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

Economic situation Rich mineral deposits, poor business climate

In recent years, growth has ranged from 1.7 per cent (in 2020) to 6.6 per cent (in 2022). The main engines of growth were mining and raw materials exports and telecommunications. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting economic growth of 6.3 per cent for 2023.

However, given that population growth stands at over three per cent, even good economic figures are not enough to bring about tangible improvements in the living conditions of the population at large. This will require public investment to be more closely aligned with the needs of local people and channelled transparently and sustainably into the expansion of infrastructure, education and health care, industry and cycle economy and sustainable agriculture.

Only a small part of the Congolese people is employed in the formal sector; the majority works in the informal sector or lives on subsistence farming. Many social and professional communities have formed organisations outside of state structures to secure their livelihoods. Entrepreneurs and potential investors are deterred by the political instability and the lack of legal certainty, the arbitrary bureaucracy and corruption, the lack of skilled workers and the weak infrastructure.

Abundant mineral resources do not benefit the people

The most important economic sectors are agriculture and mining. The country has rich deposits of extractive and mineral resources, including cobalt, copper, zinc, silver, diamonds, germanium and uranium, and also what are often referred to as “conflict” minerals: tin, tantalum/coltan, tungsten and gold. International demand for coltan and cobalt in particular is very high, since they are used in the manufacture of mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. Some of the mineral resources, in particular the conflict minerals, are located in the east of the republic which is affected by protracted conflicts.

The strong focus on mineral exports is hampering the development of new markets and of economic growth that benefits the whole population. The Congolese economy is highly dependent on world market prices for minerals and on foreign companies which operate most mines in the country. No consideration is given to existing protected areas or the land rights of the people when new mining areas are designated.

The main area where jobs are created for the local population is informal, manual small-scale mining ( artisanal mining). There are significant deficits in the mines, many of which are operated illegally, as regards occupational safety and compliance with human rights and social standards. There is a shortage of protective equipment for the miners, for example, and child labour is still widespread. Women are frequently exposed to (sexual) violence and unable to enforce their rights.

In order to ensure that the trade in commodities is conducted lawfully and sustainably and that revenues are used transparently, the Congolese government has signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI. In July 2014, the EITI accepted the DR Congo onto its list of compliant countries. A validation assessment found in autumn 2022 that the country has made significant progress in implementing the EITI Standard.

As at: 19/07/2023