Stephanie Jacobs, Co-owner/Founder and Managing Director, TIAfrica

TIAfrica is a legal firm that specializes in guiding investors through DRC’s complicated web of regulations.

What was the opportunity you saw in DRC that gave way to the creation of TIAfrica?

DRC is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of mineral resources, which naturally creates incredible opportunities, not only for the multinational corporates who service the mining contracts, but more importantly, the smaller support service providers, both local and foreign, who are the backbone of developing nations.

TIAfrica was born from a strong mining background, and understands in detail the requirements of the Investors and the areas where they may need assistance.  We also understand the local operational structure and the compliancy criteria relating to legal status, taxation, labour, import/export and many other government structures.

TIAfrica saw the opportunity to position it self as a “one stop shop”, linking the investors and the government structures, providing compliancy and security for all parties.

We perform all the necessary processes to obtain all the registrations and permits required, thereby providing the investors with a legal entity, which is ready to operate with all the essential administrative functions in place. We then guide the operating company through any changes in legislation or trading conditions.

As a direct result of TIAfrica’s activities over the last six years, another opportunity has presented itself, with an increased demand for assistance and expertise in HR. (Payroll calculation, labour taxation payable, work permits, subcontracting etc..), which led to the creation of “TIA Workforce Solutions”, our second company.

Through our services, we prepare and execute everything for companies, thus protecting the workers and the investors, making the client compliant within the DRC. We orient ourselves as mediators between the investors, the working communities and the Government entities, by aligning the objectives of each parties.

This action by TIAfrica also helps the DRC in that any bad-press resulting from a history of failed businesses is minimized, leading to others investors deciding to enter what was previously thought to be a country that was too difficult.

How does TIAfrica make companies feel more secure in their investments in DRC?

We are always available to offer expertise, experience and assistance in any manner, at a moments notice. In summary, communication is the key; we offer a very collaborative service.

As we are a small company we are more flexible, and we adjust our levels of service to suit the needs of our clients, as some clients need more direction than others. Our fee rates are based on the size of the company, so we are accessible and affordable to small or “start-up” investors. Our mission is to have a long-term relationship with our clients and grow with them, whilst our vision is to support the development of new investors in the DRC.

TIAfrica has vast experience of the present departmental regulations, as well as any amendments or loopholes which investors must comply with. We are also at the forefront of any potential changes in conditions of trade. Our relationship with the governing authorities is very close and collaborative, and we often consult new proposals so all parties benefit and grow together.

We have specialists in our legal, taxation, HR and fiduciary departments and we are able to handle any problems with confidence, creativity and determination; we either resolve them or, alternatively, provide a suitable compromise to keep the forward moving momentum within the governing regulations.

What is the advantage of hiring TIAfrica over KPMG or other law firms?

The advantage we have over larger firms is that we are flexible, experienced in all sectors and agile enough to adjust to the changing conditions. When important decisions need to be made, the plan of action is immediate. It doesn’t take us lengthy periods of time for approval, authorisation, budgets, plans, more reviews and such corporate traps before we act.

We charge a flat fee for the scope of services requested, with no hidden costs. Should additional services be required, we will agree on a fee, inclusions and duration and get the job done.

Furthermore, we lodge companies, which allows them to have a complete back office, whilst they focus on their core business and development.

What are the key challenges companies face when setting up a company in the DRC and which mistakes do you see made most often?

As with most countries, the complexity of the challenges to a company looking to invest in a new market are related to the language, the DRC being mainly a French and Swahili speaking country.

The source of information is very important; investors have to work with reliable service providers who have the ability and knowledge to assist them. Therefore, establishing a solid foundation for setting up a new business is crucial.

Investors often struggle to appreciate the complexity of the administrative operating conditions, legal position, taxation implications, and labour requirements as well as the bureaucratic process of registrations, permits, licenses and related legal documentation that is required in the DRC before any operations can commence.

This non-appreciation results in frustration, lengthy delays, lost production and revenue and in most cases, penalties and fines.

Obtaining the required documentation to establish a legal entity is not simple. Government authorities are based in different locations, which are long distances apart, and there is often unclear information on what the investors responsibilities actually are. The process is timely, tedious, confusing and unknown to outsiders.

Many Investors miss deadlines or permits, incurring penalties and delays due to this, so as a turn-key solutions provider, TIAfrica takes care of every requirement to successfully operate in the DRC, from A to Z.

What significant human resource challenges do companies face in DRC?

The labour law and taxes on wages are unique in the DRC and investors will struggle if they don’t get the right guidance and assistance.

In addition, a large variety of cultures, dialects, backgrounds and work methods exist in the DRC, which are expected to perform as a unit. Therefore, misunderstandings are common, and frustration can lead to animosity if not resolved speedily and satisfactorily.

In these circumstances, TIAfrica brings all parties together and act as a mediator to negotiate acceptable solutions.

On a technical level, unfortunately there has not been sufficient education and training in DRC in recent years, subsequently, many job opportunities that should be occupied by Congolese nationals become expatriate jobs.  Some investors find it very challenging to respect the permitted ratio of expatriates to nationals for this reason.

Obtaining the required skills whilst maintaining the stipulated local labour compliment in your workforce is, therefore, very difficult to attain.

What is your outlook for the mining industry in DRC?

Africa is remains an emerging continent, though some countries have emerged more than others. The DRC is extremely rich in natural resources, which should give the DRC significant opportunities and advantages over other nations in the same geological area.

Provided the revised Mining code is fair, the political situation is stable, the revision on the sub-contracting law is not extreme, and investors are assisted correctly, the DRC and its population have a bright future.

In addition, besides mining, there are many other opportunities and sectors to develop such as energy, tourism, farming, training and other services.

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