The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country with vast resources. Its spans a surface area of 2.3 million square kilometers. According to the latest NSI (National Statistics Institute) estimates, fewer than 40% of the nearly 77 million inhabitants live in urban areas. With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 minerals and precious metals identified, the DRC has the potential to become one of the richest countries on the African continent and a driver of African growth.
Presidential and parliamentary elections planned initially for November 27, 2016 have been delayed due to an outdated electoral register. According to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), the revision of the electoral register may take between 13 and 16 months. On September 1, 2016, the African Union facilitator, Edem Kodjo, launched the national political dialogue to discuss the electoral process and pave the way for peaceful and transparent elections, however a part of the opposition’s main parties have refused to participate in the national political dialogue. Participants of the dialogue agreed on September 14, 2016 that the presidential vote would be combined with legislative and provincial elections, although no specific dates were set.
On September 19, 2016, deadly protests broke out in Kinshasa calling for President Joseph Kabila to step down and tensions continued to escalate.
The country is still recovering from a series of conflicts that broke out in the 1990s creating a protracted economic and social slump. In 1999, the Lusaka Peace accords brokered peace, paving the way to recovery and the establishment of new institutions, such as a Parliament, a Senate, and provincial assemblies. In 2006, Joseph Kabila and his party, the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), won the presidential and legislative elections despite concerns about the transparency of the electoral process. He was reelected in 2011, however this election was also contested. Peacebuilding and economic recovery efforts are being carried out in a challenging social context.
After an economic slump in 2009 that brought the growth rate down to 2.8% due to the global financial crisis, the DRC posted an annual average economic growth rate of 7.7% during the 2010-2015 period, which are well above the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. This performance is due to robust growth in extractive industries and related investments and, to some extent, to public investments. However, the global economic slowdown with the decline in the demand and price for minerals and domestic political uncertainty have taken their toll on the economy in the last quarter of 2015 and the first half of 2016. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2015 decelerated to 6.9% from 9.5% in 2014. The government has recently revised growth estimates downward for 2016 to 4.3%.
Prudence in fiscal and monetary policies helped DRC authorities to maintain a stable macroeconomic framework. Inflation, which posted a staggering 53% in 2009, remained around 1% over the period 2013-2015, down from 2.8% in 2012 and 9.8% in 2010. Maintaining a restrictive monetary policy and fiscal discipline is critical to containing inflation below the 5% goal. The Congolese franc (CDF) remained stable at around 920-930 per US dollar in the past five years. The situation seems to be deteriorating in 2016, and data available for the first seven months of the year show inflation accelerating to 2.2%, the exchange rate depreciating to 990 CDF per US dollar, and reserves declining to 4.5 weeks of imports.
The government has been committed since 2010 to working closely with the World Bank on establishing a mechanism for the systematic improvement of economic governance. The two parties have established a joint mechanism for monitoring the progress on reform implementation. The objective of these reforms is to strengthen governance and transparency in the extractive industries (forestry, mining, and oil sectors) and to improve the business climate. Over the past three years, there have been significant progress in the implementation of these measures. Almost all the contracts signed by the government in the oil, mining, and forestry sectors are available to the public. The DRC is committing in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and regularly publishes revenues from natural resources. However, achieving a full competitive process for the awarding of mining, oil, and forestry contracts requires additional efforts.
Despite an impressive economic growth rate and a reduction in the poverty rate from 71% in 2005 to 64% in 2012, the poverty rate remains high in the DRC. The country is among the poorest countries in the world and was ranked 176 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index in 2015, and its per capita GDP, which stood at $442 in 2015, is among the lowest in the world. The United Nations estimates that there are some 2.3 million displaced persons and refugees in the country and 323,000 DRC nationals living in refugee camps outside the country. A humanitarian emergency persists in the more unstable parts of the DRC and sexual violence rates remain high.
Last Updated: Oct 24, 2016