Congo: The Sleeping Giant Battling Back to Relevance

In 2016, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a GDP of just over $32 Billion USD.  These numbers are staggering for a nation with a population of 83 billion souls and a 800 GDP per capita.  The horror is that the nation leads the world in some of the most precious metals and timber forests among many other resources.  Unfortunately, the nation has been plunged into chaos as the disputed 2011 elections left a bitter taste in the mouth of the nation and the international community.  Controversial president, Joseph Kabila retained a presidency under some dispute, with the nation delaying 2016 elections until late December 2018.

Unfortunately the government has been cash poor, and has sought several EuroBonds and IMF support in response.  Part of Congo’s challenge, like most African states is the diversification of its industries.  Most rely heavily on cash crops, raw natural resources and tourism, which is fast becoming poor currency in the world market.  Congo has also fallen prey to a ravenous domestic and international logging industry that fells thousands of trees per year along with side slash and burn cash-crop farmers.  While Congo has one of the largest rain forests in the world, it is fast becoming deforested.  Many of the older logging companies in the region are foreign owned, while newer ones are domestically owned.  Often the domestic loggers act as intermediaries or sellers to foreign interests.

The dislocation of government and the nation’s fractured economy make it difficult to account for such monetary losses (from its major resources like minerals and timber).  Many farmers are desperate to turn a profit in a stagnant economy and are willing to sell precious resources at literally pennies on the dollar.  Changing the fortunes of Congo often relies not only on the industry and education of the local citizenry but also the regulation of a government that is currently too fractured to account for the revenue hemorrhaging from its economy.  These complexities make it difficult for accurate and dependable investment in the region or the institution of local entrepreneurship programs to increase local markets.

Congo could benefit from a Central African States Association to help stabilize the region.  ECOWAS and the EAC have been instrumental recently in the stabilization of several sites within their purview as well as creating meaningful dialogue.  It appears regional associations can be a powerful force in the economic fortunes of the state, as much as a political one.

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