The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is largely reliant on its vast natural resources, which include minerals, timber, and agricultural products. The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa and it has significant potential for economic growth. Despite this potential, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries in the world due to decades of civil war, political instability, and corruption.
According to cheeroutdoor, the main industries in the DRC include mining (diamonds, copper, cobalt), agriculture (coffee, palm oil), timber production, and manufacturing. The mining industry is by far the most important sector of the economy and accounts for more than 50 percent of GDP. However, it also comes with a heavy environmental cost as unregulated mining has led to deforestation and water pollution. Agriculture accounts for one-quarter of GDP but only employs around 15 percent of the population. The timber industry is also a major contributor to GDP but is highly unregulated leading to increased deforestation rates. Manufacturing makes up a small portion of GDP but has grown significantly over recent years as foreign investment has increased.
Overall economic activity in the DRC remains hampered by poor infrastructure and weak governance institutions which have resulted in an inefficient economy that does not adequately serve its people or foster economic growth. Poverty remains widespread with 80 percent of people living below the poverty line and nearly 10 million people facing extreme poverty. In addition to this there are high levels of inequality with about two-thirds of income inequality stemming from unequal access to resources such as land ownership or education opportunities.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Congo has huge assets of minerals, diamonds, forests and water as well as good conditions for agriculture, but due to political chaos, poor infrastructure and great dependence on the world market price of a few dominant export products, the country’s economy is falling apart. From 1967-74, Congo had an average GDP growth of about 7 percent, but from the mid-1970s to the beginning of the 1990s, the economy deteriorated dramatically. President Mobutu Sese Seko’s economic and political program in the early 1970s, when many industrial and agricultural companies were expropriated, was one of the main reasons for this. The 1980s meant some financial stabilization, thanks in large part to large foreign loans and international aid, but after 1991 the recovery was transformed into a deep economic crisis. Between 1985 and 2000, average inflation was approximately 400 percent per year (in 1994, an inflation peak of 24,000 percent was reached). During the opening year of the 2000s, inflation was down 4–10 percent, but since 2005 it is again around 20 percent. The periods of high inflation have led to US dollars being the most viable currency in the country. In recent years, average growth has been close to 6 percent.
As a result of the chaotic economic situation in the country, the informal sector has grown and is estimated to be three times the size of the official gross domestic product.
Although Congo has good natural conditions for agriculture, the cultivated area in the country is only 4 percent. Agricultural production is much hampered by the country’s major infrastructural shortcomings. Large parts of the agricultural areas are not transported sufficiently to the markets in the large population concentrations or to the international market. Lack of transport opportunities, for example, means that the people of Kinshasa cannot be reached by agricultural products from areas outside the neighboring provinces, which periodically presents major supply problems for the capital.
The most important crops are cassava, corn, rice and bananas, mainly grown in small-scale agriculture, while the most important crop crop is coffee. In the country’s central and northern parts, cassava and rice are the most important crops, while the southern highlands are dominated by maize, banana and cotton crops. The coffee is grown mainly in the eastern parts. Livestock management is mainly found in the eastern and southern parts, but commercial meat production is limited.
Mining has been the cornerstone of the country’s economy since colonial times. The African copper belt from Zambia in southern to southeastern Congo is estimated to be the world’s largest aggregate copper deposit. The country’s political situation, strikes and technical problems have meant that the state mining company GÉCAMINES, which in the 1980s accounted for 90 percent of copper production, has reduced its production. Similarly, Congo’s cobalt production has declined sharply; the country previously accounted for about 65 percent of world production. Congo is also a major producer of industrial diamonds. In addition to copper, cobalt and diamonds, tin, zinc, gold, manganese, silver, platinum, tungsten and uranium are also mined. Mining production is concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Copper, cobalt and zinc are mainly mined in the provinces of Lualaba and Haut-Katanga in southeastern Congo, while diamonds are found around the cities of Mbuji-Mayi and Tshikapa in central Congo. A large part of the other mining industry is concentrated in the eastern parts of the country. When state control collapsed, the breach occurred in a primitive and more or less illegal way, with life-threatening working conditions as a result. Corruption and smuggling are other problems in the industry.
Abbreviated as DRC by abbreviationfinder.org, Congo has great potential for energy production, mainly through the Congo River’s water resources and oil deposits off the coast of the country. Most of the electricity needs of industry and major cities are covered by water energy, mainly from the Ingak power plant in the Congo River, while the rural needs are met by motor-driven electricity generators. The oil off the coastal strip is largely exported as crude oil as the domestic refineries do not have the capacity to process it.
Nearly 80 percent of the country’s area is covered by forests, and the country’s forest assets make up nearly half of all of Africa’s. Despite this, a very small part is used and mainly for fuel. The country’s own processing industry is very small, and most of the timber production is exported.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Congo had a relatively well-developed processing industry for beer, cement, cigarettes, soap, sugar and textiles. As a result of the country’s economic and political crisis, the industrial sector was halved in the 1980s. The decline continued during the 1990s, when certain industries, such as the cement industry, experienced a significant decline. Lack of foreign capital for spare parts purchases, decline in the domestic market and serious disruptions in electricity supply to the factories are some of the reasons for the decline.
The most significant industrial plants were the smelters in Lubumbashi, Kolwezi and Likas, as well as the chemical industry that has grown in connection with these. Thanks to major reconstruction projects, the construction industry is the fastest growing industry branch. The textile and food industries, which mainly produce for the domestic market, are located mainly in the metropolitan area.
Note: the capital city of Democratic Republic of the Congo is Kinshasa with a population of 14,340,000. Other major cities include Mbuji-Mayi with a population of 2 525 300, Lubumbashi with a population of 2 478 300, Kananga with a population of 1 458 400, Kisangani with a population of 1 261 300, Bukavu with a population of 1 078 000.
Congo has long had a surplus in the trade balance, but imports have increased as the country stabilized, and the trade balance now shows a rather sharp deficit. However, as a result of a very extensive smuggling of minerals and agricultural products, trade statistics are very uncertain. Exports are highly commodity-dominated. The mining industry accounts for about 90 percent of the export value; industrial diamond production alone accounts for about 50 percent. Gold, copper and cobalt are also important export goods. Of agricultural products, coffee is the only commodity that has any major significance for exports.
The country’s imports consist mainly of mechanical equipment, transport equipment, food and fuel.
The main exporting countries are China, Zambia and South Korea, while imports are mainly from China, South Africa and Zambia.