Overview

Country Overview

The Republic of Congo is highly urbanized with more than half its population living in the two largest cities, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. The rest of the country ranks among the least dense areas in Africa, with a population density of 12.8 per square kilometer. The country is largely covered by tropical forests, and has abundant unused arable land equivalent to about one third of its total area. Most importantly, it is endowed with significant hydrocarbon reserves with an estimated proven 1.6 billion barrels of oil reserves and 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas. In addition, the country benefits from significant mining resources.

While some progress has been made in transforming its natural resources into economic growth, the country has not fully succeeded in leveraging them to achieve robust socio-economic outcomes. Overall, the heavy reliance on hydrocarbon resources has crowded out development of sectors such agriculture and forestry. With the decline of oil prices, the new government is determined to implement key structural reforms that will create conditions for a diversified economy and sustainable growth.

Political Context

Elected in the first round elections on March 20, 2016, with over 60% of the total votes, President Denis Sassou Nguesso appointed Clément Mouamba as Prime Minister on April 23. The government quickly launched "The march towards development," the President’s social project for 2016-2021, and the "Living together" initiative which calls for unity, dialogue and national cohesion, especially in the context of the legislative and local elections planned for July 2017. However, at least four major political or military leaders have been imprisoned recently. One of them, Colonel Marcel Ntsourou died in custody on February 17, 2017. Also, security forces continue to fight supporters of Frédéric Bintsamou, alias Pasteur Ntoumi, a militia leader whose whereabouts are still unknown.

Economic Overview

The Republic of Congo’s economic growth has fallen short of the 8.5% set in the National Development Plan growth to achieve its 2025 development goals. The economy grew at only 3% on average over 2012-2016 on the back of falling oil production (-14.2%) and prices (-59.2%). Over the same period, non-extractive sectors however achieved a good performance, particularly in manufacturing, electricity and gas, and telecommunication. Inflation accelerated to 4.5% in 2016, driven by pressures on the private sector for increasing non-oil revenues to support the state budget.

 

In 2016, the government reduced public spending to adjust fiscal policy to the decline in oil prices, which has reduced its revenues by 54.4 percent over 2014-2016. However, budget and current account deficits remain high, and foreign currency reserves can only cover up to two months of imports. Economic growth is expected to recover with an average growth rate of 3.6 percent over 2017-2019, driven by the launch of Moho Nord oil field. The Government is discussing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a reform program as part of a coordinated policy response in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). 

Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors endorsed the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for 2013-2016 in November 2012, which aims at supporting the Congolese government in diversifying its economy away from oil, focusing on private sector-led growth and employment generation. The strategy also focused on assisting the country achieves better outcomes in basic public services, especially in health and education. It is built around three themes: competitiveness and employment, vulnerability and resilience, and strengthening government capacity and governance.

A Performance Learning Review (PLR) has been prepared to inform future Bank engagement. The strategic focus will continue to be on (1) competitiveness and employment; (2) vulnerability and resilience; and (3) good governance and capacity building. The recent plunge in oil revenues underscores the importance of diversifying Congo’s economy, and using public resources more efficiently to achieve better economic and social results. Proposed revisions reflect new engagements toward transformational projects to modernize urban infrastructure, develop skills in agriculture, deliver better health services (performance-based financing), strengthen social safety nets, and improve quality of education. The World Bank Group will explore alternative funding mechanisms with its International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the development of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to fund large infrastructure projects.

A Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) is currently under preparation and scheduled to go to the board in FY17.

Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017

Agriculture

The Agricultural Development and Rural Roads Rehabilitation Project (PDARP), an IDA grant of $20 million, has financed 814 micro agricultural projects, that benefited 10,247 people, about half of whom are women. This project has also rehabilited 1,251 km of rural roads serving 221 villages.

Forestry

The Bank is supporting the government through an $8.6 million Readiness Grant from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. In parallel, the $10 million IDA and $22.6 million government funded Forest and Economic Diversification Project is supporting forest administration, local communities, and indigenous people participation.

Health

The Bank is implementing a $120 million Health System Strengthening Project II (PDSS-II) of which $100 million is government-financed, $10 million from IDA and $10 million from a multi-donor trust fund for health results innovation. The objective is to increase the utilization and quality of maternal and child health services in targeted areas. A performance-based financing approach is being introduced throughout the entire health system.

ICT (Information and Communications Technology)

The Central African Backbone (CAB), an IDA credit of $15 million, increases geographical reach and usage of regional broadband network services and reduces their prices. In Congo, the project financed the construction of the fiber optic link between Pointe-Noire and Mbinda. An additional financing of $5 million has been negotiated to help finance the costs associated with (i) the installation of the active layer on the fiber optic infrastructure in Congo’s western region; and (ii) the establishment of an ICT incubator and a Digital Development Fund.

Safety Nets

To date, 3,455 households and 2,794 elderly people are benefitting from the project, which provides quarterly cash transfers conditional on attending school and health clinics visits. A unified social registry consolidates information on 41,138 households around the country.

Skills and Employment

The Skills Development for Employability Project (PDCE), a US$32 million project co-financed by IDA and the Republic of Congo, aims at improving job and entrepreneurship skills through the provision of training to 15,000 vulnerable urban youth.

Urban Development

The Water, Electricity and Urban Development Project (PEEDU), a $125.5 million project co-financed with the Congolese government has directly benefitted 1,1 million people , and 32 km of paved roads and 230 km of tertiary and secondary water distribution have been built. An additional financing amounting $150 million for electricity activities is being implemented.

Approved on February 18, 2016, the Urban Development and Poor Neighborhood Upgrading Project, co-financed with the government, is a $120 million project to improve access to infrastructure and basic services for people living in selected unplanned settlements in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, and to strengthen government and municipal capacity for urban upgrading.

Water and sanitation

The World Bank Group provided technical assistance for conducting an institutional audit, and a National Water and Sanitation Policy (NWSP) was developed which is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017

Foreign financial assistance to the Republic of Congo is modest. Apart from the World Bank Group, major international partners are China, the EU, the French Development Agency (AFD), and the African Development Bank (AfDB). These partners work together to promote economic diversification and develop the health and education sectors. The United Nations (UN) and the Central African State Development Bank (BDEAC) are also active in the Republic of Congo. Furthermore, the government recently scaled up its collaboration with Singapore, in particular with respect to the special economic zones.

Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017


LENDING

Republic of the Congo: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments