The largest Francophone country in Africa, with vast natural resources, the Democratice Republic of the Congo (DRC) has nearly 77 million inhabitants, fewer than 40% of whom live in urban areas. With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the potential to become one of the richest countries on the continent and a driver of African growth if it can overcome its 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 2001. Presidential and parliamentary elections, planned initially for November 2016, have been delayed due to an outdated electoral register. Efforts to defuse the political crisis into which the country has been plunged have been made by the African Union's facilitator, Edem Kodjo, and the Congolese episcopate, both acting as mediators between the government and the opposition parties. An agreement, signed on December 31, 2016, provided for a period of transition, during which power would be exercised jointly by President Joseph Kabila and the opposition until presidential elections were held in late 2017.
However, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) issued a calendar in November 2017, pushing back the presidential elections to December 2018, and a controversial draft electoral law was adopted by parliament. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic church and members of the international community insist the
December 31, 2016 Accord” be respected. Demonstrations supporting the implementation of this accord have led to deaths at the hands of the security forces.
After slowing from 6.9% in 2015 to 2.4% in 2016, the country's lowest economic growth rate since 2001, , real GDP is expected to accelerate to 3.4% in 2017, driven by increases in commodity prices and national mining production, particularly of copper and cobalt, which account for 80% of export revenue.
Public finances deteriorated in 2016, with a fiscal deficit of -0.3% of GDP, but should record a modest surplus of 0.1% of GDP in 2017 as the government restrains its expenditure to cope with the depletion of international reserves and narrowing of the fiscal space. Adownward trend in domestic revenue since 2014—from 14.3% of GDP to an expected 8.2% of GDP in 2017—has led to a drop in public spending, and affected public investments and social sector spending. Lacking access to domestic and international financial markets, the Government of the DRc has had to drastically reduce public expenditure to contain the deficit and limit monetary financing by the Central Bank.
Export recovery, combined with the drastic tightening of public spending in 2017, should result in a slight current account deficit decrease to 3.1% of GDP in 2017, from 3.6% of GDP in 2016, easing tension in the foreign exchange market in the second half of 2017, after falling by 28% in the first half of 2017. International reserves at end-2017 stood at 3.8 weeks of imports. However, this tighter fiscal stance has not curbed inflation, which reached 54.7% at the end of 2017.
The government has launched sectoral reforms to strengthen governance and transparency in the extractive industries (forestry, mining, and oil sectors) and to improve the business climate. Almost all contracts signed by the government are accessible to the public. The DRC participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and regularly publishes reports on its revenue from natural resources but systematizing the procedures necessary for a competitive process in awarding contracts in mining, oil, and forestry requires additional effort..
Despite a decrease in the poverty rate, from 71% to 64% of the popuation between 2005 and 2012, the DRC still ranks among the poorest countries in the world at176 out of 187 countries on the most recent Human Development Index calculated by the UN (2015). On top of this, the United Nations estimates that, by January 2018, the DRChosted more than 540,000 refugees, and 4.5 million people were displaced inside the country..
Last Updated: May 16, 2018