It seems paradoxical that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)...

It seems paradoxical that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is currently seen as a prosperous nation, is included as one of the world’s failing states. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a long and unbelievable history of political bloodshed, and it is currently in the process of re-establishment. The country is currently in a failed state as a result of the lasting effects of the political conflict. A failed state is, by definition, a country that is unable to offer its residents basic needs like food, security, and education. This research paper will examine the DRC’s demographic characteristics and the economic and political factors to determine its current situation. Also, the research will identify the current international and business community efforts to improve the nation’s ranking from a failed to a functional state.

Demographic Overview of the DRC

Current population and future projections

As of 2016, based on United Nations estimates, the population of DRC is approximately 7.9 million. The Congo population is 0.06% of the total world population. Since Congo covers about 2344858 Km2, the population density is 35.2Km2 (UN Data). This means that Congo is relatively sparsely populated. The population estimates take into account the mortality rate due to the high prevalent of HIV/AIDS in the country. Also, the population is affected by migration given that the Eastern part of the country has seen it receive millions of refugees from neighboring countries.

Although three million people died in 1990s civil war while others were displaced to neighboring countries, the country has had an ever high population growth rate. As of 2015, the yearly growth rate was 2.61%. Due to the high annual percentage population change, the population is expected to rise to 5.2 million by 2020. The DRC population is expected to hit six million by 2030 and approximately 10million by 2050 (UN, n.p.). However, the current population of 7.9 million has already exceeded the 2020 and 2030 forecasts.

Ethnic and racial composition

DRC is identified as the second most ethnically divided country in the world with over 200 ethnic groups. The most notable ethnic groups, who are mostly Bantus, are the Baluba, Kongo, Mongo, Mangbetu, Moru, Zande, Pygmies and Europeans Congolese (Karbo & Martha, 382). As estimated by United Nations, 215 native languages are spoken in the country with alongside French as the national language (UN Data). Due to ethnic diversity, the relationship between ethnic groups has been stiff often fueling ethnic rivalries.

The racial composition comprises of two main groups, the native Congolese who are black and the European Congolese who have white European ancestry. The whites can be traced to Belgium who came into the country as settlers and or missionaries. Some of them remained after Congo (formerly Zaire) gained its independence. The number of the white Europeans has however been decreasing due to frequent civil wars in the past (Karbo & Martha, 395). Other racial groups include the Lebanese, Greeks, and Asian Indians.

Age distribution

According to a UN age structure, DRC has a high young population. In other words, most of the DRC’s population is fifteen years old and below. 0-14 year’s age group is 42.2% of the total Congo population (UN Data). The older generation is few given those individuals with 65 years and over is 2.65% of the total Congo Population (UN, 2015). Given a large number of young people, DR Congo education sector is strained since the government has to invest in more schools for the children.

Education and income levels of the population

In Congo, education is compulsory for children between 6 and 12 years. Given that 32.4% of these children complete their primary school, literacy level in the country is relatively low to moderate. However, according to UN Data, 88.2 percent of the total Congo population knew how to read and write. Hence, the literacy level of the country is relatively high. Additionally, most of the primary school pupils enroll to the secondary level and later to tertiary levels that are universities and colleges. A ratio of 4.2/9.1 enrolls for the tertiary level (UN Data).

Despite it abundant resources, most of the Congolese are battling with poverty. The country is characterized by high levels of unemployment and underemployment. It is ranked as one of the countries with lowest levels of income per household with most people living in poverty. In other words, most of the Congolese, either do not receive any form of income or they receive very little to cater for basic needs. According to UN Data 2015 (n.p), only 20% of the Congo population was salary and wages workers.


United Nations recognize 215 native languages spoken in the Congo. However due to migration and interactions between different cultures as many as 700 languages and dialects are currently used in the country. It serves as African lingua francae with five different African languages; Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, Monokutuba, and Lomongo (Karbo & Martha, 382). French is the official national language and is widely used in schools, commerce, and by the government.

Social structure

In the DRC there exist social stratification with classes and castes. The urban and educated people have jobs and have more income than the rural population who assume a lifestyle closer to that of the ethnic tribes. As Mortensen (14) notes, due to communism and local social customs, very few people have accumulated wealth. Wealthy people are indicated by the level of education, large houses, job, and money.

Discrimination against the forest dwellers or the Pygmy tribe is widespread. Members of the tribe are often turned away from social services such as hospitals, receive low pay, and are underrepresented in the government. Thus, the Pygmies do not mix with others in the society and are not free to interact. The main tribal groups including Bakongo, Baluba, Mongo, and Koto occupy most of social and government positions (Weijs et al., 24).

The economic and political factors of DRC

Government structure

The DRC is governed under the 2006 amended constitution. The government structure possesses characteristics of a modern republic with a separate legislature, executive, and the judicial or.gans of the government. The president heads the executive and who is also the head of state. The president is popularly elected and can serve a two-five year’s term. The executive government branch also comprises of the prime minister who is appointed by the President from the majority party in the assembly. There exists a bicameral legislature with both the members of parliament and the senate. Congo has 500 members of parliament and 108 senates (UN department of economic and social affairs, 7).

The judiciary possesses the characteristics of both the Belgian court system and tribal features. The courts include the Supreme Court, courts of the first instance, Court of State Security, and the appellate courts, a Supreme Court (UN department of economic and social affairs, 9). Most cases are settled by the local administration or traditional authorities. At the local government, there exist ten provinces with each province having an elected assembly.

Election participation

DRC is a multi-party nation with all registered political parties being allowed to participate in national and local level elections. All the parties are responsible for mobilizing voter turnout for elections (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 3). Under Congolese electoral law of 2016, any gender is allowed to contest for any seat. Thus, all genders including women have the right to join any political party or coalition that is participating in the elections.

On the voters’ side, under the Congolese electoral law, a citizen of Congo at eighteen years of age and over have the right to participate in an election (Clark, 30). These apply to both the gender; the female and male. Voters’ participation in an election is dependent on the efforts of the parties to mobilize their supporters. However, it is the right of a Congolese to decide their candidate. DRC has been reported to have the high voter turnouts during elections. For instance, in the Congo presidential election of 2006 voters’ turnout was 70.29percent of the total registered voters. This means that voting participation by the public is relatively higher than previous years.

Economic structure

The DRC has a mixed economic system. In other words, her economy is both centrally planned with government regulation and has a private freedom. The government controls the mining and utility sectors while the private industries dominate elsewhere. The private companies and government parastatals compete in the market except for petroleum products, services, and partly transport. Thus, market-determined prices are the norm of DRC economy. The country has most of its agricultural land uncultivated thus depending on imported food products. The country import goods by the use of income from diamonds, crude petroleum, and coffee exports.

Natural resources

From large deposits of minerals, natural forests cover, a significant amount of natural water, arable land, to a variety of wildlife, DRC is one of the world’s richest regarding natural resources. DRC minerals remain untapped with large deposits of gold, cobalt, crude oil, copper, and diamond (Cuvelier et al., 8). The little exploitation of the minerals is attributed to political instability that has been in the country for decades (Forbes, n.p).

Also, high percentage the country’s land is fertile with rich soils. However, the agricultural land remains uncultivated with the country’s population depending on food products’ imports. Moreover, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a home to the Africa’s largest River, Congo River passing across the country (Forbes, n.p). It is also rich in natural forest cover with the Congo rainforest covering most of its land. The Congo Forest and the Congo River are a home to a variety of biodiversity including plants species, birds, apes, and mammals.

Political stability

The thirty-two years dictatorial regime of President Marshall Mobutu in the 90s tore DRC (formerly Zaire) into a political war zone. His one state-party rule resulted in numerous revolutions and civil wars until 1997 when Laurent Kabila overturned his government through a military campaign. Laurent Kabila too received opposition since assuming the power in 1998 until he was assassinated in 2001.

The present situation under President Joseph Kabila and a new constitution adopted in 2005 has seen the country transform to a once wore torn country to a relatively peaceful state. However, there have been numerous situations of political tensions in the country. For instance, when the President, Kabila postponed 2006 elections date, massive opposition and pressure in some parts of the country were experienced. In 2016, the opposition forces asked Joseph Kabila to leave the presidential office for his term was over. With frequent political protests, the risk of political instability remains high in the country.

Movement towards economic growth

Since the end of the political war in 2003, DRC has made a significant milestone towards building its economic conditions. The government, under President Joseph Kabila, has amended its blocks with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It now cooperates closely with the two economic and financial bodies. According to Forbes (n.p.), the Finance Minister Ponyo Mapon has confirmed there have important reforms to build the banking system and the capital market. Also, the government has invited foreign investors to strengthen the competitive order of economy (Forbes, n.p.).

Current international and business community efforts on DRC’s Failed state ranking

SADC has been on the forefront of efforts to restore the DRC’s peace and development. As early as 1998, SADC countries including Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe had deployed military to help restore DRC peace (Shepherd, 2). The interventions were subsequent with SADC trying to introduce peace talks between Laurent Kabila and Marshall Mobutu. SADC currently continues to monitor the political and security conditions of DRC. The latest effort was a meeting in Pretoria South Africa on June 28, 2016, by the Ministers of SADC, to review and assess the security situation in DRC. This followed a crisis of anti-Kabila protests in the Eastern part of the country.

Another effort has been the appointing of DRC President Joseph Kabila as the acting chair of SADC. The SADC’s region’s commercial networks would create a larger market for DRC and greater economic opportunities (Forbes, n.p.). Having gained the trust of the SADC (the South African Countries) to appoint him as chair, it would be easier for Kabila to create trade networks and agreements with other African countries as well as international investors. Improved economic growth would help in the rethinking of the DRC ranking.

The two international bodies United Nations and World Bank continue to monitor social, economic, and political situations of DRC. Socially, the United Nations departments and the World Bank continue to release data on poverty levels, income levels, housing, education, and health status of the people of DRC. For DRC economy, they release yearly data of the Gross Domestic Product, inflation, and per Capita income. Politically, they assess and report on the political stability of the country and how it affects the social and economy of the country. They also provide future projections of the nation. The data in the yearly reports can be used to assess whether the country qualifies to be a functional state.

SADC, African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations have had a combined engagement in ensuring DRC elections are free and fair (Shepherd, 4). The intervention has been providing the Congolese electoral body with machinery, technical and logistic aspects of elections, and providing security at the polling stations. For instance, the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO was renewed until 2017 to protect civilians and create a peaceful environment for elections (Shepherd, 6). The efforts have prevented chaotic and violent election that would destroy the country further.

My opinion

Thanks to the Joseph Kabila’s administration that DRC has fairly achieved peace as well as economic and social developments. Yet, I think the country has no chance of being eliminated from failed state index. How can a country succeed in re-establishing itself if political tensions dominate it? I believe, for a country or any society to be successful in all its aspects, it must ensure peace and political stability. On the economic side, no investor would take the risk of investing their capital into a country with political tensions thus minimal economic development. On social aspect, even if schools, health, and other social institutions are developed, they are still at a high risk of being destroyed if political tensions turn into a war.

This is the case with DRC. Political tensions are the norm of the day hence any economic or social developments so far achieved are at high risk of being destroyed. The Eastern part of the country is the most affected. The area is a home to numerous rebel groups. Unless the country develops strategies to eliminate such rebel groups (which none has been developed yet) they still make the country volatile to political wars. The UN Peace Keeping Mission deployed in the area has yet to be effective to keep away the rebels.

Also, the political leaders have not learned from their past leaders. For instance, the current President, Joseph Kabila went ‘above’ the constitution on elections and postponed elections dates. Such dictatorial rules were what historically fueled civil war in DRC, and if political leaders are not careful, DRC is volatile to another civil war. The situation is further worsened with Joseph Kabila clinging onto the presidential office even after his term is over. This has seen anti-Kabila protests in the major DRC streets creating a political tension among the Congolese. Such protests would destroy what has already been established after the 90s DRC’s civil war. Unless the leaders learn to respect the rule of law, DRC has no chances of improvement.

Moreover, any election held in the country is conducted with high suspicion of another political war erupting. The suspicions have seen DRC government request for security aid from the regional and international community such as SADC, EU, African Union, and the United Nations. Such suspicions create political tensions among the Congolese community. Business persons too have to close their enterprises in fear of them being destroyed. Does it mean that any election held in the country has to stop all other activities from taking place? Unless the political leaders create a conducive elections environment without tensions, DRC would still lag behind in development.

In conclusion, even if DRC has made notable steps in developing its political, social, and economic aspects, the country has a long way to go to be eliminated from the failed states index. Most of the country’s citizens are struggling to get basic needs while on the other hand; the government is struggling to provide social utilities. The political tensions in the country contribute significantly to the lag of the country. The current social and economic developments are on the edge if such political tensions are not addressed.

Works cited


Clark, Phil. In the shadow of the volcano: democracy and justice in Congo. Dissent 54.1 (2007): 29-35.

Cuvelier, Jeroen, Koen Vlassenroot, and Nathaniel Olin. Resources, conflict and governance: a critical review of the evidence. Jsrp Paper 9 (2013): 1-25.

Karbo, Tony, and Martha Mutisi. Ethnic conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Handbook of Ethnic Conflict. Springer US, 2012. 381-402.

Mortensen, Malene. The breakdown of societal order in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (2013).

Shepherd, Ben. Beyond Crisis in the DRC: The Dilemmas of International Engagement and Sustainable Change. Research paper (2014) London: Chatham House

Trustfull Paul. Forbes Custom-Emerging markets. A man with a vision: Joseph Kabila Kabange. Available at

UN Data. The Democratic Republic of Congo. World statistics pocketbook (2010-2015). Available %20congo

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Public Administration Country Profile (August 2007). Available at:

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision

Weijs, Bart, Dorothea J. Hilhorst, and Adriaan Ferf. Livelihoods, basic services and social protection in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium; Overseas Development Institute, 2012.

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