With a surface area equivalent to that of Western Europe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). DRC is endowed with exceptional natural resources, including minerals such as cobalt and copper, hydropower potential, significant arable land, immense biodiversity, and the world’s second largest rainforest.
DRC has the third largest population of poor globally. Poverty in DRC is high, remains widespread and pervasive, and is increasing due to impacts from COVID-19. In 2018, it was estimated that 73% of the Congolese population, equaling 60 million people, lived on less than $1.90 a day (the international poverty rate). As such, about one out of six people living in extreme poverty in SSA - live in DRC.
Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the son of Etienne Tshisekedi, the country’s longstanding opposition leader, won the December 2018 presidential election. He succeeded Joseph Kabila, who had led the country for 18 years, in the first peaceful transition of power in the DRC’s history.
Following President Felix Tshisekedi’s establishment of a new political alliance known as the “Sacred Union”, the former Prime Minister and the head of the Senate stepped down in January and February 2021. On February 15, a week after he was sworn in as Head of the African Union, President Tshisekedi appointed a new Prime Minister, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge who had served as CEO of Gecamines, the state-owned mining company, since 2019. A new government is expected to be in place in April.
DRC’s economic growth decelerated from its pre-COVID level of 4.4% in 2019, to an estimated 0.8% in 2020. Growth was driven by the extractives sector which, helped by robust demand from China, expanded by 6.9% in 2020 (compared to 1% in 2019). Meanwhile, non-mining sectors contracted by 1.6% (vs. growth of 5.7% in 2019) due to pandemic-related mobility restrictions, weaker trading activities and constrained government spending. Private consumption and government investment fell in 2020 by an estimated 1.0 and 10.2%, respectively.
The current account deficit widened to 4.0% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 and was only partly financed by capital inflows which led to a decline in international reserves.
In an effort to respond to the pandemic, the government faced substantial spending pressure while revenue declined due to reduced economic activity and extended fiscal relief measures. As a result, the fiscal deficit worsened to 1.9% of GDP in 2020. For financing, the government initially resorted to Central Bank (BCC) advances until April 2020 and subsequently mobilized emergency support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It also increased domestic debt issuance and accumulated arrears. Consequently, the total stock of both external public debt and domestic debt rose in 2020 to an estimated 15.9% and 8.9% of GDP, respectively.
Although the DRC initiated reforms aimed at strengthening governance in the management of natural resources and improving the business climate, the country is ranked 183 out of 190 countries in the 2020 Doing Business report. Key governance indicators remain weak.
On February 7, 2021, a resurgence of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) was reported in Butembo, in the province of North Kivu, where a previous epidemic (EVD10) had been declared over in June 2020. As of March 30, 2021, a total of 12 cases had been confirmed in four provinces: Biena, Butembo, Katwa, and Musienene. A total of four deaths and four recoveries have been recorded. The 11th epidemic of the EVD was officially declared over on November 18, 2020 with 119 confirmed cases and 55 deaths.
Measures have been in place since March 10, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19. As of April 1, 2021, more than 28,000 cases had been confirmed - the majority of which in Kinshasa, though 23 out of 26 provinces have been touched by the pandemic.
DRC ranks 175 out of 189 countries on the 2020 Human Development Index, though some HCI indicators are estimated to have slightly improved from 2018 to 2020. DRC’s Human Capital Index is 0.37%, below the SSA average of 4.0. This means that a child born in DRC today will be 37% as productive in adulthood as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health in her early years. On average, a Congolese child receives 9.1 years of schooling, though translating into 4.5 years of Learning-adjusted Years of School (2020 estimate). 43% of children are malnourished.
Last Updated: Apr 02, 2021