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About The Congo

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also often referred to as DRC, RDC, DR Congo, Congo or Congo-Kinshasa, and formerly as Zaire, is the third largest country on the African continent. Though it is located in the Central African UN sub region, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Facts




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Capital: Kinshasa
Official languages: French
Government: Democratic
President:
Joseph Kabila
Independence from Belgium: June 30, 1960
Area:

 - Total:                  905,351 sq mi

                 - Water (%)          3.3
Population:

 - 2006 estimate 59,319,660

 - 1984 census     29,916,800

                 - Density              65/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate:

 - Total :                $46.491 billion

                 - Per capita:        $774
HDI  (2006):       0.391
Currency :       Congolese franc (CDF)

Economy

The DRC is potentially one of Africa’s richest states, with extensive agricultural, mineral, and energy resources. However, despite its rich natural resource base, the DRC is among the least developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Continued civil war and the general breakdown of the formal economy and existing infrastructure have disrupted much of the mineral production in the country.

Mineral deposits constitute the DRC’s principal source of wealth. The Katanga and Kasai regions are among the world’s largest producers of cobalt and industrial diamonds.

 Other minerals produced in significant quantities include copper, uranium, tin, gold, silver, coal, zinc, manganese, tungsten, and cadmium. Mineral production declined severely in the 1990s, but mining continues to account for almost 90 percent of the DRC’s export earnings. It is estimated that presently, copper production is only at 5% of capacity.

Geography

The Congo is situated at the heart of the west-central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (Clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia. Its territory also straddles the Equator, with one-third to the north and two-thirds to the south. The size of Congo is comparable to that of Western Europe.

As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms on Earth. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in the world (after the Amazon).

This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north.

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The Great Rift Valley, in particular the Eastern Rift, plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. The rifting of the African continent in this area has manifested itself as the famous Great Lakes which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier. The country is bordered in the east by two of these: Lake Albert and Lake Tanganyika.

Perhaps most important of all, the Rift Valley has endowed most of the south and east of the Congo with an enormous amount of mineral wealth. These include cobalt, coltan, copper, cadmium, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal.

Unfortunately, this wealth has been both a blessing and a curse; the Congo people have not so far reaped the benefits of their country's tremendous mineral resources.

Demographics

The population was estimated at 59.3 million in 2006, growing quickly from 46.7 million in 1997. As many as 250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. The most numerous people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. Although seven hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

About eighty percent of the Congolese populations are Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. Most of the non-Christians adhere to either traditional religions or syncretic sects.

Culture

The culture of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reflects the diversity of its hundreds of ethnic groups and their differing ways of life throughout the country Since the late 19th century, traditional ways of life have undergone changes brought about by colonialism, the struggle for independence, the stagnation of the Mobutu era, and most recently, the First and Second Congo Wars. Despite these pressures, the customs and cultures of the Congo have retained much of their individuality. The country's 60 million inhabitants are mainly rural. The 30 percent who live in urban areas have been the most open to Western influences.