With a population of 5.2 million (2018) over a surface area of 342,000 km2, the Republic of Congo is sparsely populated, with more than half of the population concentrated in its two largest cities, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. The rest of the country is one of the least densely populated areas in Africa, with just 12.8 persons per square kilometer.
Largely covered by tropical forests, the Republic of Congo also possesses vast expanses of unused arable land that represent approximately one third of its total area. Moreover, the country ranks among the top 10 of Africa’s oil producers and has substantial mineral resources, the majority of which are yet untapped.
President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who led the People's Republic of the Congo from 1979 to 1992, returned to power in 1997. He won the presidential elections in 2002, 2009, and 2016.
In November 2017, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the Congolese Government and representatives of the former rebel leader, Frédéric Bintsamou (known as Pastor Ntoumi), who had reignited a rebellion in the department of Pool following the 2016 presidential elections.
Peace and security have since gradually returned, while the government and the international community strive to consolidate the still-fragile peace in this southern department of the country. A disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program established under the control of the United Nations is expected to be launched soon.
- After the profound economic crisis that plagued the country from mid-2014 following the decline in oil prices, the Congolese economy resumed an upward trajectory in 2018 with real GDP growth projected to reach 1.6% after two years of negative growth.
- Growth was driven by the increase in oil production and by favorable market conditions, with oil prices holding steady in late 2018 and the resumption of demand from partner emerging countries.
- Nevertheless, the non-oil sector continues to decline, contracting by 5.5% as a result of the weakening of activity in construction and public works, transport, and telecommunications.
- Inflation remained contained at 1.2% in 2018 owing to weak domestic demand and a tightening monetary policy. The country's debt burden has decreased, but remains unsustainable despite the signature of a debt restructuring agreement with China in April 2019. The country will also have to restructure its domestic debt and other commercial debt with oil traders.
- Economic growth is projected to reach 5.4% in 2019, then continue its trajectory, gaining an average of 1.8% per year for the period 2020-21. This outlook is based on a strong hydrocarbon sector and the upturn in investments from 17.1% of GDP in 2018 to 22.7% of GDP in 2019-21, assuming favorable oil prices and budget surpluses.
- During the same period, non-oil growth, driven primarily by industry, construction, and agriculture, is expected to average 3%, hinging on restoring the confidence of the private sector and implementing structural reforms aligned with the economic and financial program of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).
- Although the proportion of the population living below the poverty line fell from 51% in 2005 to 41% in 2011, the extreme poverty rate appears to have increased from 2016, especially in rural areas, as a result of the decline in oil prices.
- The poorest 65% of Congolese citizens live in the six regions in the south of the country. Less than 4.9% of them are covered by the social protection programs.
- Congo’s human capital index stands at 0.42, which is below the average for middle-income countries. Despite a slight uptick in per capita income, the country has seen little progress in the areas of health and education. Maternal and infant mortality rates remain high, with 5% of children not making it to their fifth birthday. Chronic malnutrition affects 21% of children, and only 30% of primary students have achieved the required proficiency level in mathematics, 40% in French.
- Moreover, ranked 180 of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, which measures business regulation, the Republic of Congo would benefit from improving its governance to attract more private investors.
Last Updated: Oct 21, 2019