Established as an official Belgian colony in 1908, the then-Republic of the Congo gained its independence in 1960, but its early years were marred by political and social instability. Col. Joseph MOBUTU seized power and declared himself president in a November 1965 coup. He subsequently changed his name - to MOBUTU Sese Seko - as well as that of the country - to Zaire. MOBUTU retained his position for 32 years through several sham elections, as well as through brutal force. Ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi, led in May 1997 to the toppling of the MOBUTU regime by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent KABILA. KABILA renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but in August 1998 his regime was itself challenged by a second insurrection again backed by Rwanda and Uganda. Troops from Angola, Chad, Namibia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe intervened to support KABILA's regime. In January 2001, KABILA was assassinated and his son, Joseph KABILA, was named head of state. In October 2002, the new president was successful in negotiating the withdrawal of Rwandan forces occupying the eastern DRC; two months later, the Pretoria Accord was signed by all remaining warring parties to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity. A transitional government was set up in July 2003; it held a successful constitutional referendum in December 2005 and elections for the presidency, National Assembly, and provincial legislatures took place in 2006.
Central Africa, northeast of Angola
cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber
Population - distribution
urban clusters are spread throughout the country, particularly in the northeast along the boarder with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; the largest city is the capital, Kinshasha, located in the west along the Congo River; the south is least densely populated
French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba
KINSHASA (capital) 11.587 million; Lubumbashi 2.015 million; Mbuji-Mayi 2.007 million; Kananga 1.169 million; Kisangani 1.04 million; Bukavu 832,000 (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Republique Democratique du Congo
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 4 19 S, 15 18 E
- Time difference
- UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo - a nation endowed with vast natural resource wealth - continues to struggle. Systemic corruption since independence in 1960, combined with countrywide instability and conflict that began in the early-90s, has dramatically reduced national output and government revenue and increased external debt. With the installation of a transitional government in 2003 after peace accords, economic conditions slowly began to improve as the transitional government reopened relations with international financial institutions and international donors, and President KABILA began implementing reforms.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 5,435,280,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -1,545,622,689
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 10,242,835,699
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 8,862,805,000
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 1,673,500,100
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 113,339,246
coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, cotton, cocoa, quinine, cassava (manioc, tapioca), bananas, plantains, peanuts, root crops, corn, fruits; wood products
mining (copper, cobalt, gold, diamonds, coltan, zinc, tin, tungsten), mineral processing, consumer products (textiles, plastics, footwear, cigarettes), metal products, processed foods and beverages, timber, cement, commercial ship repair
- diamonds, copper, gold, cobalt, wood products, crude oil, coffee
- China 48%, Zambia 17.2%, South Korea 5.4%, Belgium 5.2% (2015)
- foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels
- China 22.2%, South Africa 16.1%, Zambia 8.3%, Belgium 7.5%, Zimbabwe 5.6%, India 5.1%, France 4.3% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A high-risk political and economic situation and an often very difficult business environment can have a very significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is very high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The highest possible risk in terms of business climate. Due to a lack of available financial information and an unpredictable legal system, doing business in this country is extremely difficult.
- Abundant mineral resources (copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, tin)
- Considerable hydroelectric potential
- International effort to solve conflicts in the Great Lakes region
- Debt relief as part of the HIPC and MDR initiatives
- Sporadic tensions in the east of the country with repeated rebellions
- Political crisis following the Supreme Court decision to postpone presidential elections
- Weak infrastructure (transport, energy, telecommunications) and failures of governance
- High poverty levels
- Lack of foreign exchange reserves (approximately 1 month of imports)
In 2016, on balance, the country suffered from the fall in the prices of exported raw materials, chiefly copper prices. Nonetheless, the economy demonstrated a degree of macroeconomic stability despite the unfavorable external environment. In 2017, growth should pick up slightly, driven in particular by an increase in copper production and a recovery in mining output prices. The government's diversification efforts in 2016 in the context of the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP), which is being drawn up, should also help shore up the sectors that made the DRC more resilient than other mining countries on the continent, namely agriculture, telecommunications and transport. However, the increased risk of political instability following President Kabila's decision to stay in power might increase foreign investors' risk aversion. Private consumption, strong in 2016, might also suffer as a result of political instability.
In 2017, private consumption is expected to boost inflation. The latteris predicted to rise, as the Congolese franc loses value. Under pressure, the currency lost more than 20% of its value against the dollar in 2016. After raising its key interest rate by 500 basis points in August 2016, the Congolese Central Bank might tighten monetary policy still further in 2017 to ward off inflation.
The budget balance should return to surplus in 2017. Tax receipts look set to rise on the back of improved mining output prices in particular. However, the contribution made by external grants might fall considerably if foreign partners impose sanctions on the country as a result of J. Kabila's decision to keep power after his term expired. The government plans to reduce spending by around 14% in 2017 on top of the cuts already imposed in 2016. Nonetheless, additional resources could be directed at containing the social unrest triggered by J. Kabila's decision. Public debt, much reduced thanks to debt relief by its international creditors in 2010, remains sustainable.
Despite the growth in exports of mining products, the current account deficit will probably remain large in 2017. The high deficit in the services and income accounts accounted for by foreign-owned companies' repatriation of profits will likely keep the current account balance in negative territory. However, the trade surplus should grow thanks to the increase in copper production and, more broadly, strong gold and cobalt exports. The current account deficit should thus fall in 2017.
The Supreme Court's decision to postpone presidential elections initially planned for December 2016 until April 2018 has allowed President Joseph Kabila, after several failed attempts to stay in post, to keep his grip on power. After two consecutive five-year terms, this decision signals a setback for the country's first political transition since the Constitution came into force in 2006. By following the example of other Sub-Saharan African leaders in dodging constitutional constraints at the end of their terms, Joseph Kabila has inflamed public anger. The wave of protests against President Kabila (which began in 2014) have been violently suppressed and opposition activists have been imprisoned. The protests on 19 September led to 53 deaths, according to the UN. Nevertheless, the fragmented opposition does not seem ready to lead the country out of the political crisis. Political uncertainty, corruption and poor governance are contributing to a very difficult business climate (184th out of 190 countries in the 2017 Doing Business survey).
In geopolitical terms, the country has emerged from several decades of armed conflict with an improved security situation following the defeat of the rebel M23 movement in 2013. The situation remains fragile because of the residual activities of armed groups in the east of the country. In this context, diplomatic relations and security cooperation have been stepped up with Rwanda and Uganda. For the time being, the countries of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) are handling their relations with the DRC and with President Kabila carefully, despite the deterioration in the domestic situation since 2014.