Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Congo (Kinshasa) are cordial, although not particularly intensive. They focus mainly on development cooperation, humanitarian aid and cooperation in the area of migration.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
The coordinated application of the three instruments of foreign policy, namely
- development aid
- peacebuilding and human rights
- and humanitarian aid
is intended to help Switzerland to deal as effectively as possible with the complexity of the political, security, humanitarian and development challenges facing the “Great Lakes” region in which the Congo (Kinshasa) is located.
Switzerland handed on the presidency of the Summit of the International Organisation of La Francophonie to the DRC on the occasion of the XIVth Summit, held in Kinshasa in October 2012.
Economic and trade relations between Switzerland and the DRC are modest. Only a few Swiss-based multinationals are present in the Congo/Kinshasa, despite the country’s considerable potential. Most of the goods imported by Switzerland are agricultural and forestry products. Swiss exports to the RDC are mainly graphic arts products, chemical and pharmaceutical products, industrial machinery and precision instruments, followed by used cars.
Cooperation in the domain of education
The Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS) offers university level scholarships on the basis of reciprocity to a pool of about a dozen countries in southern and central Africa, including Congo (Kinshasa).
Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists, SERI
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland’s “Great Lakes Strategy” also covers peacebuilding and human rights measures and projects.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Development cooperation in the Great Lakes region is implemented in a coordinated manner in the framework of the FDFA’s “Great Lakes Strategy 2009–2012”. The objective is to promote peace, stability and security in Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC while making a contribution to regional integration as well as institutional and social development in the three countries.
Cooperation with the RDC focuses on healthcare. A programme in support of the health system covers a total of eight health zones in the province of South Kivu. Aligned with national DRC policies and strategies the programme’s ultimate goal is to improve the health of some two million people.
In 2003 Switzerland, in the framework of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, cancelled the Congo’s debt.
Swiss nationals in Congo (Kinshasa)
At the end of 2015 there were 240 Swiss nationals living in Congo (Kinshasa), most of them involved in development cooperation and humanitarian aid work.
History of bilateral relations
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as Zaire from 1971 to 1997) was under Belgian colonial rule (“Belgian Congo”) up to 1960. Although its colonisation under the reign of King Leopold II (1865–1909) received Swiss support, religious and intellectual circles, mainly in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, campaigned at the same time against slavery, founding the “Société suisse de secours aux esclaves africains” in 1908.
The two world wars saw tremendous growth in economic and financial exchanges between the two countries. Switzerland opened a consulate in Leopoldville (present-day Kinshasa) in 1928. It was upgraded to a consulate general in 1958 and was made an embassy in 1962. Switzerland recognized the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1960, after the departure of the Belgian colonial power.
Technical assistance was initiated and in 1972 two agreements governing trade and the protection of investments were concluded. However it was not possible to carry out the projects planned due to the political situation in Zaire under President Mobutu.
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr, it)