Belgian businessmen on investment mission

About 112 people representing some 62 companies from the French-speaking part of Belgium are currently visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring Republic of Congo to assess the possibilities of investment in the two countries.

Sources in Brussels, Belgium, told IRIN on Tuesday that the visit was the most important Belgian economic and commercial mission organised in a long time. Led by the economy and trade minister, Serge Kubla, the delegation includes representatives of companies engaged in various sectors such as medical, transport, trade fairs, air conditioning, construction, water and sanitation, telecommunications, computers and universities.

Many of them had been active in the DRC in the 1980s and 1990s and intended to go back, the sources said.

"DRC is a disaster area, but where some rays of hopes appear," the Belgian ambassador to the DRC, Renier Nijskens, was quoted as telling the businessmen.

According to the Brussels-based newspaper Le Soir, the team is aware of the tremendous challenges the country faces, notably the difficulty of implementing the Lusaka peace agreement. The team, however, pointed out a stabilisation of the Congolese currency for some months now.

The exchange rate is now US $1 to 330 francs congolais, Le Soir noted, adding that the inflation rate had been controlled to 1 percent, and that there were slight signs of economic recovery.

A source reported that Kubla had decided to send a permanent commercial attaché to Kinshasa within three months. The mission is expected back in Belgium on 28 March.