In 2013, the Republic of Congo had a population of 4.5 million people distributed over 342,000 km2. Congo's population density is low, with the majority of inhabitants (64%) living in urban areas. The country boasts numerous assets: substantial oil reserves, close to 22 million hectares of forests, 10 million hectares of arable land, a highly developed hydrographic network, a climate conducive to agriculture, an impressive biodiversity, and abundant mineral resources.
The Republic of Congo is strategically positioned in Central Africa and has a 170-kilometer long coastal front on the Atlantic Ocean, with a deep-water port in Pointe-Noire that could serve as a gateway for the entire subregion.
Since the adoption of a new constitution in 2002, the Republic of Congo has been relatively stable. Incumbent president Denis Sassou Nguesso won the July 2009 presidential election, securing a new seven-year term. The next presidential election will be held in 2016. The Congolese Labor Party (PCT), at one time Congo’s sole political party, holds a majority in the National Assembly, which is composed of 139 representatives, 13 of whom are women. Local elections, which were held in September 2014 and won by the PCT and its allies, were boycotted by a number of the opposition parties. Violent clashes in December 2013 in downtown Brazzaville between the army and security guards of a senior officer claimed the lives of 22 persons.
Congo’s economic performance over the past three years has been considerably weaker than anticipated: 3.5% compared to the projected growth rate of 8.5%. This weak growth is attributable to the poor performance of the oil sector, where production fell by 8.2% during this period and by 10.2% in 2013 (as a result of occasional disruptions in offshore production).
The Congolese economy remains dominated by the oil sector, which accounts for over 60% of its GDP, although the country is endeavoring to diversify its revenue sources. During the 2011-2013 period, the performance of the non-oil sector was encouraging with a growth rate hovering around 9%. The authorities are pinning their hopes on the agriculture and manufacturing industry sectors in particular in a bid to diversify the economy, and on public investment in infrastructure. In recent years, China has become a major source of financing for Congo’s infrastructure and the Congolese authorities have implemented an ambitious investment program, as Congo lags significantly in the areas of transport and energy.
Congo’s medium-term outlook remains positive, with a projected 7.6% average annual growth rate for the 2014-2106 period. It is expected that this growth will be driven by the non-extractive sectors against a backdrop of low inflation. However, the economy remains vulnerable to exogenous shocks such as the volatility of oil prices, declining oil production, mining production delays, and internal risks related to strategic choices.
Despite a decline from 50.7% in 2005 to 46.5% in 2011, the poverty rate is still high for a middle-income country. The unemployment is also high, particularly among young people aged 15 to 29 years (25%). While the proportion of the population living on less than US$1 a day declined significantly from 70% in 1999 to 46.5% in 2011, the country will nevertheless not be able to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Last Updated: Oct 20, 2014