Overview

  • 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.

    Political Context

    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 seats, and reshuffling the government resulted in no major changes in key ministerial positions.

    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.

    A disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process started in August 2018 under the supervision of the United Nations, and accelerated with the support of Pastor Ntumi, whose first public appearance in two years took place in August 2018. Members of the government and international community are working to consolidate the Pool region’s still fragile context.

    Economic Overview

    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.

    Development Challenges

    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, to:

    • 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

  • The World Bank aims to support Congo-Brazzaville’s government to diversify its economy away from oil, to focus on private sector-led growth and generating employment. Its strategy also focuses on better outcomes in basic public services, especially health and education. The strategy is built around three themes:

    • competitiveness and employment,
    • vulnerability and resilience,
    • strengthening government capacity and governance.

    The Country Partnership Framework for 2018 to 2022 is scheduled to be approved by the World Bank Board in early 2019.

    This new World Bank engagement will align its ROC program more closely with the goals of ending extreme poverty (by 2030) and promoting shared prosperity through macroeconomic reform; through building resilience and human capital; and through supporting private sector development and economic diversification.

    ROC’s recession (due to the plunge in oil revenues) emphasizes the importance of diversifying its economy and using its public resources more efficiently.

    The World Bank will explore alternative funding mechanisms, such as collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and through the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to fund large infrastructure projects.

    Last Updated: Jan 11, 2019

  • Agriculture

    The Commercial Agriculture Project (CAP), an IDA credit of $100 million, is expected to help improve the productivity of farmers and market access for producer groups and micro-, small, and medium enterprises in selected areas of the ROC. Its existence should help provide an immediate, effective response in the event of crisis or emergency.

    Education

    A new Education Sector Support Project (PRAASED) has become effective. This is a $70 million project, of which IDA contributes $30 million. The project aims to improve primary and lower secondary education outcomes, and increase the effectiveness of management systems, especially in terms of human resources.

    Three strategic studies (assessing the performance of teacher training institutes, the direction of in-service training, and the institute in charge of pedagogy) were produced during project preparation. The studies’ results have been disseminated and are being discussed with the ROC government.

    Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation

    The $25 million IBRD Support to Enterprise Development and Competitiveness (PADEC) is expected to become effective. The objective is to foster competitiveness in targeted sectors (such as agriculture and agro-processing, transport/ICT, and tourism) and geographic areas (the Pointe Noire/Brazzaville/Ouesso corridor) through investment-climate reform, investment promotion, and company-level technical and financial support.

    The project will act as a catalyst for public and private investment to strengthen ROC’s infrastructure and logistics platform, which is commensurate with the country’s ambition of becoming a regional economic hub and natural gateway to the Central Africa Region.

    Governance

    The Integrated Public-Sector Reform Project (IPSRP) is a $40 million project financed by an IDA Credit, approved in May 2017 and signed in June 2017. The deadline was extended twice and the project was supposed to be put into effect in April 2018. Its development objective is to improve the management and accountability of public resources. The ultimate beneficiaries of the project will be the ROC’s citizens, who can expect to see improvements in the quality of public service delivery and in the greater effectiveness of public administration.

    Safety Nets

    The Lisungi project, originally a $17 million project co-financed by IDA ($2 million) and the Republic of Congo ($15 million) aims to establish the key building blocks of a national safety net program, and pilot a cash transfer program to improve access to health and education services for the poorest households in participating areas.

    To date, IDA’s contribution has increased to $12 million (due to additional finance due to be approved by the parliament). Agence Française de Dévelopement provided additional financing of 8 million euros for the extension of cash transfers to other areas, and UNICEF has made available CFA 83 million to strengthen measures targeted at beneficiary families with children, to improve communication to households, and to reinforce the capacity of social workers working at the local Social Assistance Circumscription (CAS) offices.

    About 3,455 households and 2,794 elderly people are benefiting from the project, which provides quarterly cash transfers conditional on beneficiaries attending school and health clinics.

    Skills and Employment

    The Skills Development for Employability Project (PDCE), originally a $32 million project co-financed by IDA ($10 million) and the ROC ($22 million), aims to improve job and entrepreneurship skills for vulnerable urban youth. The project is being restructured to take into consideration the fact that counterpart funds will not be available. It will be scaled back and aim to provide skills and better employment opportunities to 6,000 vulnerable youth.

    Statistics and Poverty

    The Statistics Capacity Building Project (PSTAT) is a $33 million project jointly financed by IDA ($4.8 million) and the government ($28.2 million). The project became effective in 2015.

    Urban Development

    The Water, Electricity and Urban Development Project (PEEDU), an initial $125.5 million project co-financed with the ROC government, was approved in 2010 and has directly benefitted 1.1 million people. About 32km of paved roads and a 230km of tertiary and secondary water distribution systems have been built. Additional financing of $150 million is to upgrade the electricity distribution network, improve the operational and commercial performance of the national electricity utility, and build and reinforce its institutional capacity.

    The Urban Development and Poor Neighborhood Upgrading Project (DURQuaP) is a $120 million project co-financed by the government ($40million) and IBRD ($80 million). It aims to increase people’s access to basic services in selected poor neighborhoods of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire and strengthen government and municipal capacities for urban upgrading. Technical and environmental studies are underway, and the first work under the project is expected to take place in the first part of 2019.

    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 that is aligned with global Sustainable Development Goals. 

    Last Updated: Jan 11, 2019

  • Foreign financial assistance to the Republic of Congo comes primarily from the World Bank Group, China, the European Union (EU), the French Development Agency (AFD), and the African Development Bank (AfDB). These partners are involved in activities to promote economic diversification, improve the business environment, develop the health and education sectors, and improve social protection of the population. The United Nations (UN) and the Central African State Development Bank (BDEAC) are also active in the Republic of Congo, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in discussion with the ROC to initiate a program to support its economic recovery. 

    Last Updated: Jan 11, 2019

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LENDING

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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
BDEAC Building, 2nd Floor
Denis Sassou Nguesso Boulevard
Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
+242 05 550 30 55
+242 06 852 53 62
For general information and inquiries
Franck Bitemo
Communications Officer
+242 05 675 06 99
+242 06 959 39 93
fbitemo@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
congoalert@worldbank.org