An insider’s view: Dan Kashironge on the DRC

  • Congo is ranked 183 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The country holds extraordinary mineral wealth and mining has been the main economic activity in the country up until recent years where other dominant sectors are emerging - including agriculture, fishing and forestry. The country is developing a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem – with young people propelling change.

    About Dan Kashironge: A guitar amateur, and fitness fanatic – Dan is the newest addition to the Afriwise legal community. Based in Goma and with degrees from Universities in Kenya and Brussels and further courses from institutions in the Netherlands and France – he is a truly international lawyer. Dan’s practice focus is dispute resolution,  working on cross-border business transactions in the DRC (OHADA) and the East Africa region. He is a partner at Mercalex – an Afriwise contributing firm.

    Dan Kashironge

    Is there a particular case you have worked on that stands out?

    My career has been marked by various cases that have really helped me – not one in particular. One of my mentors (and founding partner at Mercalex) instilled in me this philosophy: Every new case I work on, I write down something I have learned from the case, and ask myself, what new thing did I get from this experience?

    What’s the DRC’s court system like?

    In terms of dispute resolution, and in terms of business law in general, the DRC is going through a transition period. Our legal system is being dramatically shaped by OHADA which is modernising business law in Africa by going beyond substantive law and promoting arbitration. However, we are still adjusting, and courts are not fully conversant with the new framework. Many are still not open to arbitration and mediation in areas of business law. Change is coming, particularly with the commercial courts. These are new specialised courts – they are not yet in all the provinces but in some larger cities, here in Goma, Bukavu, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa. They are far more active in business and are emblematic of the country’s commitment to facilitate business transactions in the DRC.

    OHADA is the French acronym for "Organisation pour l'Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires", which translates into English as "Organisation for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa". The DRC joined in 2012 and there are currently 17 member countries. OHADA was created with the objective of fostering economic development in West and Central Africa by creating a better investment climate so as to attract investment in a 225 million-consumer market.

    How would an international company fare in DRC’s legal system?

    It’s very hard to tell. The few clients we have heard from so far inform us that things are slow, but good. This situation is changing, there is a real drive and commitment to serve justice.

    What’s access to law like in the DRC?

    There are significant challenges related to access to legal practices. This is particularly the case in the smaller towns, where many businesses do not know much about the role of the lawyer in a business. In fact, we get virtually no website traffic from local IP addresses or enquiries – I think this is due to technology gaps and local businesses remaining completely detached from legal services.

    What’s the business environment like more generally?

    Knowing what’s happening on the legal sphere is a challenge, much of our law is not published and our country is mapped by informal businesses. For a formal business actor to be successful they must be interactive with local and informal business actors. It is essential local practices are understood otherwise success will be limited, we tend to act as a bridge between local and foreign actors.

    What does a weekend in Goma look like?

    Goma is quite lively, as touristic city! We have karaoke on weekends, in fact music is an integral part of our culture – in every corner of my city you will find some form of entertainment related to the arts. Our hospitality industry is booming.

    What’s your outlook for the DRC?

    The future is extremely bright, young people are really determined to make a change. You find many business hubs and incubators across cities; entrepreneurship is really growing here. Over the next 10 years we are going to see an increase in new opportunities and new approaches to life.

    Aerial View of Goma (copyright Monusco Photos)