The Democratic Republic of Congo is located in Central Africa is the second-largest countries in the African Continent. Also, is has one of the highest population amounting to 78 million making it one of the most populated states in the world (The World Bank in DRC). The country attained independence in 1960 which resulted in conflicts about ownership and administration of the land. Lumumba was made the Prime Minister of the country who requested the Soviet Union to assist in coming up with a solution to this problem. From this time onward, the country remained a one-party state which was dictatorial thereby limiting the freedom of expression of the citizens.
DRC is one of the richest countries in terms of the natural resources. However, it continues to suffer problems like many other African countries although it is worse for Congo. The issues include political instability, poor infrastructure, and high rates of corruption. Due to these problems, the country has not been able to make any meaningful growth and development. Ideally, the country exports a lot of raw minerals to countries like China. Thousands of the Congolese have, in the past, migrated to other neighboring countries in the search for better opportunities. Even though the country has one of the best climates, the children are affected by hunger and starvation and the constant fights have resulted in the displacement of millions of individuals.
While the country sits on an estimated $24 trillion worth of natural resources, a majority of the people suffer extreme poverty (Lee para 3). In this paper, the focus is to explain the reasons why more than half the population live under the poverty line. First, it will provide an overview on the current resources available in DRC. Again, it will examine the statistics which prove that the country is extremely poor by comparing it with other African countries and worldwide. Finally, it will show how factors including the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, colonization, political instability, poor leadership, corruption, and the resource curse have made DRC one of the poorest countries.
Congo’s Natural Wealth
When considering the natural resources, Congo is one of the richest countries in the world. It contains 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, with tremendous deposits of iron, platinum, diamond, and gold (Extreme Poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo). The fact that many superpowers expressed great interest in the country is evidence enough that it is the richest in resources. Throughout the history of the state, the majority of European powers exploited the country’s natural resources.
DR Congo boasts of the richest mineral deposits in the world, particularly uranium which can be used to make atomic bombs. In 1945, Japan made use of this mineral to make the atomic bombs. Also, Congo features the coltan reserves which are used for making electronic devices such as cell phones. For people who are living in the country, they perceive this as more of a curse than a gift as they do not really help them. First, miners do not receive enough compensation which covers for the dangerous work they have to do.
There are foreign companies which have identifies the huge potential of the country and have, therefore, invested a lot of wealth toward Congo’s mines. However, this has led to a loss as opposed to profits since the country could not account for $1 billion in resource revenue which would have been used in reforming sectors of the country including security, health, and education.
The mines in question are one of the largest reserves of diamond, gold, copper, cobalt, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. The raw materials prompted a war where the militia groups made about $185 million from the conflict materials in 2008 (Bafilemba and Mueller 3). The availability of gold continued to fund Congo’s military. These minerals are used daily in making various objects such as jewelry and lightbulbs.
Even though the resources are part of the country’s wealth, it is believed that the mines belong to an Israeli billionaire known as Dan Gertler who has been named countless times in the Panama Papers. He is also a friend to the Congo President Joseph Kabila, and has been associated with the mining deals previously.
DR Congo is the biggest Francophone country in Africa with numerous resources. It has more than 77 million inhabitants and only less than 40 percent of the total population reside in the urban areas. Given that the total size of the country is 80 million hectares with more than 1,100 minerals, the state has a huge potential of becoming the richest country in the African continent and influencing its growth.
A majority of the people in DRC live in extreme poverty and manage to earn less than $400 every year. Currently, the government is still trying to recover from the widespread instability, hunger, and disease. Statistics show that one in every seven children will not make it past 5 years of age. There has been death of more than 5 million people since the beginning of the conflict in 1993 (Lee para 1). The raw mineral ores are worth a lot of money but they do not benefit any Congolese citizens.
The economic growth of the country has reduced from 6.9% in 2015 to 2.4% in 2016 which marked the lowest rate of growth since 2001 (The World Bank in DRC). There is a probability that the GDP may accelerate due to the continued increase in the prices of the commodities and the production of mines, especially copper and cobalt, and accounts for a lot of export revenue.
There was a significant reduction of the public finances in 2016 with a deficit of GDP. The downward trend of domestic revenue which started in 2014 has resulted in reduced funds available for public spending. Additionally, this had a negative impact on the investments which are meant for the growth of public and social sectors. The lack of access to international financial market has worsened the situation for the country forcing it to reduce the public expenditure drastically.
There was a notable decrease of the rate of poverty from 71% to 64% of the population in 2012 (The World Bank in DRC). Today, however, it still ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world after occupying the 168th position out of 186 countries on a recent Human Development Index conducted by the United Nations (Miller and Kim 3). Additionally, the UN estimated that the country was a host of more than 540,000 refugees with a larger number of people displaced.
Algeria, which is the largest country in Africa with a population of about 40 million people, has an approximate of 23% people living below the poverty line. This is a big difference from Congo which was estimated to be 63% in 2012 (The World Bank in DRC). The percentage in Kenya is only 43.4% and 50% for the most populated country in Africa which is Nigeria with more than 180 million people.
One can easily notice the face of extreme poverty in Congo by observing the numerous slums which are mostly prevalent in the urban areas. In Kinshasa, the capital city of DRC, there are numerous households which evidently lack the standard resources. People live in hopeless conditions and make their houses from carboards. Another issue which attracts attention is that in a majority of these families, women serve as the sole guardians. Being a patriarchal society, the women do not have enough access to the economic opportunity and they are forced to rely on limited resources which are drawn from the activities that heighten the exposure to violence and health hazards. The women lack the potential to send their children to school or provide decent health care. These parents are forced to make a difficult decision of choosing the one child who will get the meal almost every other day.
Causes of Poverty
DR Congo has the second lowest nominal in the world due to what many people term as the bloodiest African world war and poor governance. In this section, these factors have been explored and how they precisely led to this state of such a rich nation.
When the superpowers were touring the African continent before the scramble and partitioning process, they identified Congo as a wealthy country with numerous resources. Immediately after determining this, the Western world took millions of the Congolese men and women taking them from the homeland and sent to work as slaves in the European industries. Even after the abolition of the slavery institution in most developed countries, Congo was still not safe. Due to the growing demand of tires linked to the increased use of cars and bicycles, cotton was taken from DRC (Lee para 7). During the First World War which was marked by the use of weapons, the copper used in bullet casings was mined from Congo. Additionally, the nuclear bombs used in World War II also used uranium mined from Congo.
The European powers depended on the raw materials from Congo but did not promote any development in the country. The workers even worked at low wages and could not even afford to help their families back at home. As such, despite the widespread presence of these materials, they did not really contribute to the growth of the county’s economy.
The Bloody African War
Even after DRC attained independence, it remains to be under the influence of dictatorial rulers which receives support from the foreigners. Mainly due to the abundance of uranium in the region, the U.S. and Soviet Union initiates ward in Congo which led to divisions in the country. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 caused a significant number of the Hutu to take refuge in the country accompanied by diseases and strong rebellion (Mullins 721). Due to their presence in the country, they caused the bloodiest conflict in the state since World War II. The war claimed the lives of more than five million people and millions more were affected by starvation. During this event, millions of women and girls were sexually assaulted.
The war termed as the Great War of Africa claimed the lives of soldiers and civilians from DRC. However, there were more than nine nations involved although the entire battle took place in DRC. Ideally, Congo has one of the most abusive histories in Africa (Keowen para 5). Undoubtedly, there is nothing that hinders the progression of a country more than war. There is literally no business which takes place as everyone is in a form of standby with people being scared for their lives. There is no flow of money and the government shifts its attention from doing more profitable activities like ensuring that the country continues to export its products or growing the infrastructure of a county. Instead, the focus is on protecting the lives of innocent citizens and trying to come up with a solution. If war takes place in a country for a continued period of one month could have adverse effects on the economy, then it is unimaginable what a war that lasted from 1998 to 2003 did to Congo’s economy. The leading cause of the poverty in DRC is this war which brought a stop to the activities in the state which contribute to its social, political, and economic growth.
The rate of corruption in DRC is one of the highest in Africa and to overcome the problems related to poor economy, it is paramount that the country should be led by credible leaders who do not embezzle the state’s wealth. Research shows that the corruption cases in DRC cost the country at least $15 billion every year, which is three times the annual budget. It is so clear that corruption is prevalent in the country and the people would not be suffering as they are currently had it not been for leaders who only have self-interests. Since President Kabila was elected in 2001, the country has not had any other chief of state despite the allegations that he is connected to the stealing of funds in Congo. He has been accused of taking advantage of the mines which now purportedly belong to another tycoon and only benefits from this close relationship.
Undoubtedly, corruption has been a key problem in a majority of the countries worldwide. There have been serious approaches to overcome this problem such as the policy of the death penalty in China whenever one is linked to stealing the country’s resources. Currently, China has one of the biggest economies in the world and there is a probability it might, in the near future, challenge the hegemony of U.S. In the same way, DRC could have an improved economy if it decided to take a serious approach toward corruption of the elected leaders.
While the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the richest countries worldwide with an abundance of raw materials including gold, uranium, tin, and cobalt, it has the second-lowest GDP per capita which proves that it has high poverty levels. The high rate of corruption, colonization period, and the African World War have made DRC to have the worst economies. There is need for efforts to improve its growth and development and find a solution to the challenge of corruption. The government and citizens should employ new strategies to overcome corruption and promote education to empower the young minds.
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