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.
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.
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