The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC; the country is often simply called the "Congo" or "Congo-Kinshasa" to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo) is located in Central Africa. The Congo is the third-largest country in Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic (1,577 kilometers, or 980 miles), Sudan (628 kilometers, or 390 miles), Uganda (765 kilometers, or 475 miles), Rwanda (217 kilometers, or 135 miles), Burundi (233 kilometers, or 145 miles), Tanzania (473 kilometers, or 294 miles, all on Lake Tanganyika), Zambia (1,930 kilometers, or 1,199 miles), Angola (2,511 kilometers, or 1,560 miles), and the Republic of the Congo (2,410 kilometers, or 1,498 miles), and has a small coastline of 37 kilometers (23 miles) on the South Atlantic Ocean. The Congo is 2,345,410 square kilometers (905,563 square miles), slightly less than one-fourth the size of the United States.
Kinshasa is the capital of the Congo. The Congo's other major cities are Lubumbashi, Mbuji-Mayi, Kolwezi, Kisangani, and Matadi.
As of July 2000 the population of the Congo was estimated at 51,964,999, making it the third-most populous country in Africa. The birth rate was 46.44 per 1,000 persons and the death rate was 15.38 per 1,000 persons according to 2000 estimates. Congolese women on average bore 6.92 children in 2000. As of the year 2000, the Congo's estimated infant mortality rate was 101.71 deaths per 1,000 live births. Males have a life expectancy of 46.72 years while females have a life expectancy of 50.83 years. Some 48 percent of the population is under age 15, while only 3 percent of the population is older than 65 years.
The Congo is made up of more than 200 tribes. The 4 largest tribes in the Congo are the Mongo, Luba, Kongo, and Mangbetu-Azonde. Approximately 700 local languages and dialects are spoken in the Congo. The majority of Congolese speak one of the following languages: Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, Swahili, and French. Most of the Congolese population lives in rural areas, while one-third of the population is urban.
About 80 percent of the Congolese population is Christian. Most non-Christians have traditional African religious beliefs.
Since the colonial era, mining has been and continues to be the Congo's main source of exports and foreign exchange. The Katanga region of the Congo contains some of the world's richest deposits of copper and cobalt. The national copper mining company, GECAMINES, which had been struggling in the 1980s, collapsed in 1991 and has had little success in expanding production since then, thanks again to the wars of the late 1990s. Recovery in this sector will occur only if the Congo enjoys sustained political stability and the mines receive massive technological improvements.
As recently as the 1980s, the DRC was the world's fourth leading producer of industrial diamonds. It also has an abundant reserve of gem-quality diamonds. The Congo exports its diamonds mainly to Belgium, Israel, and India. Two-thirds of the Congo's industrial diamond production is realized through artisanal (skilled worker) diamond diggers. In the 1990s the state granted to one company, IDI Diamonds, a monopoly on the sales and export of diamonds. This move—meant to bring order to the diamond industry—in fact forced most diamond sales into the black market as artisanal diamond diggers sought the highest prices for their diamonds.
The Congo also produces gold. However, production has suffered as a result of both the current and previous wars. Currently, the Congo's main gold mines are in regions governed by rebel forces. Like industrial diamonds, gold production takes place mostly through artisanal panning and is not significant.
Compared to other sub-Saharan African oil producers, the Congo produces very little crude oil. However, offshore oil fields remained one of the government's few stable sources of revenue in the 1990s. The country produces about 22,000 barrels per day of oil. U.S.-owned Chevron and Mobil dominate the Congo's crude oil sector. SOCIR, the national refinery, is unable to process the country's crude oil so it must be processed externally, limiting the economic benefits of this natural resource.
The Congo's primary manufacturing regions are Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, and they produce batteries, tires, shoes, food products, plastics, beverages, autos, textiles, and other consumer goods . Agricultural processing is one of the few relatively healthy industries, thanks to its ability to benefit from the mass of Congolese who are involved with agriculture. Although the Congo's locally-produced goods are far more expensive than imports, local manufacturers have been able to withstand import competition ironically because of the Congo's poor transportation system.
The Congo has no territories or colonies.
Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Democratic Republic of Congo. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.
Leslie, Winsome J. Zaire: Continuity and Political Change in an Oppressive State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
"Making a Mint From the Zaire Shambles." Electronic Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg, South Africa). <http://www.mg.co.za/mg/news/97apr2/21apr-zaire.html> . Accessed July 2001.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html> . Accessed July 2001.
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs. Background Notes: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/bgn/index.cfm?docid=2823> . Accessed April 2001.
U.S. Department of State. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/congodr.html> . Accessed April 2001.
U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Democratic Republic of the Congo. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/africa/index.html> . Accessed April 2001.
—Michael David Nicoleau
Raynette Rose Gutrick
Congolese franc (FC). One Congolese franc equals 100 makuta. Due to the unstable nature of the currency it is impossible to predict which notes and coins are available in the country.
Diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil.
Foodstuffs, mining and other machinery, transport equipment, fuels.
US$35.7 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.). [Because most economic activity in the Democratic Republic of Congo is in the informal sector and difficult to track, different world agencies provide very different estimates of GDP. For example, the World Bank listed GDP in 1998 as US$7.0 billion, while the International Monetary Fund listed GDP as US$34.9 billion in the same year.]
Exports: US$530 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.). Imports: US$460 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.).