Street scene in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo A country in deep crisis

On paper, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is a wealthy country. It has an abundance of valuable natural resources, large reserves of freshwater and huge tropical rainforests. However, many decades of exploitation under colonial rule, followed by years of dictatorship and then armed conflicts have reduced the country to abject poverty.

In social and humanitarian terms, the country is in a dire state. On the latest United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) DR Congo is ranked 175th out of the 189 countries listed.

After being repeatedly unlawfully postponed, presidential elections eventually took place in December 2018. The opposition politician Felix Tshisekedi was declared the unexpected winner. Doubts regarding the legitimacy of the result were expressed both at home and abroad. Whether the new head of state will manage to steer the country out of the deep political crisis it is facing and into more peaceful waters remains to be seen. The need for reform is huge.

This Central African country plays an important geostrategic role; its political, economic and social development has a considerable impact on the situation in its nine neighbouring countries. And the conservation of its rainforests is of vital importance for the global climate.

Development cooperation

Germany and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been engaged in development cooperation for many years. Government negotiations on development cooperation were due to be held in 2017. However, in response to the delaying of the elections and the ensuing political crisis, the negotiations were postponed indefinitely.

Since then the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been concentrating on development activities that do not involve direct cooperation with the government of the DR Congo. Instead of working with central government bodies, the focus is on cooperation at the provincial and municipal levels, and with civil society organisations.

German activities in the country centre on ways to immediately improve the everyday lives of the population, on fostering peace in the conflict-ridden region of Eastern Congo and on protecting the country's tropical forests.

A woman in front of a mural at the railway station of Kinshasa, the capital of the DR Congo.

A difficult political legacy Internal link

When Joseph Kabila took office as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2001, the Central African country was at war. The arrival of a new head of state kindled fresh hope – hope that the country might find peace and achieve political and economic stability.

A tank of the UN mission in Rumangabo, DR Congo

A weak state allows corruption and violence to flourish Internal link

The DR Congo still has a long way to go before it can be regarded as a democratic state under the rule of law. The separation of powers exists solely on paper. Freedom of the press and other media is severely restricted.

Immunisation of babies in a health centre in Kibati, Goma

Living in extreme poverty Internal link

The dictatorship under President Mobutu and the wars that followed have completely destroyed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The people have little food and few opportunities to earn a living.

Men with so-called chukudus (freight scooters) in Goma, DR Congo

Rich mineral deposits, poor business climate Internal link

After decades of mismanagement and war, the economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in ruins. In recent years, growth rates have seesawed between 2.4 and 9.5 per cent – starting from a very low baseline.

German development cooperation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Due to the current crisis and the urgent reforms that still need to be undertaken, government negotiations between Germany and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been suspended for the time being. Ongoing development cooperation has been restricted to activities that benefit the population directly.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) focuses on working with decision-makers at the local level and with Congolese civil society.

The main focus of German activities is on the following priority areas:

  • Drinking water supply
  • Protection and sustainable use of natural resources
  • Peace and security in Eastern Congo
  • Sustainable economic development in the mining sector

Regional cooperation

The DR Congo is also receiving assistance through several regional projects that Germany is funding as part of its development cooperation activities in Africa. For instance, Germany supports transboundary bodies such as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), the International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CICOS) and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).

Haberdashery store in Kinshasa

Haberdashery store in Kinshasa

Haberdashery store in Kinshasa
Well with clean drinking water, DR Congo

Millions of people without clean water Internal link

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has made marked progress in recent years on improving access to safe drinking water. Nevertheless, the need for investment is still very high – only about half of the population has access to clean drinking water.

Deforestation near Yangamba, DR Congo

Protecting the rainforest, maintaining biodiversity, and slowing down climate change Internal link

After the Amazon Basin, the next-biggest area of tropical forest in the world is the Congo Basin. The rainforests are enormously important for the global climate and for the preservation of biodiversity.

Presenter at Radio Okapi, operated by the UN

Stepping up involvement in the east of the country Internal link

Since 2018, the BMZ has been stepping up its involvement in measures focusing on Eastern Congo. Individual projects that were already in place, focusing on food security, social and economic infrastructure, conflict transformation and tackling the issue of violence against women, are now being grouped together and expanded.

Copper mine in DR Congo

Loans for small enterprises Internal link

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has vast mineral deposits, including cobalt, copper, zinc, silver, diamonds, germanium and uranium, and also what are often referred to as "conflict" minerals: tin, tantalum, wolfram and gold.

A woman carrying firewood in Kibati Goma, DR Congo

A woman carrying firewood in Kibati Goma, DR Congo

A woman carrying firewood in Kibati Goma, DR Congo