The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the largest country in Francophone Africa, has vast natural resources and spans a surface area of 2.3 million square kilometers. Fewer than 40 percent 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 economies on the African continent and a driver of African growth, provided the country manages to overcome political instability.
The DRC is still recovering from a series of conflicts that broke out in the 1990s creating a protracted economic and social slump. Joseph Kabila has been head of state since 2006. Presidential and parliamentary elections planned initially for November 27, 2016 have been delayed due to an outdated electoral register. The country has since been in the throes of a political crisis. Efforts to defuse that situation are being made by the African Union facilitator, Edem Kodjo, and the Congolese episcopate, acting as mediators in discussions between the Government and the opposition parties. A new agreement, signed on December 31, 2016, provides for a transition period during which power will be exercised jointly by Joseph Kabila and the opposition, until his successor is elected in late 2017. The agreement clearly stipulates that the president will not seek a third mandate. Moreover, the signatories agreed that no revision of the Constitution will be attempted in that period. However, the agreement has not yet entered into force. On April 7, 2017, the President designated a new Prime Minister, contravening the December 31 agreement. Furthermore, the bishops recently withdrew from mediation talks, noting the failure of that agreement.
After sharply increasing to almost 9 percent in the period 2013-2014, the real gross domestic product (GDP) rate decelerated in 2015 and the growth rate is not expected to exceed 2.5 percent in 2016. This slump is mainly due to declining raw material prices and a shrinking global demand for raw materials.
In 2016, budget performance deteriorated from a 0.1 percent of GDP surplus to a 1.5 percent of GDP deficit, mainly as a result of decreasing revenue and the rise of inflation to an annual average of 5.7 percent.
The Government has launched reforms to strengthen governance and transparency in the extractive industries (forestry, mining, and oil sectors) and to improve the business climate. Currently, almost all contracts signed by the Government are accessible to the public. Moreover, the DRC participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and regularly publishes revenues from natural resources. However, systematizing the procedures necessary for a competitive process in awarding mining, oil, and forestry contracts requires additional efforts on the part of the Government.
Despite a reduction in the poverty rate from 71 percent in 2005 to 64 percent 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 latest United Nations Human Development Index (2015). 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.
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017