What will be the economic impact of the coronavirus in the DRC?
The economic impact will be significant. While the government is doing its best in trying to mitigate the effect on small businesses, bankruptcies and job losses will nonetheless happen.
The extroverted nature of the Congolese economy will have a severe impact on its already precarious balances and on the government's ability to generate the revenue needed to implement its budget. Indeed, the DRC imports everything it consumes and exports mainly raw materials without local processing. In addition, its trade is particularly concentrated with China, whose growth rate has significantly declined, the direct consequence being a reduction in its demand for the minerals that the DRC exports. The Congolese government will therefore find it difficult to cope without an intervention, even temporary, by the IMF and other donors. The constraints on local businesses, individuals, and households imposed by the fight against the epidemic will surely reinforce these effects (working from home, low demand, difficulty in fulfilling orders), especially with regards to the informal part of our economy, which is by far the largest.
The lesson will be the same on a global scale everywhere, albeit to varying degrees: to reduce dependence on supply chains or outlets that are too far away, by giving priority to the development of local production, to ensure the extraction of maximum local added value through the processing of our raw materials before export, and to guarantee the emergence of a regional market based on short circuits. It is undoubtedly time to push the African Union's agenda on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), so that we are collectively less vulnerable in the future.
What are your recommendations to the Congolese population and decision-making bodies?
My only possible recommendation to the public would be to respect the barrier actions and measures advocated by the government. Only a collective effort could allow us to limit the damage caused by the pandemic. I wish Congolese authorities great courage in these difficult times, and hope they will dare to take decisions in spite of the lack of information regarding this ill-understood virus. My recommendation is that they should start thinking about the future immediately. We will emerge from this crisis, it is inevitable, and we must already think about the roadmap needed to initiate a rapid recovery and begin the necessary reforms to ensure that we never fall back to this level of health vulnerability again.
Copyright : ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP