Profit potential in the DRC for Zambian agribusiness companies

Zambia market illustration

A significant opportunity exists to supply the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a market of approximately 100 million people, with products from Zambia, according to Simon Bentley, managing director of Farm Depot. This retail chain provides a broad spectrum of agricultural products – such as animal feed, fertiliser and seed – to smallholder farmers in Zambia.

He observed that the DRC produces very few products domestically, leading to a high reliance on imports. Farm Depot has strategically located stores near the Zambia-DRC border, attracting Congolese customers crossing into Zambia to make purchases.

While Bentley is open to the idea of establishing stores within the DRC, he says that the entry costs are substantial, necessitating significant financial resources. (Read more: Zambia – The journey of building a retail chain for farmers)

In an earlier interview with How we made it in Africa, Tue Nyboe Andersen, managing director of Lusaka-based investment firm Kukula Capital, noted that the southern region of the DRC has an estimated population of 12 million, yet very little commercial agriculture. “There is a lot of informal trade finding its way across the border but for more structured exports, it is a headache to get products into the country. What works best is if you have a partnership with a Congolese entity that buys the products from Zambia. Trying to operate in the DRC from Zambia is not easy. So there are some challenges but there is a huge opportunity in the DRC,” he explained. (Read more: Investor highlights promising business opportunities in Zambia)

Sarah Ngwenya, CEO of the Zambian soya bean processing firm Kalomo Grain Marketing, believes the DRC will become a pivotal market for her company’s soya-bean-based cooking oil, known as Supreme Oil. Her firm has already initiated supply of Supreme Oil to a client in the DRC. (Read more: Zambian soya bean trader expands business by manufacturing edible oil)

Sharing this sentiment is Brian Malambo, the Zambian-born CEO of private equity firm Monter Capital, who sees notable potential for exporting maize meal from Zambia to the DRC. Maize meal, a dietary staple in numerous Southern and East African countries, is the primary ingredient for traditional porridges. (Read more: Investor bullish on soya in Zambia and meat production in Botswana)