For its size, the Republic of Congo (ROC) has a remarkably small population of 5.2 million (2017) inhabitants, more than half of whom live in its two main cities, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. The rest of the country ranks among the least densely populated in Africa, with just 12.8 persons per square kilometer.
Largely covered by tropical forest, le petit Congo (the little Congo)—or Congo-Brazzaville as it is also known—also has abundant unused arable land covering about a third of its total area, and substantial hydrocarbon reserves estimated at 1.6 billion barrels of oil and 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
As such, the ROC ranks among the top 10 of Africa’s oil producers. It also has a wide variety of mineral resources, many of them largely untapped.
Congo-Brazzaville is led by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who first came to power 20 years ago at the time of a civil war (1997 to 1999) and has triumphed in several elections since. He was re-elected to office in March 2016, along with his Prime Minister, Clément Mouamba.
Legislative and local elections took place in July 2017. The main ruling party, the Congolese Labor Party (PCT), won most of the
Meanwhile, the Pool region is gradually regaining peace and security. As a result of the ceasefire agreement reached in November 2017 between government officials and representatives of the former rebel leader, Frédéric Bintsamou (aka Pastor Ntumi), the free movement of goods and people is improving, and displaced populations are gradually returning to their localities of origin.
The economic crisis, created by the sharp drop in oil prices that started in mid-2014, deepened as the ROC’s GDP continued to contract at 3.1% in 2017 from 2.8% in 2016. Though oil production increased in 2017, with a new field (Moho Nord) coming on stream and oil prices starting to recover, the increase in oil GDP did not offset the contraction of non-oil activities.
The latter sharply decreased by 7.9% in 2017 as a tight financial situation (linked to the accumulation of government arrears) forced many companies to cut back on their activities and their staff. The sectors particularly affected were telecommunications, transport, and construction.
However, economic growth is projected to slowly recover at 1.9%, on average, over the period 2018 to 2020. This recovery has been supported by higher oil production and an increase in ICT and manufacturing output, with the Dangote cement plant starting production in November 2017.
Non-oil production will continue its gradual recovery, to reach a peak in 2019. Average inflation is expected to stand below the CEMAC norm of 3%.
As a result, overall fiscal and external balances are expected to be contained over the 2018 to 2020 period, in the hope of the government’s successful implementation of fiscal and economic reforms.
While some progress has been made in transforming the country’s resources into economic growth, ROC has not yet fully succeeded in leveraging them to achieve robust socio-economic results, and its heavy reliance on hydrocarbon has crowded out the development of sectors such as agriculture and forestry.
However, its latest National Development Plan (2018 to 2022) lays out its intention for a change of focus,
- improving governance;
- building human capital;
- diversifying the economy.
The plan’s stated agenda is rapid economic recovery, with sustained and inclusive growth.
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2019