The Republic of Congo, where the ruling party holds its congress from Friday to Monday, is still struggling in the economic crisis despite records of oil production, the main wealth of the country.
In Pointe-Noire, the country’s economic engine, Deschagrains Ebeh wonders how long his technology watch company will still suffer the effects of the fall in prices that started in 2014.
« It’s been four years that we haven’t made a profit, » says the managing director of De-Network, a subcontractor of the big names in the oil industry who made the fortune of Pointe-Noire for 50 years. , starting with the French Total.
Like all of the Congo (five million inhabitants), the young entrepreneur suffered from the fall in oil prices, which put the economy on the ground from 2014.
IT, video surveillance, training, audit and advice, web design, call center: his business card announces twelve activities.
To no longer depend on all-petroleum, the Microsoft certified engineer has diversified his activities. « It does not compensate for the loss of turnover because individuals cannot afford businesses, » said the 37-year-old entrepreneur.
Mr. Ebeh also opened a co-working space to share rent of around 1,000 euros per month.
It has reduced its staff to around ten people: “I am managing director and technical director. Faced with the crisis, I combine the two functions. A director is expensive ”.
“We lost 50% of our customers and 60% of our turnover”, says Mr. Ebeh, nostalgic for the “great era 2014-2015” and his estimated turnover of “500 million” (750,000 euros ).
« With the crisis, Total, the main company in Pointe-Noire, renegotiated downward all its contracts with its subcontractors, » analyzes the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), Sylvestre Didier Mavouenzela.
“Fifty thousand jobs were lost between 2014 and 2017. Many expatriates have returned home,” he adds, comparing each expatriate to “a VSE that employs a caretaker, a driver, a gardener”. So many less informal jobs.
Locomotives in the region are back on track. Oil tankers (Total, Italian Eni, Perenco and a Chinese company, Wing Wah) are breaking production records with 350,000 barrels per day, thanks to the exploitation of new fields (Moho Nord for Total since 2017).
Another flagship, the autonomous port of Pointe-Noire (PAPN) shows an increase in traffic, to 900,000 containers this year, against 800,000 last year.
Signs of good health that do not benefit the local economy. Shared with the Congolese state, oil revenues are primarily intended to pay off public debt, under an agreement with the IMF.
And most of the freight containers only transit to other ports in the region (Matadi in the DRC, and Libreville).
“Not hit rock bottom”
“We have been at the third social level for two years. In 2015, we had 1,100 people. By the end of the year, we will be less than 700 ”, says Christophe Pujalte, regional director of the Bolloré Transport and Logistics group, one of the main operators of the port.
“It’s been five years that companies have been clenching their teeth. And I’m afraid we haven’t hit rock bottom. 2020 promises to be a complex year, ”observes a good connoisseur of the local private sector.
The Congolese state has not started to repay its debt to businesses. And the IMF has just frozen the payment of the second tranche of its loan.
Economic players denounce « anti-economic decisions » such as the introduction of an exorbitant toll tariff for the road between Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville (more than 300 euros per truck for more than 500 km). « We have, I think, the most expensive national in the world, » sighs a private operator.
They also denounce the corruption, “fiscal and customs harassment” of companies. “We were Marxist-Leninists at one time. We have a socializing approach to business, ”regrets the president of the Pointe-Noire CCI, at a time when the Congolese Labor Party (PCT) is holding its fifth congress from Friday to Monday in Brazzaville.
And the approach of the 2021 elections does not reassure anyone.
In 2016, the re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso had caused unrest in Brazzaville and an armed conflict in the Pool region which paralyzed freight train traffic on the Brazzaville – Pointe-Noire axis.