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
Official languages: French
President: Joseph Kabila
Independence from Belgium:
June 30, 1960
- Total: 905,351 sq mi
- Water (%) 3.3
- 2006 estimate 59,319,660
- 1984 census 29,916,800
- Density 65/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005
- Total : $46.491 billion
- Per capita: $774
Currency : Congolese franc (CDF)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.