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FEATURE STORY

DRC: A Giant in the Making

June 9, 2014

Fishermen on the Congo River 

WASHINGTON, DC, June 09, 2014 - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the potential to be one of Africa’s richest countries and a major driver of growth, according to Eustache Ouayoro, World Bank Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo.

“I am quite optimistic about the future of this country”, he said in a recent interview, referring to DRC, the larger of the two countries. “The future of the DR Congo will be the future of Africa,” he added.

About the size of Western Europe, DRC is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies with a sizzling growth rate of 8.5% in 2013, compared to only 2.8% in 2009. Inflation was at its lowest —1% in 2013— down from a catastrophic high of 53% in 2009.

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This country will never gain emerging market status without electricity Close Quotes

Eustache Ouayoro
World Bank Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo

Eustache Ouayoro, World Bank Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo. 

“This economic uptick has been in the making for a few years. It is not something that happened randomly or from sheer luck. Rather, it is the result of sound macroeconomic policies pursued with vigor,” said Mr. Ouayoro.

While DRC has grown steadily, poverty remains extremely high even as the poverty rate has fallen from 71% in 2005 to 63% in 2012. Human Development Indicators (HDI) remain among the lowest in the world (186 out of 187 countries), and at $220 in 2012, among the lowest per capita income anywhere in the world.

“We are not disregarding those challenges. We know that they are real, but it’s exactly because there are so many challenges that we are so committed to helping DRC with the full suite of our assistance – financial, technical and knowledge – that is needed to turn things around,” said Mr. Ouayoro.

Challenges include power generation and distribution across a country where only 9% of citizens have access to electricity – far below the Africa-wide average of 31%. According to Ouayoro, the recent decision by the World Bank Group (WBG) to provide a grant of $73.1 million for technical assistance to develop the Inga 3 Basse Chute, “was one of the boldest engagements of the World Bank Group.”

Mr. Ouayoro, who grew up in Côte d’Ivoire, said he was already aware in primary school about the Congo River’s hydroelectric potential and describes the Inga 3 hydropower development as a “once in a lifetime” project that he was proud to steer.

 “This country will never gain emerging market status without electricity,” Mr. Ouayoro explained. DRC has the third largest, hydropower potential in the world – after China and Russia – yet, less than 10% of Congolese have access to electricity. “We want to fix that paradox,” he said. “We want to move from challenging that paradox toward a paradigm of responsible hydropower development that positively impacts people’s lives, creates jobs and spurs regional power-sharing for broad-based growth in the sub-region.”

Ouayoro is quick to add that what is left to do is to “create the right environment for the private sector to do business; providing the right infrastructure; and putting in place the skills that will help unleash the country’s latent and untapped potential.”

The World Bank Group is also active in addressing weak governance and fostering reforms to improve inefficiencies in the public sector and the civil administration. It is also helping to bridge “infrastructure gaps” through large programs in the road and railway sectors.

Positive results are being achieved: WBG-funded programs have increased the rate of vaccination coverage for children from 54% in 2007 to 83% in 2011, close to 4,000 classrooms have been built, and 18 million textbooks distributed.

A year ago, the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a $1 billion aid package during a historic visit to the Great Lakes Region —including Goma in Eastern DRC, a region ravaged by years of conflict—, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kim Moon. While $1 billion “is a lot of money”, “the needs of this region are huge. We need to prioritize. We need to be focused,” said Ouayoro. In Eastern DRC, a new era of peace and reconstruction is dawning. “We will fully engage in the reconstruction of the eastern part of the country,” he added.

Several projects are being prepared in partnership with DRC’s development partners. They include a regional project to help address sexual and gender-based violence from a sub-regional perspective benefiting Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda. Funding is also expected for the Ruzizi hydropower project along with initiatives to boost agricultural production, improve transportation, and take advantage of new, trail-blazing opportunities in the ICT sector while fostering trade between DRC and its immediate neighbors, the Republic of Congo and Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

 “All these things are happening because of the Congolese people and their government which is in the driver’s seat,” concludes Eustache Ouayoro. “Ultimately, we are there to support them in creating a better future for current and future generations.”