Street scene in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo A country facing big challenges

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is the second-largest country in Africa in terms of area. It has huge tropical rainforests, large reserves of freshwater and valuable mineral resources. The vast majority of the people, however, does not benefit from this natural wealth. Many people suffer from the consequences of corruption, mismanagement, illegal trade in natural resources and the lack of state presence.

Straight to
Haberdashery store in Kinshasa

In the history of the DR Congo exploitation under colonial rule, followed by a dictatorship, wars and internal conflict, instability and displacement have resulted in protracted humanitarian crises.

Some of the biggest challenges currently facing the country are extremely weak public sector institutions, ongoing fighting (in particular in the country’s eastern districts), a high number of internally displaced persons and growing food insecurity. According to the United Nations, 27 million of the country's approximately 99 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Over six million people have been displaced within the country (as at July 2023).

On the newest United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) the DR Congo is ranked 180th out of the 193 countries listed.

Since the government under President Felix Tshisekedi assumed office in 2019, it has been pursuing an ambitious reform agenda aimed at restoring peace and fostering economic development – implementation, however, has been modest so far. The international donor community, Germany included, is supporting its efforts. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in the DR Congo in December 2023.

The DR Congo plays an important role in the region. Its political, economic and social development has a considerable impact on the situation in its nine neighbouring countries. The country’s engagement for regional cooperation includes, for instance, its active involvement in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

German development cooperation with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The DR Congo is a nexus and peace partner for the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). German cooperation with the country centres on ways to tangibly improve the everyday lives of the population, in particular of poor and marginalised groups, foster peace in the unstable region of Eastern Congo and protect the country’s tropical forests.

At government negotiations in February 2023, the BMZ made a pledge of 90 million euros to its partner country for 2023 and 2024. This comprises 45 million euros each for Financial Cooperation and for Technical Cooperation. The BMZ is making an additional four million euros available to the country through its Special Initiative on Displaced Persons and Host Countries. Additional funds under transitional development assistance have been announced.

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

  • Peaceful and inclusive societies | Area of intervention: Peacebuilding and conflict prevention
  • Sustainable economic development, training and employment | Areas of intervention: Private sector and financial sector development and socially and environmentally sound supply chains, trade and sustainable infrastructure
  • Conserving nature and natural resources, protecting life on Earth | Areas of intervention: Biodiversity, forest conservation and water

In addition, the BMZ is funding a programme to improve the electricity supply in the DR Congo and promoting the expansion of regional cooperation in the energy sector.

Transboundary bodies supported by Germany include the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), the International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CAFI) and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).

Moving on from colonial continuities

Even today, societies continue to be marked by mind-sets and structures that date back to colonial times. The BMZ critically analyses colonialism and its consequences with a view to identifying and dismantling any attitudes and patterns in its approaches that may persist in development policy. The aim is to establish an equal partnership between the countries and actors from the Global South and the Global North.

Many of the DR Congo’s current conflicts have their roots in the colonial era (see also: historical background). The efforts to “decolonialise” development cooperation with the DR Congo are especially evident in the area of sustainable economic development. The BMZ is working hard to ensure that the country’s vast resources benefit the local communities and that the competition for internationally much sought-after resources does not play out to the detriment of people and nature in the DR Congo according to post-colonial patterns.

Presenter at Radio Okapi, operated by the UN

Core area “Peaceful and inclusive societies” Strengthening resilience, fostering dialogue and reconciliation, preventing new conflicts Internal link

The eastern provinces of the DR Congo, North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, are repeatedly affected by massive violent conflicts. The state is hardly able to deliver key tasks in these regions – for example, protecting the people, in particular women and children, from (sexual) violence and ensuring security and safety, and maintaining law, infrastructure and basic services. Germany is supporting an International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy (ISSSS) which promotes the peaceful political dialogue in municipalities and the creation of sustainable livelihoods.

Copper mine in DR Congo

Core area “Sustainable economic development, training and employment” Using the country’s wealth of natural resources for sustainable development Internal link

Although mining is one of the most important sources of income of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, little has been done until now to harness its potential for inclusive and human rights-compliant economic and social development of the country. That is why the BMZ is supporting the DR Congo in its efforts to promote transparency in the mining sector and create alternative sources of employment.

Deforestation near Yangamba, DR Congo

Core area “Conserving nature and natural resources, protecting life on Earth” Protecting the rainforest, preserving biodiversity and improving living conditions Internal link

After the Amazon Basin, the next-biggest area of tropical forest in the world is the Congo Basin. These forests also provide a large part of the Congolese population with a livelihood and are the basis of their culture. The rainforests are enormously important for the global climate and for the preservation of biodiversity. Germany is supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its efforts to conserve natural resources and use them sustainably.

Inga dam with run-of-river power plants in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Regional cooperation Improving energy supply, bringing down the cost of energy Internal link

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is generating almost all of its electric power from renewable sources. It has the largest hydropower potential in Africa – estimated at 100 gigawatts. Hydropower is a renewable energy that can be developed at low cost; it has the potential to supply not only the DR Congo with energy but also export markets in southern Africa. Through its development cooperation, Germany is helping to ensure that this potential is harnessed more efficiently in the Great Lakes region.

Current situation

Political situation
A woman carrying firewood in Kibati Goma, DR Congo
Historical background
A woman in front of a mural at the railway station of Kinshasa, the capital of the DR Congo.
Social and humanitarian situation
Vaccination of babies in the health center Kibati, Goma
Economic situation
Men with so-called chukudus (freight scooters) in Goma, DR Congo

As at: 19/07/2023