly government-owned, 12 are majority government-owned, in seven the government has a blocking minority, and in 35 the government has a minority of shares. Each SOE has an independent board. The government has begun the process of divestiture for some SOEs (see next section). There are active SOEs in the banking, agri-business, mining, and telecom industries.

The published list of SOEs is available at https://dgpe.gouv.ci/ind ex.php?p=portefeuille_etat 

SOEs competing in the domestic market do not receive non-market-based advantages from the government. They are subject to the same tax burdens and policies as private companies.

Côte d’Ivoire does not adhere to OECD guidelines for SOE corporate governance (it is not a member of OECD).

Privatization Program

The government has been pursuing SOE privatization for decades. Most recently, in 2017, the government sold 90 percent of its shareholdings in the Ivoirian Textile Development Company (Compagnie Ivoirienne du Développement du Textile; CIDT) as well as in the Ity Mining Company (Société des mines d’Ity; SMI). In 2018, the government sold 51 percent of the Housing Bank of Côte d’Ivoire (Banque d’Habitat de Côte d’Ivoire; BHCI).

Contracts for participation in SOE privatization are competed through a French-language public tendering process, for which foreign investors are encouraged to submit bids. The Privatization Committee, which reports to the Prime Minister, maintains a website at: http://privatisation.gouv.ci .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector, the government, NGOs, and local communities are becoming progressively aware of the importance of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) with regard to environmental, social, and governance issues in Côte d’Ivoire.

Investors seeking to implement projects in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, waste management, and extractive industries are required by decree to provide an environmental impact study prior to approval. Foreign businesses, particularly in mining, energy, and agriculture, often provide social infrastructure, including schools and health care clinics, to communities close to their sites of operation. Companies are not required under Ivoirian law to disclose information relating to RBC, although many companies, especially in the cocoa sector, publicize their work. Cocoa companies publicize efforts to improve sustainability and combat the worst forms of child labor. As a part of public-procurement reform, the Ministry of Budget plans to include social needs in public-procurement contracts to support job creation, fair trade, decent working conditions, social inclusion and compliance with social standards. On the environment, suggested reforms include the selection of goods and services that have a smaller impact on the environment.

There are reports of children subjected to forced labor in agricultural work, particularly on cocoa farms. In February 2021, several individuals from Mali sued major international chocolate manufacturers in U.S. courts for supporting child labor and child trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire.

The government, through the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, sets workplace health and safety standards and is responsible for enforcing labor laws.

The OHADA outlines corporate governance standards that protect shareholders.

There are government-funded agencies in charge of monitoring business conduct. Human rights, environmental protection, and civil society NGOs report misconduct and violations of good governance practices.

While international firms are aware of OECD guidelines and international best practices in RBC, most local firms have limited familiarity with international standards.

Côte d’Ivoire participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and discloses revenues and payments in the oil, gas, and mineral sectors. More information can be found at: www.cnitie.ci/ .

Côte d’Ivoire is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies. Some private security companies operating in the country are participants of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA).

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption is a concern for businesses. In 2013, the Ivoirian government issued Executive Order number 2013-660 related to preventing and fighting against corruption. The High Authority for Good Governance serves as the government’s anti-corruption authority. Its mandate includes raising awareness about corruption, investigating corruption in the public and private sectors, and collecting mandated asset disclosures from certain public officials (e.g., the president, ministers, and mayors) upon their entry and exit from office. The High Authority, however, does not have a mandate to prosecute; it must refer cases to the Attorney General who decides whether or not to take up those cases. The country’s financial intelligence office, CENTIF, has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials. Despite the establishment of these bodies and credible allegations of widespread corruption, there have been few charges filed, and few prosecutions and judgments against prominent people for corruption. The domestic business community generally assesses that these watchdog agencies lack the power and/or will to combat corruption effectively. In April 2021, the government formally added Good Governance and Anti-Corruption to the title and portfolio of the Ministry of Capacity Building.

Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to political parties.

The country’s Code of Public Procurement No. 259 and the associated WAEMU directives cover conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

Under the Ivoirian Penal Code, a bribe by a local company to a foreign official is a criminal act.

Some private companies use compliance programs or measures to prevent bribery of government officials. U.S. firms underscore to their Ivoirian counterparts that they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Côte d’Ivoire ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, but the country is not a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (which is open to non-OECD members). In 2016, Côte d’Ivoire joined the Partnership on Illicit Finance, which obliges it to develop an action plan to combat corruption.

There are no special protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

Corruption in many forms is deeply ingrained in public- and private-sector practices and remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire. Many companies cite corruption as the most significant obstacle to investment in Côte d’Ivoire. It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues. Lack of transparency and failure to follow the government’s own tendering procedures in the awarding of contracts lead businesses to conclude bribery was involved. Businesses have reported encountering corruption at every level of the civil service, with some judges appearing to base their decisions on bribes. Clearance of goods at the ports often requires substantial “commissions,” and the Embassy has heard anecdotal accounts of customs agents rescinding valuations that were declared by other customs colleagues in an effort to extract bribes from customers. The demand for bribes can mean that containers stay at the Port of Abidjan for months, incurring substantial demurrage charges, despite companies having the proper paperwork in order.

No local industry or non-profit groups offer services for vetting potential local investment partners.

Resources to Report Corruption

Inspector General of Finance
(Brigade de Lutte Contre la Corruption)
Lassina Sylla
Inspector General
TELEPHONE: +225 20212000/2252 9797
FAX: +225 20211082/2252 9798
HOTLINE: +225 8000 0380
http://www.igf.finances.gouv.ci/ 
info@igf.finances.gouv.ci 

High Authority for Good Governance

(Haute Autorité pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
N’Golo Coulibaly
President
TELEPHONE: +225 272 2479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261

Police Anti-Racketeering Unit
(Unité de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
Alain Oura
Unit Commander
TELEPHONE: +225 272 244 9256
info@ulcr.ci 

Social Justice
(Initiative pour la Justice Sociale, la Transparence et la Bonne Gouvernance en Côte d’Ivoire)
Ananeraie face pharmacie Mamie Adjoua
Abidjan
TELEPHONE: +225 272 177 6373
socialjustice.ci@gmail.com 

10. Political and Security Environment

In 2016, the country adopted a new constitution, creating the position of Vice-President (currently vacant), and a Senate, which first convened in April 2018. In the period around elections in 2018 and 2020, demonstrations and protests by political parties and their supporters were common and occasionally led to vandalism, destruction of public and private property, and violent clashes with security forces and with other civilians. Unions also engage in protests that sometimes become violent. President Alassane Ouattara was elected to a third term in October 2020. In the run up to the 2020 presidential election, the lack of political party-consensus on the composition of the country’s Independent Electoral Commission, the contentious reform of the Electoral Code, the constitutional validation of the incumbent president’s eligibility for a third term, and the exclusion of significant opposition figures from the race, aggravated political divides within the country. National Assembly elections in March 2021, however, passed largely peacefully, and the opposition won a substantial number of seats.

Côte d’Ivoire’s security situation has significantly improved since its 2010-2011 post-electoral violence. In early 2017, some Ivoirian soldiers mutinied, demanding payment of bonuses. The government responded by largely acceding to their demands and pledging to improve living and working conditions for armed and security forces, which it has steadily done over the ensuing years. Côte d’Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016 in the popular tourist town of Grand Bassam in which attackers killed 22 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack. In June 2020 and March 2021, the country experienced other attacks in the Ivoirian-Burkinabe border town of Kafolo, which the government attributed to unidentified terrorists. Al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations continue to pose a major terrorism risk to the region. Côte d’Ivoire continues to cooperate with international partners to combat the increasing terrorism/extremist threat emanating from the Sahel to its immediate North.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The official unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, however, unemployment is difficult to measure in the informal sector, which comprises 60-80% of the Ivoirian economy. The official unemployment rate among those aged 15-24 is 5.5 percent. Forty-seven percent of the non-agricultural workforce is employed in the informal economy. Official statistics fail to fully account for the large informal economy throughout the country, and do not accurately portray the general dearth of well-paying employment opportunities. Despite the government’s efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem in rural and urban areas, particularly on cocoa and coffee plantations, as well as in artisanal gold mining areas and in domestic work.

There are significant shortages of skilled labor in higher education fields, including information technology, engineering, finance, management, health, and science. The Ivoirian government is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to build and develop four technical and vocational training centers as part of a five-year Compact valued at nearly USD 525 million.

Labor laws favor the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises. Any vacant position must be advertised for two months. If after two months no qualified Ivoirian is found, the employer may recruit a foreigner provided it plans to recruit an Ivoirian to fill the position within the next two years.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment in response to fluctuating market conditions. Employees terminated for reasons other than theft or flagrant neglect of duty have the right to termination benefits. Unemployment insurance and other social-safety programs exist for employees laid off for economic reasons. For the roughly 60-80% percent of workers employed in the informal sector, unemployment insurance is not an option. However, there are other social-safety-net programs that apply to informal economy workers, including monthly stipends and waiving of universal health care fees.

Labor laws are not waived to attract or retain investment.

Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service. A prolonged teachers’ strike in 2019 was submitted for arbitration but due to the fractured nature of the teachers’ unions, not all parties agreed to the decision.

Labor disputes are submitted to the labor inspector for amicable settlement before engaging in any legal proceedings. If this attempt to settle the dispute fails, then the labor court can be engaged to resolve the dispute.

No strike has posed an investment risk during the last year.

There are no gaps between Ivoirian and international labor standards in law or practice that pose a reputational risk to investors.

The government did not adopt any new labor-related laws or regulations in 2020. In 2017, the government passed a law forbidding most forms of child labor for children under 12 and restricting it for minors aged 13 to 17. The law’s passage put Ivoirian law on par with ILO standards for child labor.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 N/A 2019 $58,500 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 -$495 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/ 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 2.3% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward Amount 100% Total Outward Amount 100%
France 2,134 21% Burkina Faso 370 16%
Canada 1,269 13% Mali 233 10%
United Kingdom 816 8% Liberia 204 9%
Morocco 727 7% Senegal 164 7%
Cayman Islands 480 5% Cayman Islands 162 7%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy Abidjan
Political/Economic Section
Cocody Riviera Golf
BP 730 Abidjan Cidex 03
Republic of Cote d’Ivoire
Phone: (+225) 22-49-40-00

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa and one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources.  With 80 million hectares (197 million acres) of arable land and 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the resources to achieve prosperity for its people.  Despite its potential, the DRC often cannot provide adequate food, security, infrastructure, and health care to its estimated 84 million inhabitants, of which 75 percent live on less than two dollars a day.

The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency in 2019 and his government’s commitment to attracting international, and particularly U.S. investment, have raised the hopes of the business community for greater openness and transparency.  In January 2021 the DRC government became eligible for preferential trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), reflecting progress made on human rights, anti-corruption, and labor.  Tshisekedi created a presidential unit to lead business reform and improve DRC’s poor ranking of 183rd out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report.

The natural resource sector has historically attracted the most foreign investment.  The primary minerals sector is the country’s main source of revenue, as exports of copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, diamond, tin, and tungsten provide over 95 percent of the DRC’s export revenue.  The highly competitive telecommunications industry has received significant investment.  The energy sector has great potential, particularly in renewable sources such as hydroelectricity and solar.  Several breweries and bottlers, several large construction firms, and limited textiles production are active.  Given the vast needs, there are significant commercial opportunities in aviation, road, rail, water transport, and ports.  The agricultural and forestry sectors present opportunities for economic diversification in the DRC.

Overall, businesses in the DRC face numerous challenges, including poor infrastructure, an arbitrary taxation system, and a weak and corrupt bureaucracy.  The COVID-19 pandemic sent growth negative and worsened the country’s food security.  Armed groups remain active in the eastern part of the country, making for a fragile security situation that negatively affects the business environment.  Reform of a non-transparent and often corrupt legal system is underway.  While laws protecting investors are in effect, the court system is often very slow to make decisions or follow the law, allowing numerous investment disputes to last for years.

Investors hope a new Prime Minister and cabinet in 2021 will bring a government more responsive to the needs of investors for an improved business climate and a level playing field.  The government’s announced priorities include greater efforts against corruption, election reform, primary school education, and improvements to revenue collection.  Observers expect the economy to bounce back to positive growth based on renewed demand for its minerals.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 18/100 – 170/180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 36.2/100 – 183/190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 N/R https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $86 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $530 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the United States, have raised hopes that the DRC government (GDRC) can impose and follow through on favorable FDI policies.  Favorable FDI laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption.  Investors hope Tshisekedi can create a more favorable enabling environment by business climate reform, better rule of law, and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population and generally open trading system provide significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors.

The major regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of 21 February 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small retail commerce in DRC to nationals and ban foreign majority-ownership of agricultural concerns.  The ordinance of August 8, 1990, clearly stipulates that “small business can only be carried out by Congolese.”  Foreign investors should limit themselves to import trade as well as wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors have expressed concern that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempts to kick-start the agrarian sector.

The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, which provides investment facilitation services for initial investments over USD 200,000.  It is mandated to promote the positive image of the DRC and specific investment opportunities; advocate for the improvement of the business climate in the country and provide administrative support to new foreign investors who decide to establish or expand their economic activities on the national territory.  More information is available at https://www.investindrc.cd/.

The GDRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors to hear their concerns. There are several public and private sector forums which speak to the government on the investment climate in specific sectors.  In 2019 President Tshisekedi created the business climate cell (CCA) to monitor the improvement of the economic environment and the business climate in the DRC, and to interface with the business community.  The CCA in June 2020 presented a roadmap for reform.  The public-private Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) mining group represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), which is a privileged partner of the government and the workers’ unions, has a dialogue on business interests with the government.  The FEC has relayed information to the government about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the private sector.  The FEC is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GDRC provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The DRC law reserves small commerce exclusively for Congolese nationals and does not allow foreign investors to own more than 49 percent of an agribusiness.  Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in a joint venture with the government or local partners.

The GDRC promulgated a mining code in 2018 which increased royalty rates from two to ten percent, raised tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposed a surcharge on “super profits” of mining companies.  The government unilaterally removed a stability clause contained in the previous mining code protecting investors from any new fees or taxes for ten years.  Removal of the stability clause may deter future investment in the mining sector.  The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is willing to reopen discussions on the new mining code.

The GDRC does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment.  The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The DRC has not undergone a World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Review in the last three years.  Cities with high custom clearance traffic use Sydonia https://asycuda.org/wp-content/uploads/Etude-de-Cas-SYDONIA-Contr%C3%B4le-de-la-Valeur-RDC.pdf, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA WORLD. (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)

Business Facilitation

The GDRC operates a “one-stop-shop” for Business Creation (GUCE) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC.  The goal is to permit the quick and simple registration of companies through one office in one location.  In October 2020, President Tshisekedi instructed the government to restructure GUCE in order to ease its work with the various state organizations involved in its operation.  More information is available at https://guichetunique.cd/.

At the one-stop-shop, companies fill in a “formulaire unique” in order to register with the: Commercial Registry (GUCE); tax administration (Direction Générale des Impots); Ministry of Labor; and National Institute for Social Security (Institut National de Sécurité Sociale (“INSS”)).  The Labor Inspection Department and the National Office of Employment (l’Office National de l’Emploi (“ONEM”)) are also to be notified of the establishment of the company.  Companies may also need to obtain an operating permit, as required from some municipal councils.  The registration process now officially takes three days, but in practice it can take much longer.  Some businesses have reported that the GUCE has considerably shortened and simplified the overall process of business registration.

Outward Investment

The GDRC does not prohibit outward investment, nor does it particularly promote or incentivize it.

There are no current government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there are no currently blacklisted countries with which domestic investors are precluded from doing business.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

The U.S. DRC Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) was signed in 1984 and entered into force in 1989.  The BIT guarantees reciprocal rights and privileges to each country’s investors and provides that, should a claim arise under the treaty, it can be submitted to a dispute resolution mechanism through international arbitration.  U.S. companies have at times reported difficulties with the tax authorities from arbitrary enforcement of the taxation code.

The DRC has bilateral investment treaties in force with France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States.  Treaties have been signed with Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and Ukraine but these have not yet entered into force.  Kenya is currently negotiating a BIT. Lebanon, Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso have negotiated, but not signed, BITs with the DRC.  In October 2016, the DRC and Rwanda signed an agreement on a simplified trade regime covering only small-scale commerce between the countries.

The AfCFTA is a continent-wide free-trade agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) that began on 1 January 2021, but hard work lies ahead.  The DRC signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in March 2018 and ratified it in April 2021.  The Presidency will enact the law in 2021.  The agreement aims to facilitate imports and exports among member countries – with lower or no tariffs, free access to the market and market information, and the elimination of trade barriers – and offer numerous benefits to SMEs.

On January 1, 2021, the DRC again became eligible for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), after a 10-year exclusion due to concerns over human rights violations. AGOA provides African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for over 1,800 products for 20 years. Congo’s main exports of copper, and cobalt were tariff-free under the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences trade program.

There is no bilateral taxation treaty between the United States and the DRC.  In 2015, Zambia and the DRC signed a bilateral taxation treaty that abolished customs taxes across their common border.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Passed in 2019, the Law on Pricing, Freedom and Competition (the “Competition Act”) created a new Competition Commission charged with limiting control by one party over a market.  DRC law mandates review if the turnover achieved is equal to or exceeds the amount determined by Decree of the Prime Minister upon proposal of the Minister of the Economy; if the parties hold a combined market share of 25% or more; or if the contemplated transaction creates / reinforces an already dominant position.  DRC law requires notification prior to a corporate merger. It is unclear what penalties apply if there is no pre-notification.

The DRC is a member of the regional competition bodies, COMESA and OHADA. OHADA does not have an operational merger control regime in place, while COMESA does have merger control. Merger activities in the DRC should be conducted with COMESA in mind.

There are no informal regulations run by private or nongovernmental organizations that discriminate against foreign investors.  However, some U.S. investors perceive the regulations in the mining code on local content as discriminatory against foreign investment.

The GDRC authority on business standards, the Congolese Office of Control (OCC), oversees and develops regulations relevant to foreign businesses engaged in the DRC.

There are no formal or informal provisions systematically employed by the GDRC to impede foreign investment.  Companies most often complain of facing administrative hurdles as laws and regulations are often poorly or unevenly applied.

Proposed laws and regulations are rarely published in draft format for public discussion and comment; discussion is typically limited to the governmental entity that proposes the draft law and Parliament prior to enactment.  Sometimes the government will hold a public hearing after public appeals.

The Official Gazette of the DRC is a specialized service of the Presidency of the Republic, which publishes and disseminates legislative and regulatory texts, judicial decisions, acts of companies, associations and political parties, designs, industrial models, trademarks as well as any other act referred to in the law.  More information is available at http://www.leganet.cd/.

There are no formal or informal provisions systematically employed by the GDRC to impede foreign investment.  Companies often complain of facing administrative hurdles as laws and regulations are often poorly or unevenly applied.

By implementing the OHADA system, the GDRC strengthened its legal framework in the areas of contract, company, and bankruptcy law and set up an accounting system better aligned to international standards.  For this purpose, a Coordination Committee was established internally in the GDRC to monitor OHADA implementation.

Tshisekedi created the Business Climate Unit (CCA) by a presidential order issued in February 2020. The mission of the CCA is to monitor the national business climate and enact regulatory reforms.  The CCA announced a roadmap for reform in June 2020, but has yet to implement the recommended reforms.

In November 2020, the GDRC launched the construction of the first Special Economic Zone, with the aim of attracting foreign investment and stimulating the creation of local businesses. This free zone offers tax and regulatory advantages for investors and entrepreneurs including a 5-to-10-year tax exemption. More information is available at https://www.azes-rdc.com/.

The roadmap details priority and urgent reforms and awaits action by the Prime Minister and the new cabinet. In the long term, the first Special Economic Zone will promote exports and create 3,500 direct jobs.

The DRC is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a multi-stakeholder initiative to increase transparency in transactions between governments and companies in the extractive industries.  The DRC’s validation process for compliance with the EITI Standard commenced in November 2018.  The initial report published by the International EITI Secretariat in April 2019 stated that the DRC EITI failed to adequately address 13 of the requirements of the EITI Standard, with two of these assessed as unmet with inadequate progress.  The report also stressed the need to clarify the financial flows of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the DRC’s extractive sector.

In 2020, the DRC failed to meet the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency according to the State Department’s Fiscal Transparency report.  While the DRC publishes budgets that are publicly available and timely, the published budgets were not reliable indicators of actual government spending.

International Regulatory Considerations

The DRC is a member of several regional economic blocs, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (“OHADA”), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC).

According to the Congolese National Standardization Committee, the DRC has adopted 470 harmonized COMESA standards, which are based on the European system.

The DRC is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and seeks to comply with Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM) requirements, including notifying regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The DRC is a civil law country, and the main provisions of its private law can be traced to the Napoleonic Civil Code.  The general characteristics of the Congolese legal system are similar to those of the Belgian system.  Various local customary laws regulate both personal status laws and property rights, especially the inheritance and land tenure systems in traditional communities throughout the country.  The Congolese legal system is divided into three branches: public law, private law, and economic law.  Public law regulates legal relationships involving the state or state authority; private law regulates relationships between private persons; and economic law regulates interactions in areas such as labor, trade, mining, and investment.

The DRC has written commercial and contractual law.  In 2018, the DRC established thirteen commercial courts located in DRC’s main business cities, including Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Boma, Kisangani, and Mbuji-Mayi.  These courts are designed to be led by professional judges specializing in commercial matters and exist in parallel to the judicial system.  A lack of qualified personnel and reluctance by some DRC jurisdictions to fully recognize OHADA law and institutions have hindered the development of commercial courts.  Legal documents in the DRC can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/index.htm.

The current executive branch has generally not interfered with judicial proceedings.  The current judicial process is not procedurally reliable and its rulings are not always respected.

The national court system provides an appeals mechanism under the OHADA framework.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The 2002 Investment Code governs most foreign direct investment (FDI), providing for the protection of investments.  In practice, an inadequate legal system has insufficiently protected foreign investors in the event of a dispute.  Mining, hydrocarbons, finance, and other sectors have sector-specific investment laws.

ANAPI is the DRC agency with the mandate to simplify the investment process, make procedures more transparent, assist new foreign investors, and improve the image of the country as an investment destination (www.investindrc.cd).

The GDRC has a “Guichet Unique,” which is a one-stop shop to simplify business creation, cutting processing time from five months to three days, and reducing incorporation fees from $3,000 to $120. (www.guichetunique.cd ). A “one-stop-shop” also exists for import-export business, covering aspects such as the collection of taxes and transshipment operations. (https://segucerdc.cd/ ).

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There is no national agency that reviews transactions for competition or antitrust-related concerns.  As a member of COMESA, the DRC follows the COMESA Competition Regulations and rules, and the COMESA competition body regulates competition.  In May 2020, Tshisekedi instructed the cabinet to better defend the GDRC’s interests in outstanding investor disputes, including if necessary, by agreeing to a settlement.  This decision followed the announcement of two international court decisions unfavorable to the GDRC, which put the government liable for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Expropriation and Compensation

The GDRC may proceed with an expropriation when it benefits the public interest, and the person or entity subject to an expropriation should receive fair compensation.

Companies report that the GDRC levies heavy fines in a form of financial expropriation.  A government agency imposes fines due to a company’s failure to pay a tax, though often the tax regime is unclear and multiple government bodies impose different taxes.  Companies that appeal these fines through the courts often encounter a long wait.  There has not been an expropriation of property in the past three years, but there are a number of existing and long-standing claims made against the GDRC.

Some claims have been taken to arbitration, though many arbitral judgments against the GDRC are not paid in a timely manner, if at all.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The DRC is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a Contracting State to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).

There is no specific domestic legislation providing for the enforcement of awards under the New York Convention.  It is important to note that the New York Convention does not apply toward disputes relating to immovable property, which includes mining rights.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The DRC is subject to international arbitration.  A U.S. mining company sued under the BIT to recover losses suffered when FARDC troops sacked its mine in Kasai Central Province in 1995. The arbitration courts ruled the GDRC liable for damages totaling $13 million, and the GDRC started paying back the awarded amount plus interest to the U.S. Company.

There have been charges of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, including levying fines and imprisonment.  In one case an investor left the country after being jailed on charges of corruption.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The DRC adopted the OHADA Uniform Act on Arbitration (the UAA).  The UAA sets out the basic rules applicable to any arbitration where the seat of arbitration is located in an OHADA member state.  The requirements set out under Article 5 of the New York Convention for the recognition and enforcement of foreign awards applies where the seat of any arbitration is outside an OHADA member state, or where the parties choose arbitration rules outside the UAA.

OHADA‘s UAA offers an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for settling disputes between two parties where the place of arbitration is situated in a Member State.  Disputes must be submitted to the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) in Abidjan in accordance with the provisions of the OHADA Treaty and the OHADA Arbitration Rules.

The UAA, while not directly based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, is similar in that it provides for the recognition and enforcement of arbitration agreements and arbitral awards and supersedes the national laws on arbitration to the extent that any conflict arises.  Arbitral awards with a connection to an OHADA member state are given final and binding status in all OHADA member states, on par with a national court judgment.  Support is provided by the CCJA which can rule on the application and interpretation of the UAA.

Arbitral awards rendered in any OHADA Member State are enforceable in in the domestic courts of any other OHADA member state, subject to obtaining an exequatur (a legal document issued by a sovereign authority allowing a right to be enforced in the authority’s domain of competence) of the competent court of the State in which the award is to be made.  Exequaturs are granted unless the award clearly affects public order in that State.  Decisions granting or refusing to grant an exequatur may be appealed to the CCJA.

In general, companies which fail to find a favorable judgment in domestic courts go to international courts for relief.  This often drags the judicial process on for years.  For domestic cases involving SOEs the courts often rule in favor of the SOEs.  One attorney estimated that  about five percent of cases have any transparency.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The OHADA Uniform Act on Insolvency Proceedings provides a comprehensive framework not only for companies encountering financial difficulties and seeking relief from the pressing demands of creditors, but also for creditors to file their claims.  The GDRC judiciary system has agreed to enforce the OHADA Insolvency Act.  Bankruptcy is not criminalized.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, there were no foreclosure, liquidation or reorganization proceedings filed in the country in 2020, making it impossible to assess the time, cost or outcome for an insolvency proceeding.  According to the World Bank, the DRC ranked 168th out of 190 countries on ease of resolving insolvency.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives can range from tax breaks to duty exemptions, and are dependent upon the location and type of enterprise, the number of jobs created, the degree of training and promotion of local staff, and the export-producing potential of the operation.  Investors who wish to take advantage of customs and tax incentives in the 2002 Investment Code must apply to ANAPI, which submits applications to the Ministries of Finance and Planning for final approval.  The government does not have a history of providing guarantees or jointly financing FDI projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The DRC does not have any designated free trade areas or free port zones.  President Tshisekedi has signaled that he will revive stalled efforts to join the East African Community (EAC).  In March 2021, the DRC Parliament ratified  the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  The Treaty awaits enactment by the executive branch.

On November 4, 2020, The GDRC launched the construction of the first Special Economic Zone, with the aim of attracting foreign investment and stimulating the creation of local businesses. This free zone offers tax and regulatory advantages for investors and entrepreneurs including a 5-to-10-year tax exemption. More information is available at https://www.azes-rdc.com/.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Foreign investors must negotiate many of the conditions of their investments with ANAPI.  Performance requirements agreed upon with ANAPI typically include a timeframe for the investment, use of OHADA accounting procedures and periodic authorized GDRC audits, protection of the environment, periodic progress reports to ANAPI, and the maintenance of international and local norms for the provision of goods and services.  The investor must also agree that all imported equipment and capital will remain in-country for at least five years.

The Ministry of Labor controls expatriate residence and work permits.  For U.S. companies, the BIT assures the right to hire staff of their choice to fill some management positions, but companies agree to pay a special tax on expatriate salaries.  Visa, residence, or work permit requirements are not discriminatory or excessively onerous and are not designed to prevent or discourage foreigners from investing in the DRC.

In response to private sector complaints, in June 2020 the GDRC repealed a law on subcontracting in the private sector that mandated the use of local companies and restricted using foreign entities.

The DRC does not have specific legislation on data storage or limits on the transmission of data.  The GDRC does not force IT companies to hand over encryption data.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The DRC’s Constitution protects private property ownership without discriminating between foreign and domestic investors.  Despite this provision, the GDRC has acknowledged the absence of enforcement protecting property rights.  Congolese law related to real property rights enumerates provisions for mortgages and liens.  Real property (buildings and land) is protected and registered through the Ministry of Land’s Office of the Mortgage Registrar.  Land registration may not fully protect property owners, as records are often incomplete and legal disputes over land deals are common.  Many owners lack a clear registered title to the land.  In addition, there is no specific regulation of real property lease or acquisition.

Less than 10 percent of land have a clear property title, but the GDRC is in the process of promoting and encouraging people to regularize property titles by buying a final title called a “Record Certificate” (Certificat d’Enregistrement).  Ownership interest in personal property (e.g., equipment, vehicles, etc.) is protected and registered through the Ministry of the Interior’s Office of the Notary.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPR) are legally protected in the DRC, but enforcement of IPR regulations is limited.  The DRC’s intellectual property laws date from the 1980s and remain in force.  However, enforcement is weak, and IPR theft is common.  The country is a signatory to a number of relevant agreements with international organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is subject to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Despite being officialy party to several international agreements that set minimum standards for IP, enforcement is lax due to low capacity, and a lack of awareness among consumers and businesses.  The government does not keep a record of IPR violations.

The DRC is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Portfolio investment is nonexistent in the DRC and there is no domestic stock market.  A small number of private equity firms are actively investing in the mining industry.  The institutional investor base is not well developed, with only an insurance company and a state pension fund as participants.  There is no market for derivatives in the country.  Cross-shareholding and stable shareholding arrangements are also not common.  Credit is allocated on market terms, but there are occasional complaints about unfair privileges extended to certain investors in profitable sectors such as mining and telecommunications.

Although reforms have been initiated, the Congolese financial system remains small, heavily dollarized, characterized by fragile balance sheets, and cumbersome to use.  Further reforms are needed to strengthen the financial system, support its expansion, and spur economic growth.  Inadequate risk-based controls, weak enforcement of regulations, low profitability, and excessive reliance on demand deposit undermine the shock resilience of the financial system.

The Central Bank of Congo (BCC) refrains from payments and transfers on current international transactions.  The DRC’s capital market remains underdeveloped and consists mainly of the issuance of treasury bonds.  In 2019, the BCC issued its first domestic bond in 24 years, which was oversubscribed.  Most of the buyers were local Congolese banks.

It is possible for foreign firms to borrow from local banks, but their options are limited.  Maturities for loans are usually limited to 3-6 months, and interest rates are typically around 16-21 percent.  The inconsistency of the legal system, the often-cumbersome business climate, and the difficulty in obtaining inter-bank financing discourages banks from providing long-term loans.  There are limited possibilities to finance major projects in the domestic currency, the Congolese franc (CDF).

Money and Banking System

The Congolese financial system is improving but remains fragile.  The BCC controls monetary policy and regulates the banking system.  Banks are concentrated primarily in Kinshasa, Kongo Central, North and South Kivu, and Haut Katanga provinces. Banking rate penetration is roughly 7 percent or about 4.1 million accounts, which places the country among the most under-banked nations in the world.  Mobile banking has the potential to greatly increase banking customers as an estimated 35 million Congolese use mobile phones.

There is no debt market. The financial health of DRC banks is fragile, reflecting high operating costs and exchange rates. The situation improved in a weak economic environment in 2019 as deposits have increased, which could point to a better year in 2020 considering the asset quality measures taken by the BCC, allowing banks to absorb the economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic.  Fees charged by banks are a major source of revenue.

The financial system is mostly banking-based with aggregate asset holdings estimated at USD 5.1 billion.  Among the five largest banks, four are local and one is controlled by foreign holdings.  The five largest banks hold almost 65 percent of bank deposits and more than 60 percent of total banks assets, about $3.1 billion.  There are no statistics on non-performing loans, as many banks only record the balance due instead of the total amount of their non-performing loans.

Citigroup is the only correspondent bank. All foreign banks accredited by the BCC are considered Congolese banks with foreign capital and fall under the provisions and regulations covering the credit institutions’ activities in the DRC.  There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing an account in a DRC bank.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The international transfer of funds is permitted when channeled through local commercial banks.  On average, bank declaration requirements and payments for international transfers take less than one week to complete.  The Central Bank is responsible for regulating foreign exchange and trade.  The only currency restriction imposed on travelers is a $10,000 limit on the amount an individual can carry when entering or leaving the DRC.

The GDRC requires the BCC to license exporters and importers.  The DRC’s informal foreign exchange market is large and unregulated and offers exchange rates slightly more favorable than the official rate.  BCC regulations set the Congolese franc (CDF) as the main currency in all transactions within the DRC, required for the payment of fees in education, medical care, water and electricity consumption, residential rents, and national taxes.  Exceptions to this rule occur where both parties involved, and the appropriate monetary officials, agree to use another currency.  The CDF exchange rate floats freely, but the BCC carefully monitors the rate and intervenes to shore up the exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

There are no legal restrictions on converting or transferring funds.  Exchange regulations require a 60-day waiting period for in-country foreigners to remit income.  Foreign investors may remit through parallel markets when they are legally established and recognized by the Central Bank.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The DRC does not have any reported Sovereign Wealth Funds, though the 2018 Mining Code discusses a Future Fund to be capitalized by a percentage of mining revenues.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are 20 DRC state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in the mining, transportation, energy, telecommunications, finance, and hospitality sectors.  In the past, Congolese SOEs have stifled competition and have been unable to provide reliable electricity, transportation, and other important services over which they have monopolies.  Some SOEs and other Congolese parastatal organizations are in poor financial and operational state due to indebtedness and the mismanagement of resources and employees.  The list of SOEs can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/Legislation/Droit%20Public/EPub/d.09.12.24.04.09.htm

There is limited reporting on the assets of SOEs and other parastatal enterprises, making valuation difficult.  DRC law does not grant SOEs an advantage over private companies in bidding for government contracts or obtaining preferential access to land and raw materials.  The government is often accused of favoring SOEs over private companies in contracting and bidding.

The DRC is not a party to the WTO’s procurement agreement (GPA), but nominally adheres to the OECD guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs. The DRC is a Participating Country in the Southern Africa SOE network, with the Ministry of Portfolio and the Steering Committee for SOE reforms designated as Regularly Participating Institutions.

Privatization Program

The DRC has no official privatization program.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The DRC has not defined responsible business conduct (RBC) for most industries, but the Labor Code includes provisions to protect employees, and there are legal provisions that require businesses to protect the environment.  The Global Compact Network DRC, a public-private consortium affiliated with the United Nations, encourages locally operating businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.  In 2016, the DRC issued the Guide on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Guide) for the mining sector in Haut Katanga.

The GDRC has taken actions of limited impact to support RBC by encouraging companies to develop and adhere to a code of ethics and respect for labor rights and the environment.  However, the DRC does not possess a legal framework to protect the rights of consumers, and there are no existing domestic laws to protect individuals from adverse business impacts.

Reports of children working in the DRC’s artisanal mines has led to international pressure to find ways to ensure the DRC’s minerals supply chain is free of child labor.  Development pressures have resulted in reports of threats against environmental activists.  The DRC has adopted OECD due diligence guidelines on responsible mineral supply chains as defined by the United Nations Group of Experts, as well as various resolutions of the UN Security Council related to business and human rights in the Congolese mining sector.  The DRC participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and publishes reports on its revenue from natural resources, although in recent years the reports have been late or incomplete.

The 2018 Mining Code provides domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to government entities.  PROMINES, a technical parastatal body financed by the GDRC and the World Bank, works to improve transparency in the artisanal mining sector.  Amnesty International, Pact Inc., Global Witness, and the Carter Center have published reports on RBC in the DRC mining sector.  The Dodd-Frank Act mandated companies publicly listed in the United States to declare their supply chains for DRC-sourced “3Ts” (tin, tungsten, and tantalum) and gold.  Many U.S. multinationals appear to be complying voluntarily to avoid possible reputational damage.

The DRC has a private security industry but does not support the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.  It does not support the International Code of Conduct or Private Security Service Providers, nor does it participate in the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA).

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The Tshisekedi government has used public prosecutions of high-level officials and the creation of an anti-corruption unit to improve the DRC’s reputation on corruption.  DRC’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index score—170th out of 180—underlines the deep roots of corruption in the country.  The DRC constitution includes laws intended to fight corruption and bribery by all citizens, including public officials.  Anti-corruption laws extend to family members and political parties.  Private companies have applied their own controls to limit corruption and have in the past been more effective at controlling it.

In March 2020, President Tshisekedi created the National Agency for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption.  Currently corruption investigations are ongoing for three Managing Directors of SOEs.  In June 2020, the court convicted Tshisekedi’s former Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe of embezzlement and public corruption and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.  Accused of having embezzled funds allocated to Primary, Secondary and Technical Education (EPST), the General Inspector of EPST and General Director of the Service for Control and Payment of Teachers (SECOPE) were sentenced in March 2021 to 20 years of hard labor by the Court of Appeal of Kinshasa/Gombe.

The DRC is a signatory to both the UN Anticorruption Convention and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption but has not fully ratified the latter.  The DRC is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.  The DRC ratified a protocol agreement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on fighting corruption.  NGOs such as the consortium “The Congo is Not for Sale,” have an important role in revealing corrupt practices, and the law protects NGOs in a whistleblower role.

U.S. firms see corruption and harassment by local security forces as one of the main hurdles to investment in the DRC, particularly in the awarding of concessions, government procurement, and taxation treatment.

Resources to Report Corruption

Official government agency:

Agence de Prévention et de Lutte contre la Corruption (APLC)
Tel: +243 893 302 819

Nongovernmental organization:

Transparency International
Ligue Congolaise de Lutte contre la Corruption (LICOCO)
Avenue Luango No14, Quartier 1, N’djili
Kinshasa
+243 81 60 49 837
licocordc@gmail.com
http://www.licocordc.org

10. Political and Security Environment

In January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became President in the DRC’s first peaceful transition of power. Following President Felix Tshisekedi’s establishment of a new political alliance known as the “Sacred Union”, the former Prime Minister stepped down in February 2021.  On February 15, a week after he was sworn in as Head of the African Union, President Tshisekedi appointed Jean-Michel Lukonde as Prime Minister.  Maintaining public support for the Tshisekedi government will ultimately require the administration to deliver on the campaign slogan of “the people first.”

The security situation continues to be a concern and the U.S. Embassy through its travel advisory (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/DemocraticRepublicoftheCongoDRC.html) keeps a list of areas where it does not recommend travel by U.S. citizens.  Thousands of members of armed groups have been disarming and turning themselves in to the United Nations’ DRC peacekeeping operation (MONUSCO) and the GDRC since President Tshisekedi’s election, according to international observers, with inconsistent demobilization processes and high recidivism rates.  International statistics indicate that over 140 small and medium sized armed groups and organized criminal groups continue to operate in 17 of the DRC’s 26 provinces, primarily in the east of the country.  The foreign terrorist organization-designated ISIS-DRC (a.k.a the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group) in eastern DRC is one of the country’s most notorious and intractable armed groups and its members have shown no interest in demobilizing.  ISIS-DRC has been spreading violence throughout the eastern part of DRC fat an increasing pace since 2014 and killed at least 840 people in 2020 President Tshisekedi is cognizant of the important role security plays in attracting foreign investment, and has encouraged the Congolese army to work with MONUSCO to eliminate armed groups.

US citizens and interests are not being specifically targeted by armed groups but can easily fall victim to violence or kidnapping by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset tracks political violence in developing countries, including the DRC, http://www.acleddata.com/.  Kivu Security Tracker (www.kivusecurity.org) is another database for information on attacks in eastern DRC.  The Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizen travelers to review the Embassy’s Travel Advisory and country information page (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/DemocraticRepublicoftheCongoDRC.html) for the latest security information.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The DRC labor market has a large and low-skilled labor force with high youth unemployment.  Expatriates frequently fill jobs requiring technical training in the key mining sector.  About 85 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is in the informal sector.  About 60 percent of the total workforce is in agriculture.

DRC labor law stipulates that for businesses with over 100 employees, 10 percent of all employees should be local.  If the managing director is a foreigner, his or her deputy or secretary general is expected to be a Congolese citizen. The government can waive these provisions depending on the sector of activity and expertise available. There is no onerous conditionality, visa, residence, or work permit requirements inhibiting the mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

The DRC faces a deficit in skilled labor across all sectors. There are few formal vocational training programs, though Article 8 of the labor law stipulates that all employers should provide training to their employees.  To address the high unemployment rate, the GDRC enacted a policy giving Congolese a preference in hiring over expatriates. Laws prevent firms from firing workers under most conditions without compensation. These restrictions have deterred hiring and encouraged the use of temporary contracts in lieu of permanent hiring.  There is no government safety net to compensate laid-off workers.

Congolese law bans collective bargaining in certain sectors, including by civil servants and public employees, and the law does not provide adequate protection against anti-union discrimination.  While the right to strike is recognized, there are provisions which require unions to obtain permission and adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures before starting a strike.  Unions often strike for higher wages or the payment of back wages.

The DRC government ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) eight core conventions, but some Congolese laws continue to be inconsistent with the ILO Convention on Forced Labor.

DRC law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, or social status.  The law does not specifically protect against discrimination based on religion, age, political opinion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status.  Additionally, no law specifically prohibits discrimination in the employment of career public service members.  According to some businesses, the government does not effectively enforce relevant employment laws.

Labor law defines different standard workweeks, ranging from 45 to 72 hours, for various jobs, and prescribes rest periods and premium pay for overtime.  Employers in both the formal and informal sectors often do not respect these provisions. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime.

The labor code specifies health and safety standards, but the government does not effectively enforce labor standards in the informal sector, and enforcement is uneven to non-existent in the formal sector. The Ministry of Labor employs 146 labor inspectors, but the Labor Inspector General reports that funding is not enough to facilitate the conduct of efficient labor inspections.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance and Development Finance Programs

There is an active U.S.-DRC Investment Incentive Agreement in force.  The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) provides political risk insurance and project financing to U.S. investors and non-governmental organizations.  Though there are currently no DFC projects in the DRC, though DFC is open to working on future projects.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD) 2019 N/A 2019 $50.4 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 $86.0 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 51.3% 2019 51.4% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/
handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Kinshasa Economic Section
Jeremy Chen, Deputy Economic Chief
KinshasaEcon@state.gov

Economic and Commercial Section
310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Kinshasa, Gombe, DRC
Phone: (243) 081 556-0151, Fax: (243) 81 55 60 175
Email:  KinshasaEcon@state.gov

Djibouti

Executive Summary

Djibouti, a country with few resources, recognizes the crucial need for foreign direct investment (FDI) to stimulate economic development. The country’s assets include a strategic geographic location, free zones, an open trade regime, and a stable currency. Djibouti has identified a number of priority sectors for investment, including transport and logistics, real estate, energy, and tourism. Djibouti’s investment climate has improved in recent years, which has led to interest by U.S. and other foreign firms. There are, however, a number of reforms still needed to promote investment.

In 2019, according to the UN Conference of Trade and Development, FDI stock represented 52.5% of GDP, up slightly from 52.2% in 2018. Real GDP growth has remained between 5% and a little over 8% per year for the last five years. Inflation decreased to 0.1 % in 2018 then peaked at an estimated 3.3% in 2019 and decreased to 2.9% in 2020. In recent years, Djibouti undertook a surge of foreign-backed infrastructure loans to posture themselves as the “Singapore of Africa.” Major projects have included a new gas terminal and pipeline to Ethiopia, a new port, free zones, improved road systems, a railroad connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa, and a water pipeline from Ethiopia. Djibouti launched the first phase of an ambitious port and free zone project, Djibouti Damerjog Industrial Development (DDID) free-trade zone, scheduled to be built in three phases of five years each. The project includes a multipurpose port, a liquefied natural gas terminal, a livestock terminal, dry docks and a ship repair area, a power plant and a factory that will produce construction materials. DDID which is expected to attract foreign investors, will offer all the preferential policies guaranteed by the free zone authority, such as tax exemption, minimized restrictions on foreign labor and competitive water and electricity rates. In April 2018, the Government of Djibouti enacted tax, labor, and financial reforms to improve its investment climate.

Djibouti remains below regional and world averages in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” reports but has been steadily improving in recent years from 171 in 2017 to 112 (of 190 countries) in the 2020 ranking. Various business climate reforms were introduced in 2020 with the objectives of improving competitiveness both regionally and internationally. These reforms included starting online registration for companies and the creation of Djibouti Port Community System platform which is a portal that provides a comprehensive set of online services to the business community.

Economic development and foreign investment are hindered by high electricity costs, high unemployment, an unskilled workforce, a large informal sector, regional instability, opaque business practices, compliance risks, corruption, and a weak financial sector. The World Bank estimated the government’s public debt-to-GDP ratio was 66.7% in 2019 with a projection of 69.9% in 2020 which will gradually decrease over the years. The majority of the debt is owed to Chinese entities.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 147 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 112 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/data/exploreeconomies/djibouti
Global Innovation Index 2019 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2018 N/A https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 3,540 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Djibouti’s laws encourage FDI, with state-run media providing favorable coverage of projects funded by foreign entities. The government sees FDI as a driving force behind Djibouti’s economic growth. Faced with a high unemployment rate of over 47%, FDI is expected to generate jobs.

There are no laws, practices, or mechanisms that discriminate against foreign investors. Navigating the bureaucracy, however, can be complicated. Certain sectors, most notably public utilities, are state-owned and are not open to investors. The state-owned enterprise (SOE) Djibouti Electricity (EDD) had a monopoly on electricity production for decades, however in July 2015, the Djiboutian government approved a bill liberalizing the production of electricity. The energy sector is now open to competition through Power Purchase Agreements, however EDD retains all rights to the transmission and distribution of electricity. The liberalization of production has resulted in the private development of wind, solar, and waste to energy resources.

Djibouti’s National Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA), created in 2001 under the Ministry of Finance, promotes private-sector investment, facilitates investment operations, and works to modernize the country’s regulatory framework. NIPA assists foreign and domestic investors by disseminating information and streamlining administrative procedures. In March 2017, NIPA’s one-stop-shop was officially inaugurated. The NIPA is the main coordinator of the one-stop-shop which houses several agencies. NIPA has identified several priority sectors for investment, including infrastructure and renewable energy.

A new Minister of Investment position was created in 2016 to further attract and reach out to potential investors. The Minister reports directly to the presidency.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have equal rights in establishing and owning business enterprises and engaging in all forms of remunerative activity. Furthermore, foreign investors are not required by law to have a local partner except in the insurance industry, and there, only if the company is registered as a local company and not a branch of an existing foreign company. There is no established screening process for FDI; it is encouraged and given favorable tax status. Specific terms are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Many companies therefore have a unique status created by agreement with varying preferences and advantages. Some foreign companies choose to have a local partner to help them better navigate the local bureaucracy and cultural sensitivities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD, WTO, and the UNCTAD have not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) for Djibouti in the last three years. Post is not aware of any other multilateral organization having an IPR for Djibouti in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

The government of Djibouti has facilitated the registration of business by reducing the capital needed for investment, simplifying the formalities needed to register with the Intellectual Property office, and simplifying certain tax procedures. The most important result is the finalization of a one-stop shop, called Guichet Unique, managed by NIPA. The Guichet Unique ( http://www.guichet-unique.dj ) brings together all the agencies with which a company must register.

Typically, a company registers with the following Djiboutian offices: Office of Intellectual Property, Tax office, and the Social Security office. Online registration is not possible; the normal registration process takes 14 days, according to the World Bank. In Djibouti, new businesses must have every document notarized to begin operations.

Outward Investment

The government neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Djibouti does not have a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), nor does it have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States. However, Djibouti is eligible to benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), of which Djibouti is a member, signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States in 2001.

In March 2018, Djibouti signed the trade agreement for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent. A total of 54 countries have signed the agreement and Djibouti is one of 30 countries to have ratified the agreement. Djibouti has signed bilateral investment treaties with several countries. There is no publicly available list of these treaties, and the terms are not standardized from one treaty to the next. Other treaties to which Djibouti is a party include ESA (Eastern and South Eastern Africa)-EU Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, COMESA, Agreement for the Promotion, Protection and Guarantee of Investment among Member States of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Cotonou Agreement, AU Treaty, League of Arab States Investment, Arab League Investment Agreement, and Arab Economic Unity Agreement.

Business tax exoneration is given to all newly registered foreign and Djiboutian companies for the first three years of operations for those operating in Classes V through VIII (110,000 DJF (621 USD) to 513,000 DJF (worth of annual business taxes). For those above Class VIII (>513,000 DF (2,898) worth of annual business taxes) and for all banks, they are exonerated from the “proportional” business tax which is equivalent to 20% of their business revenues. Business value added tax (VAT) and consumption tax exoneration is provided to foreign and domestic businesses working in the hospitality, heavy- and light-industrial, real estate and land development sectors during the construction and onboarding phases of the project. As soon as the project begins operations, then the tax exoneration ends. For example, a hotel that is undergoing construction may receive VAT and consumption tax exonerations until the hotel opens for business.

Real estate and sales tax reduction from 10% to 3% is provided for all sales and purchases of land, buildings, and homes for all transactions made by any entity including individuals, foreign or domestic businesses, organizations, schools, etc. Previously, only businesses could receive a tax break of paying 5% sales or purchase tax on land and buildings in their first purchase.

Corporate (profit) tax exoneration is provided for all businesses that enter the market with an initial investment of 50 million DJF (282,486 USD) or more, for up to seven years.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Government policies are sometimes not transparent, and do not foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis. Likewise, the legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are not always transparent nor are they consistent with international norms. Rule-making and regulatory authority exists at the state level.

The Djiboutian accounting system is loosely based on the French accounting system as it existed at independence (1977) and has been updated since that time. Legal and regulatory procedures are complex and unevenly enforced. Draft bills are initiated in a process of public consultation in which stakeholders participate. Regulatory actions including laws and decrees are available online at the following site: https://www.presidence.dj/recherchetexte.php .

The State General Inspection (SGI) is tasked with ensuring human and material resources in the public sector are properly utilized. It also acts as the enforcement mechanism.

The regulatory regime is written in a way that promotes open competition, at least in the sectors that are open to private investment. Implementation of the law is sometimes not transparent, and public functions such as licensing and issuing permits are not always done in a systematic fashion. Application of the rules is not always consistent. The laws are proposed by the ministry, and then debated and passed by the parliament. The promulgation by the president is the last stage. Public finances and the terms of debt obligations are opaque. Ministries and regulatory agencies do not develop forward regulatory plans – that is, a public list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified time frame

International Regulatory Considerations

Djibouti is a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The regulatory systems in these countries are not yet harmonized. European norms and standards, especially French, are referenced in Djibouti. Djibouti is a member of the WTO.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Djibouti’s legal system is based on Civil law, inherited from the French Napoleonic Code. It consists of three courts: a Court of First Instance presided over by a single judge; a Court of Appeals, with three judges; and the Supreme Court. In addition, Islamic law (shariah) and traditional law is practiced. Djibouti has a written commercial code and specialized courts, including commercial, criminal, administrative, and civilian courts.

The court system is de jure independent from executive power. However, this is not always the case in practice so most investors in the market request the right to counsel, including agreements for arbitration, in a recognized international court. International lawyers practicing in Djibouti have reported effective application of maritime and other commercial laws, but in the past, foreign companies operating in Djibouti have reported that court deliberations were biased or delayed.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The country’s legal system has no discriminatory policy against foreign investment, and frequently negotiates extended tax breaks and other incentives to attract larger investments. The NIPA website has useful information and acts as a guide for investors:  www.djiboutinvest.com. The agency oversees the “guichet unique”, which acts as the one stop shop for investing in Djibouti: www.guichet-unique.dj .

The Djibouti Office of Industrial and Commercial Protection (ODPIC) is the agency in charge of registering businesses. Its website contains information about the registration process:  https://odpic.net/ .

Competition and Antitrust Laws

In 2008, Djibouti adopted a law on competition and consumer protection, which does not cover state-owned enterprises. Under this law, the Government of Djibouti regulates prices in areas where competition remains limited. For example, the government regulates postal services, telecommunications, utilities, and urban transport services. Djibouti does not have an agency that specifically promotes competition and does not have a comprehensive strategy to restrict market monopolies

Expropriation and Compensation

Foreign companies enjoy the same benefits as domestic companies under Djibouti’s Investment Code. The Investment Code stipulates that “no partial or total, temporary or permanent expropriation will take place without equitable compensation for the damages suffered.” There are no known recent cases of U.S. companies in Djibouti being subject to expropriation. There have been cases of foreign companies facing de facto expropriation via fines, while other companies have had their concession to run a public service unilaterally revoked. The government may expropriate land when it is needed for public utility. In that case, the government will compensate the landowner by providing land at a different location or by cash settlement.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Djibouti recently became a member state of ICSID. On April 12, 2019, Djibouti signed the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention, also known as the Washington Convention). Djibouti made its deposit of ratification on June 9, 2020 for an entry into force on July 9, 2020.

Djibouti is a contracting member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Djibouti’s government has had only a few investment disputes in the past several years, none with U.S. businesses. In some cases, the disputes have been settled in international arbitration courts and the government has abided by those decisions. In other cases, there has been de facto expropriation through large fines. As in any country, a strong, enforceable contract is important.

The government passed a law in November 2017 permitting the government to unilaterally alter or terminate contracts. Using this law, in February 2018, Djibouti’s president issued a decree abrogating the government’s contract with the Emirati company, DP World, concerning the Doraleh Container Terminal, later nationalizing the equipment, physical assets, and land. DP World continued to hold 33.33% of shares until July 2018, when the government terminated the shareholders’ agreement with DP World and later nationalized all shares. Throughout, DP World has continued to claim that the 30-year 2006 Doraleh Container Terminal concession agreement remains in force.

In January 2020, the London Court of International Arbitration decided Djibouti should restore DP World’s rights to operate Doraleh Container Terminal for 25 years, in line with the original deal. It was the court’s fifth ruling in favor of DP World since Djibouti nationalized the port. In response, Djibouti’s president released an official communiqué rejecting the court ruling, stating “As the Republic of Djibouti has consistently indicated since the termination of the concession, the only possible outcome is allocation of fair compensation in accordance with international law.”

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

There is no domestic arbitration body within the country. In February 2014, the IGAD countries agreed to set up an international Business Arbitration Center in Djibouti. This institution provides a mechanism for resolving business disputes and helps create a more transparent business environment in the region by reinforcing the principles of contract law and increasing the number of lawyers practicing commercial and contract law in Djibouti. Djibouti’s rule of law is weak as it relates to business disputes involving non-Djiboutian. Investment dispute cases are not made public.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Djibouti has bankruptcy laws, and bankruptcy is not criminalized. Insolvency laws are a bright spot in Djibouti’s investment climate, as the country ranked 44 out of 190 by the World Bank in 2020 in this area.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Tax benefits and incentives fall under two categories detailed in the investment code. Investments greater than DJF 50 million (USD 282,486) that create several permanent jobs may be exempted from license and registration fees, property taxes, taxes on industrial and commercial profits, and taxes on the profits of corporate entities. Imported raw materials used in manufacturing are exempted from the internal consumption tax. These exemptions apply for up to a maximum of ten years after companies start producing materials in Djibouti. Incentives are often unique to an individual company or investment and are agreed upon with relevant ministries. Projects can be delayed if all relevant ministries are not consulted during negotiations. To promote exports, Djibouti has multiple free zones where companies enjoy full exemption from direct and indirect taxes for a period of up to ten years.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Djibouti Free Zone (DFZ) is located on 40 hectares and offers office space, warehouses, light industrial units, and hangars. Businesses located in the Free Zone do not pay corporate taxes, have a simplified registration process, and receive other benefits such as assistance obtaining work permits and visas. Currently, 180 companies from more than 30 countries operate out of the Free Zone. In December 2013, the DAM Commercial Free Zone opened in the Damerjog region, south of Djibouti City. In March 2018, the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority and China Merchants Group began construction on a large free zone called Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ). The first phase, a 240-hectare pilot zone is currently operational. It consists of four industrial clusters which will focus on trade and logistics, export processing, business, and financial support services, as well as manufacturing and duty-free merchandise retail. When complete it will cover 4,800 hectares and offer office space, warehouses, industrial units, and will be connected directly with the ports in later phases. It will be the largest free zone in Africa.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government mandates local employment as long as the qualifications or expertise is available locally. However, these schemes are not equally applied to senior management and board of directors where foreign employment is more readily accepted. The process for visas, work permits, and other requirements in order to operate as a foreign employee is not onerous and is easily accessible through Djibouti’s Guichet Unique. Work permits follow a graduated fee schedule: 200,000 Djibouti francs (USD 1,124), 100,000 Djibouti francs (USD 563) and 50,000 Djibouti francs (USD 281) according to the qualifications required for a position.

The government does not follow “forced localization.” The Djiboutian investment code guarantees investors the right to freely import all goods, equipment, products, or material necessary for their investments; display products and services; determine and run marketing policy and production; choose customers and suppliers; and set prices. Performance requirements are not a pre-condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding foreign direct investments. Incentives do, however, increase with the size of the investment and the number of jobs created.

There are no measures that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the economy/country’s territory. However, there are no mechanisms that are used to enforce rules on local data storage within Djibouti.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/djibouti#registering-property .

Intellectual Property Rights

Djibouti’s legal structure for protecting and enforcing IPR within Djibouti is weak but developing. There are few existing protections. However, the government passed a law that protects artists’ copyrights.

Djibouti ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention, the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Rights, and the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literature and Art Works. The Ministry of Communication and the Djibouti Office for Intellectual Property Rights are responsible for safeguarding intellectual property after registering products. Counterfeit products are commonly available in Djibouti’s markets. Infringing products include clothing, watches, electronics, and bags. Because of the nascent nature of IPR protections, counterfeit products are rarely seized, and no statistics on seizures are published. There have been reports of seizures of counterfeit money; however, statistics are unavailable.

Djibouti is not listed in the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 report or the Notorious Markets List. Compared to other industries, the sale of counterfeit goods does not appear to be at higher risk of labor rights violations, including child labor, forced labor, and dangerous working conditions. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

The Embassy POC is Political Economic Officer Joseph Chamberlain at DjiboutiCommerce@state.gov .

For a list of local lawyers, see: https://dj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

In recent years, Djibouti has relied heavily on foreign investment, and the government is open and receptive to foreign investors. Portfolio investment in Djibouti is primarily done through private equity. Some multinational companies with investments in Djibouti are publicly traded. Investments in Djibouti are inherently illiquid for that reason, and the purchase or sale of any sizeable investment in Djibouti affects the market accordingly. Djibouti does not have its own stock market. Existing policies facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign companies do not face discrimination in obtaining it. Generally, however, only well-established businesses obtain bank credit, as the cost of credit is high. Credit is available to the private sector, whether foreign or domestic. Where credit is not available, it is primarily due to the associated risk and not structural factors.

Money and Banking System

Three large banks, Bank of Africa, Bank for Commerce and Industry – Mer Rouge, and CAC bank dominate Djibouti’s banking sector. While these 3 banks account for the majority share of deposits in-country, there are 13 total banks, all established in the last 14 years. In 2011 a new banking law went into effect, fixing the minimum capital requirement for financial institutions at DJF 1 billion (USD 5,651,250) and extended the scope of the law to include financial auxiliaries, such as money transfer agencies and Islamic financial institutions. In addition to the three names banks above, foreign banks include Silkroad Bank, Bank of China the Burkina Faso-based International Business Bank.

The banking sector suffers from a lack of consistent supervision, but it has been improving. Non-performing loans decreased from 16.26% in 2019 to 13.31% in 2020. The total assets of all the banks were estimated to be USD 3.1 billion in 2020, of which 80% were held by the 4 largest banks. The country has a Central Bank, which is in charge of delivering licenses to banks and supervising them. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in the country. They are subject to the same regulations as local banks. Djibouti has not announced that it intends to implement or allow the implementation of blockchain technologies in its banking transactions. Some banks have begun to provide mobile and e-banking services. In June 2020, Djibouti Telecom launched D-Money, a new Digital Mobile Money service which allows users to make digital money transfers and payments directly from mobile phones.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Djibouti has no foreign exchange restrictions. Businesses are free to repatriate profits. There are no limitations on converting or transferring funds, or on the inflow and outflow of cash. The Djiboutian franc, which has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1949, is stable. The fixed exchange rate is 177.71 Djiboutian francs to the U.S. dollar. Funds can be transferred by using banks or international money transfer companies such as Western Union, all monitored by the Central Bank.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies. There are no time limitations on remittances. The government does not issue bonds on the open market, and cash-like instruments are not in common use in Djibouti, so direct currency transfers are the only practical method of remitting profits.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In mid-2020 the Djiboutian government announced the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. According to a government statement, the state-owned fund will target investments locally and in neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa. It will focus on industries including telecommunications, technology, energy, and logistics. The fund will act as a long-term investor and is required to reinvest the entire net profits of its activity. The government aims to fund it to $1.5 billion within ten years. Article 12 of Law N° 75/AN/20/8th L creating the Sovereign Fund of Djibouti states the fund adopts and implements best practice in terms of transparency and performance reporting in accordance with the Santiago Principles. As of mid-2021, the fund was not yet operational.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Wholly owned SOEs control telecommunications, water, and electricity distribution in Djibouti. Major print, television, and radio outlets are also state-run. Additionally, Djibouti’s ports, airport, and free zones are managed by an SOE. There is a state-owned national airline that is wholly managed by the ports and free zones authority. SOEs are required by law to publish an annual report. The Court of Auditors is charged with auditing SOEs, but they have not yet released assets, income, employment, or other details about the SOEs. There is no publicly available list of SOEs.

State-run services, such as municipal garbage collection and real estate, do not hold legal monopolies, but are afforded material advantages by the government, e.g., government-backed loan guarantees for the real estate sector. Djibouti is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In order to exercise ownership in SOEs, the government uses several laws and decrees, most of which were promulgated in the 1990s. The established practices are not consistent with OECD guidelines. No centralized ownership entity exists. SOE senior management reports directly to the relevant line ministry. There is also an independent board of directors whose members are chosen from other ministries

Privatization Program

A few SOEs have been privatized, such as a milk factory several years ago and a water bottling plant in 2015. No particular sector is targeted. The bidding process is not clear and transparent, which makes the participation of foreign investors difficult.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is nascent but growing awareness among both companies and consumers in Djibouti of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). Businesses which might harm the environment are, in general, obligated to conduct studies on the environmental impact before proceeding with their project. The government does not promote RBC in a systematic way, although it does acknowledge good corporate social responsibility and covers it favorably in state media. However, the government does not factor RBC policies or practices into its procurement decisions. There are no corporate governance, accounting, or executive compensation standards to protect stakeholders. The government does not adhere to OECD guidelines in RBC matters. There have been reports that the government does not effectively and fairly enforce domestic laws relating to labor rights, environmental protections, consumer protections, and human rights. There are no independent NGOs, investment funds, worker organizations, or associations that monitor RBC in Djibouti. Djibouti has a salt extraction industry, but it does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Resources to Report Corruption

Djibouti has several laws to combat corruption by public officials. These laws were either passed by the government or contained in the Penal Code. However, there have been no records of cases to combat corruption by public officials. Corruption laws are extended to all family members of officials and across political parties, but they have not been applied in a non-discriminatory manner. Djibouti does not have laws or regulations to counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

Djibouti is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption. There are two government entities responsible for investigating corruption and enforcing the regulations. The State General Inspection (SGI) is tasked with ensuring human and material resources in the public sector are properly utilized. The Court of Auditors is mandated to verify and audit all public establishments for transparency and accountability, and to implement necessary legal sanctions. Both institutions are mandated to produce annual corruption reports. Despite the legal mandates, both institutions lack the authority to push for meaningful reform. The National Commission for Anti-Corruption is also mandated to enforce the laws on combatting corruption and provide safe haven for whistleblowers. This Commission launched a program in March 2018 to urge high-ranking government officials to publicly declare all of their assets. However, its effectiveness has not been proven so far. The contracting code and other laws passed by Djibouti contain provisions to counter conflict-of-interest contracts or government procurement.

According to a law passed in 2013, the government requires private and public companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prevent and prohibit bribery of public officials. However, these codes have not been implemented. Likewise, the government requirement that private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance to detect and prevent bribery of government officials is not enforced. Djibouti is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Djibouti is a signatory country of the UN Convention against Corruption. Djibouti ranked 147 out of 180 countries in the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International.

U.S. firms have not specifically noted corruption as an obstacle to foreign direct investment in Djibouti, but there were allegations of foreign companies having to meet requirements such as renting houses owned by senior officials or hiring certain employees as a condition of receiving government procurement contracts. In addition, one company reported harassment of employees by local competitors. Prosecution and punishment for corruption is rare.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption is listed below:

Fatouma Mahamoud Abdillahi
President
Commission Nationale Independante pour la Prevention et de Lutte Contre la Corruption
Plateau du Serpent
+253 21 35 16 03
anticorruption@intnet.d j

No “watchdog” organization is present in Djibouti.

10. Political and Security Environment

Djibouti has seen only very limited episodes of political violence over the last two decades.  In the last ten years, there have been no known incidents of political violence leading to damage to foreign investments.  Both the ruling coalition party and the recognized opposition parties favor foreign direct investment into Djibouti and local attitudes towards foreigners are positive.

Djibouti held presidential elections April 09, 2021, with President Ismael Omar Guelleh winning a fifth consecutive term with 98% of the vote. His 22-year reign has contributed to stability and economic growth, but questions of succession and subsequent instability remain. The country unilaterally seized, in February 2018, DP World’s 33% stake in the Doraleh Container Terminal, a case DP World continues to pursue in international courts.

Djibouti was recently awarded the International Peace Award by the journal Jeune Afrique for its secure environment, despite being surrounded by countries facing instability.  According to data acquired by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Djibouti’s instances of violence and disordered has significantly declined in the past three years.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Djibouti’s official unemployment rate is 47%. Youth unemployment, defined locally as the share of the labor force between age 15 and 24 without work but is available and actively seeing employment, has remained between 11% and 12% in the past three decades. Estimates of a sizeable informal labor market of up to 75% exist in Djibouti, with a larger informal market outside of the capital city of Djibouti. The formal labor market is heavily service- or government-oriented with growing markets in construction, logistics, and transportation. Skilled Djiboutian workers, especially in high-demand trades such as construction, are in short supply.

Djibouti has complicated labor laws that favor the employee, especially in the areas of disputes and termination. Vocational and professional training facilities remain limited. The World Bank, the Ministry of Finance, USAID, and other entities are working on a variety of initiatives to address the shortage of workforce development programs. The government has promoted entrepreneurship as a means of stimulating the economy. The government, in partnership with the World Bank and European Union, recently opened the entrepreneurship and leadership center (CLE – Centre Leadership Entreprenariat ) to assist start-up companies.

Foreign workers are legally allowed to work in Djibouti only if their qualifications or expertise are not available among the nationals. In January 2017, the cost for a work permit was reviewed and classified in three different categories based on the type of profession with respective annual fees of 50,000 Djibouti francs (USD 281), 100,000 Djibouti francs (USD 563) and Djibouti francs 200,000 (USD 1,125). The National Agency for Employment, Training, and Professional Integration (ANEFIP) maintains a database of Djiboutian job-seekers and issues work permits to foreign workers.

Employers have to abide by the Labor Code. Workers who are laid off get more compensation than employees who are fired. No unemployment insurance or other social safety net programs exist for workers laid off for economic reasons. Only those workers who contributed to the social insurance for 25 years and are sixty years of age are entitled to retirement benefits.

Minimum wage is DJF 45,000 (USD 254) per month. By law, all employers are obligated to make social security payments on behalf of their employees, through the National Council for Social Security. Two large labor unions exist in Djibouti, but only the Djiboutian Workers Union is recognized by international organizations.

Labor laws are not waived to attract investment, but the investment code and free zones have separate legal provisions to attract investment. By law, labor unions are independent of the government and employers. In practice they can be influenced by the government and/or employers. In case of labor disputes, the Labor Inspector will bring together the employer and the employee to settle the case acting as a mediator. If the mediation fails, then the case will be sent to the Court. The process is opaque and the results are not publicized.

In November 2020, the National Assembly amended the Labor Code to require companies employing 11 or more employees to report annually on the status of its workforce. This report aims to prevent companies from hiring foreigners illegally, not respecting the legally allowed pregnancy leave, and/or illegally firing employees.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $3,346 2019 $3,319 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 52.5% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx

* Ministry of Finance and Economy

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

14. Contact for More Information

Joseph Chamberlain
U.S. Embassy Djibouti
Lot 350-B Haramouss
B.P. 185
Djibouti
+253 (21) 45 30 00
djibouticommerce@state.gov 

Equatorial Guinea

Executive Summary

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is endowed with oil and gas resources that attracted billions of dollars in direct U.S. investment instrumental to extracting those resources. Discovery of oil in the 1990s resulted in rapid economic growth by the late 2000s. Growth has slowed as several operational oil fields have matured and are now in decline. Equatorial Guinea is among the world’s lowest ranking countries in various global indices, including those for corruption, transparency, and ease of doing business. Some companies have reported that these ratings underscore the challenging and opaque environment in which both local and foreign businesses must operate, with corruption, perceptions of a biased judiciary and a burdensome, inefficient bureaucracy undermining the general investment climate in the country.

The government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is seeking investment in several underdeveloped sectors: agribusiness; fishing; energy and mining; petrochemicals, plastics, and composites; travel and tourism; and finance. The Equatoguinean domestic market is small, with an estimated population of 1.2 million, although the country is a member of the Central African Monetary and Economic Union (CEMAC) sub-region, comprising more than 50 million people. The zone has a central bank and a common currency – the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro. Equatorial Guinea graduated from “Least Developed Country” (LCD) status in 2017 and recently reactivated its efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization. Equatorial Guinea became a full member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2017 and is a member of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF).

Equatorial Guinea’s economy has suffered from the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic. The drop in global demand and oil prices occasioned by the crisis, coupled with the drop in household consumption and the slowdown in business activities due to measures to contain the spread of the disease, exacerbated the country’s already serious growth problems. Real GDP shrank 6.1% in 2020, compared with 5.6% in 2019. It was the eighth consecutive year of recession due to growth problems in both the oil (–7.2 %) and nonoil sectors (–4.7%). On the demand side, investment contracted by 35%. Although output fell, prices rose. Inflation was 3% in 2020, up from 1.2% in 2019, the result of a pandemic-related decline in the terms of trade, reduced supply of essential goods, and a worsening monetary situation. As a result, the Bank of Central African States gave up trying to reduce liquidity in the banking system and proposed a series of measures to support the economies in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) by cutting the policy interest rate and the marginal lending facility rate from 3.5% to 3.25%, and from 6% to 5%, respectively.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank nearly 50% between 2014 and 2019, from USD 21.7 billion to USD 11 billion. The economy is expected to grow 2.6% in 2021, a projection based on the successful completion of a large gas project and the recovery of the world economy by the second half of the year. The country is expected to again return to recession in 2022, with a real GDP decline of -4.4%. The inflation rate is expected to settle at 2.9% over the next two years, remaining within the CEMAC limit of 3%. The budget is expected to be in a deficit of 2.4% of GDP in 2021 and 1.5% of GDP in 2022. The current account balance is expected to remain in deficit at 6% of GDP in 2021 and 5.6% the following year. The country’s main risk factor, beyond the persistence of the pandemic, remains the lack of diversification of its oil-based economy, to which is added the structural weakness of inadequate human capital. Indeed, the country has a capacity deficit, particularly in terms of public finance management and governance, that hinders effective implementation of its economic and social transformation policy.

On December 18, 2019, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a USD 282.8 million, three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Equatorial Guinea. The arrangement was intended to support Equatoguinean authorities’ three-year economic program, which aims at further reducing macroeconomic imbalances and addressing financial sector vulnerabilities; improving social protection and human capital development; promoting economic diversification; and fostering good governance, increasing transparency, and fighting corruption—all with the overarching aim of achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Equatorial Guinea’s Fund-supported program was also intended to serve as a mechanism to spur additional external resources as well as contribute to rebuilding the CEMAC regional reserves. The new Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning, Valentin Ela Maye Mba, is tasked with improving the country’s economy and fiscal situation, including working with international financial institutions. The new three-year plan was supposed to increase revenue through greater tax compliance among individuals and greater public payment for utilities, such as water and electricity. Government leaders have publicly stated that good governance is important, and there were several bills proposed or passed in 2020 and 2021 to help, including the Fiscal Incentive Law to increase tax compliance by registering the tax obligations of individuals; and the Anti-Corruption Law, which has been under discussion for more than a year. Foreign businesses continue to express challenges and concerns about new regional banking and foreign exchange regulations implemented by the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) given the lack of liquidity in the local banking sector.

Despite various challenges, U.S. businesses have mainly had success in the hydrocarbons sector. Some U.S. businesses have profited in other sectors, such as technology and computer services. Various international companies continued to enter the market in response to new licensing rounds in the hydrocarbons and mining sectors. U.S. businesses may find investment opportunities in other sectors such as telecommunications, infrastructure, agriculture, mining, security, and transportation.

Since the onset of COVID-19, Equatorial Guinea has been proactive in safeguarding opportunities for foreign investors and continuing to drive capital into its hydrocarbon resources. Investors have reported that past commercial disputes have involved delayed payment, or non-payment, by the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea to foreign firms for delivered goods and services. Certain companies reportedly exited the country with millions in unpaid bills.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 174 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/en/
countries/equatorial-guinea 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 178 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/
exploreeconomies/equatorial-guinea
 
Global Innovation Index 2020 NA https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $908 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $6,460 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD?locations=GQ
 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is still actively soliciting foreign investments. The government considered 2019 to be the “Year of Energy,” with new licensing rounds for hydrocarbons fields and various events to encourage investment. This was supposed to continue into the 2020 “Year of Investment,” focusing on hydrocarbons, mining exploration, and petrochemicals, which was disrupted by the pandemic. In 2017, the Government started the donor facilitation initiative with the World Bank, as part of a strategy towards membership in the World Trade Organization. The government also passed a law to establish a “Single Window” for investors and simplify the process to register a business, which launched in Malabo in January 2019 but was generally moribund pending identification of priority investment areas from the April 2019 third national economic conference, the final report for which has yet to be published. The government continued to partner with the World Bank on reviewing improvements to the process. A second office was expected to open in Bata in 2020 but was put on hold due to COVID-19

Statutorily, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Planning approves investment permits. A new state entity, Holdings Equatorial Guinea 2020, was created to help guide diversification efforts. This entity was expected to serve as a hub for foreign investors. For now, however, investors still work with the relevant government ministries to negotiate contracts. The government, including at the highest levels, has regular meetings and conferences with business leaders and investors, though we are unaware of any formal business roundtable. For example, in November 2018, the World Bank and the Singapore Cooperation Programs led a conference in Equatorial Guinea on improving the business climate.

The country’s Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, has been leading a campaign to increase investment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on oil prices and African economies, the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons granted oil and gas companies a two-year extension on their exploration programs. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons will also encourage flexibility on the work programs of producing companies to ensure growth and stability in the market. The measure reflects broader efforts to drive global investment into Equatorial Guinea in line with its 2020 Year of Investment campaign. The extensions may particularly aid U.S. companies, which represent the majority of investment in Equatorial Guinea’s energy sector and are currently in the early stages of exploration and seismic interpretation of several new areas in existing offshore blocks. The Year of Investment, which was to include several in-country conferences and a global investment roadshow, was adapted to COVID-19 restrictions by using webinars and video conferencing to connect with investors. In February 2021, a consortium led by Noble Energy/Chevron, Marathon Oil, and EGLNG achieved the first gas flow from the successful execution of the Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub plan. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant, and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. In December 2020, the Ministry announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.

The government also took several steps to support small and medium enterprises suffering during the pandemic, such as delaying and lowering tax payments, temporarily reducing the cost of electricity, and providing some small grants for micro-enterprises.

The Equatoguinean authorities have been willing to receive and protect all Foreign Direct Investment, including through changes in the country’s legal framework in recent years.

Currently there is no law or practice that discriminates against investors based on their origin, sex, age, race, political creed, or religion. The Law on the Investment Regime of the country establishes in Article 12 that the State commits itself to fair and equitable treatment for all investors. Decree No. 72/2018, dated April 18, 2018, and amended Article 2 of Decree No. 127/2004, dated September 14, 2004, eliminates the requirement of having an Equatoguinean partner to invest in the country’s non-oil sector.

Law 7/1992 and Law 54/1994 provide for the creation of an Investment Promotion Center, which must advise the government on investment policies, promote investments and support investors with information and in the resolution of conflicts. These Laws also provide for the creation of a National Investment Commission. Neither the Center nor the Commission is currently operational. Given the need for these types of organizations, in 2015, through Decree No. 134/2015, the Government mandated the Ministry of Commerce and Business Promotion to create and start up an agency to promote, integrate and coordinate the national policy of attraction of investors. In April 2021, this task was still in process and expected to start operating in 2023.

In November 2018, the Government organized a high-level seminar on the business climate in Equatorial Guinea with participation of the public and private sectors and development partners. For three days, they reflected on the position of Equatorial Guinea in each of the parameters of the Ease of Doing Business Ranking and the International Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. As a result of the recommendations of this seminar, the government issued Decree 109/2019, creating a committee in charge of improving the national business environment, bringing together representatives of the government, private sector, and civil society to debate and propose reforms. The World Bank has subsequently partnered with the government to create and implement a plan to improve the business climate.

Even though the country does not currently have an investment promotion agency, the Ministry of Commerce has prioritized the implementation of a national agency for investment promotion within its Enhanced Integrated Framework program with World Trade Organization. The ministry has plans to establish a Foreign Trade Single Window to complement the existing one for domestic businesses.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government is generally supportive of foreign direct investment. The Foreign Investment Law (Decree 72/2018 of April 2018) modified the provisions of Decree 127/2004 stipulating that shareholder capital firms and companies operating in the petroleum sector must have Equatoguinean shareholders. The government requires that Equatoguinean partners hold at least 35 percent of share capital of foreign companies or companies created by foreigners in the hydrocarbons sector only. Equatoguinean partners must also account for one third of the representatives on the Board of Directors. Apart from the hydrocarbons sector, investments must not be part of public-private partnerships with a government entity. The Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons generally approves any major deal in the hydrocarbons sector. Decisions regarding larger investment deals may rise to the presidential level. U.S. investors may reach out to the Equatoguinean Embassy in the United States for guidance regarding connection to the appropriate ministry for outreach efforts.

The Hydrocarbons Law and the National Content Regulation establish various requirements for international oil and gas companies that wish to operate in Equatorial Guinea. These include a minority partner stake for either the state oil company (GE Petrol) or the state gas company (Sonagas). In addition, there are national content requirements, many established in 2014 by the then-Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy, which apply to both producers and service companies, including that 70% of staff must be Equatoguinean, 50-100% of services (depending on category) must be procured from national company partners, and a percentage of the company’s revenue must be allocated to corporate social responsibility projects approved by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (the Ministry was divided into two in 2017, including a separate Ministry of Industry and Energy). Ministerial Order 1/2020 (April 2020) established that companies can employ foreign laborers in the oil and gas sector for a maximum period of three years, though companies may apply for extensions in exceptional cases, with compliance overseen by the Ministry’s Director General of National Content. Minister of Mines Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima was quoted as saying, “With the release of this new order, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons intends to enhance the capacity of local service companies while guaranteeing the creation of local jobs for our trained and educated youth.” While Equatorial Guinea sought foreign direct investment in several of its capital-intensive energy and petrochemicals projects through its 2020 Year of Investment campaign, the country simultaneously prioritized the procurement of local goods and services and the stimulation of local jobs. The legislation follows the completion of capacity building and training programs, particularly at the gas and oil industry-supported National Technological Institute for Hydrocarbons in Mongomo. Given the generally low quality of education in the country, international companies complain about the difficulty of recruiting qualified locals.

Equatorial Guinea belongs to the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Laws in Africa (OHADA) and falls under the OHADA Uniform Act on the law of commercial companies and economic interest groups of January 30, 2014.

Law 4/2009 on the Land Ownership Regime in Equatorial Guinea establishes that foreigners cannot own land but rather purchase a lease with a maximum duration of 99 years.

The foreign investor is required to justify the origin of the funds used for the creation of a company in Equatorial Guinea.

In 2019, the government began its second attempt to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), submitting an incomplete application and meeting with civil society and other interested organizations. By 2020, the government established two EITI commission offices in Malabo and Bata — the largest cities — and published gas and oil contracts on its EITI website.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has not conducted an investment policy review through any institutions, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. In October 2019, the World Bank presented its Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) that analyzed various sectors of the Equatoguinean economy and prospects for increased economic development and trade.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020, starting a business in Equatorial Guinea requires 16 procedures and usually takes 33 days, the same as in 2019. Equatorial Guinea was ranked 183 of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 for ease of “starting a business.” In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea passed Decree No. 67/2017, published in September 2017, to establish a “Single Window” or “single window” to simplify the process to register a business and speed the process to seven business days. The “single window” was launched in January 2019, after the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea equipped facilities for processing applications, and trained staff. There is a webpage with information, https://www.ventanillaempresarialge.com/en/welcome/ , but businesses cannot yet register online. Generally, business must register with various agencies at the national level and some local offices. The Single Window does not eliminate steps, but it does consolidate visits to five offices into one. The below chart illustrates the steps that an entrepreneur can complete at the Single Window:

BEFORE NOW
Public Notary Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Trade register Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Finance, the Economy, and Planning Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – General Direction of Commerce Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – Department of Business Promotion Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Labor Ministry of Labor
Social Security Administration (INSESO) Social Security Administration (INSESO)