Independence from Belgium, gained with little trouble in 1960, has had the unintended effect of increasing the gap between rich and poor in the Congo. The Congo lacks a middle class. The wealthy Congolese—usually tied to those in power by patronage—live in the city in
|Exchange rates: Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|Congolese francs per US$1|
|Note: On June 30, 1998 the Congolese franc was introduced, replacing the new zaire.|
|SOURCE : CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].|
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|Dem. Rep. of Congo||392||313||293||247||127|
|SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
modern houses and apartment buildings and drive expensive cars. The urban poor, who make up the majority of the population, live in overcrowded slums lacking even the basics of life, such as running water and basic health care. Congolese who live in the rural parts of the country live in thatched huts and survive on subsistence agriculture. Though any estimates of income are questionable, it is estimated the per capita GDP is as low as US$100.
Since independence, the Congo has made efforts to provide its citizens with access to primary and secondary schooling. About 80 percent of the males and 65 percent of females aged 6 to 11 were enrolled in a mixture of state-and church-run primary schools in 1996. At higher levels of education, males greatly outnumber females. The country's elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.
Taxes are very burdensome for Congolese, and rural dwellers are subjected to a variety of coercive measures by officials to extract payments, fines, and other financial penalties. The health care system, roads, and school system have virtually collapsed, and the government has focused its meager resources in the urban areas, leaving rural citizens with nothing but high taxes, low prices for their agricultural products, and much suffering.