Decades of corruptions and poor economic policies, as well as political unrest, have led to a very poor domestic economy. By the mid-1990s, the government controlled 116 enterprises, of which 56 were fully publicly owned. Since the 1980s, a large underground market has also operated. However, since 2001, the government has embarked upon a series of economic reforms, including a new commercial court and a new investment code that focuses on encouraging foreign and domestic investment.
Kinshasa, connected by rail with Matadi, the main port of entry, is the principal general distribution center for mining equipment and the chief center for trade with Zambia and South Africa. Kisangani is a major distribution and marketing center for the northeast. Other commercial centers are Likasi, Kolwezi, Kananga, Mbandaka, and Matadi. High transportation costs and the lack of transportation systems in many areas have been prohibitive for domestic trade.
Gratuities are a part of almost every commercial transaction conducted. Tips and gifts are routinely expected, particularly in the public sector where salaries are low and often unpaid. Soldiers and officials typically extort money for agreeing not to impede with commerce.
Usual business hours are from 8 AM to noon and from 2:30 to 5 PM , Monday through Friday, and 7:30 AM to noon on Saturday. Most correspondence and advertising are in French. Most transactions are conducted with cash. Major credit cards are not widely accepted. Travelers checks have limited acceptance; however, high fees may be imposed for cashing them.