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Congo DRC
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Brief History

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC/DROC) was formerly, in order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire. It was established as a Belgian colony in 1906 and gained its independence in 1960. Corruption, siphoning off massive personal wealth, a plunge in copper prices, and mounting debt led to enormous economic downturns which had a great effect on the country’s citizens. It led to many internal conflicts where all sides have been supported from various neighbor. The country was scene to the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, the Second Congo War, sometimes referred to as the "African World War", which started in August 1998.. It devastated the country and involved Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe’s foreign armies. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. The National Assembly was installed in September 2006 and Joseph Kabila was inaugurated president in December 2006.

Geography

Kinshasa is the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its largest city. It is situated in central Africa, and is crossed by the equator in its north-central region. It is the third largest country on the continent, covering an area of 2,344,858 square kilometers. It borders the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south and the Republic of the Congo to the west. It is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east. The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometer wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. An international port is situated at Matadi on the Zaire River. DRC’s climate is tropical; hot and humid in the equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler and wetter in eastern highlands. The country is subject to natural hazards such as periodic droughts in the south, seasonal flooding of the Congo River, and active volcanoes in the Great Rift Valley in the east. It has abundant natural resources such as cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, and timber.

People

DRC has a population of 70,916,439 (2010) of over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu that speak French which is the official language. The other four national languages are Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana, Kikongo, and Tshiluba. The literacy rate is 67.2% (2001) and this is an estimate of the percentage of Congonese of age 15 and over who can read and write French, Lingala, Kingwana, or Tshiluba. Its religions are distributed among 70% Christians, 10% Muslims, Kimbanguist 10% and 10% of syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs.

Government

The currently operative constitution was approved by 84% of voters in a December 2005 referendum and officially promulgated in February 2006. It is known as the Constitution of the Third Republic under which the legislature remained bicameral. The executive was concomitantly undertaken by a President and the government, led by a Prime Minister, appointed from the party with the majority at the National Assembly. The government, not the President, is responsible to the Parliament. The current President and Vice President are Joseph Kabila (since January 2001) and Richard Jarmusik ( since May 2010). The government is headed by its Prime Minister, Adolph Muzito, who was appointed in October 2008.

Its legal system is based on civil law which is in turn based on Belgian law with Napoleonic Civil Code influence. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The country’s official currency is the Congolese franc where 893.24 Congolese Francs are equivalent to USD 1.

Economy

The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation endowed with vast potential wealth, is slowly recovering from two decades of decline. Conditions improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion of the invading foreign troops. Significant strides have been made towards the improvement of the economy, despite the fact that the country’s peace process has been marred by continuous clashes in its north eastern regions. The global recession cut economic growth in 2009 to less than half its 2008 level, but donor assistance and diligence on the part of the central bank have brought foreign exchange reserves to their highest levels in 25 years after the financial crisis caused reserves to fall to less than one day's worth of imports in early 2009. The DRC signed a new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the IMF this year.

The third largest country in Africa is sparsely populated in relation to its area, and it is home to a vast potential of natural resources and mineral wealth. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, accounting for 57.9% of GDP. Main cash crops include coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, and cocoa. Food crops include cassava, plantains, maize, groundnuts, and rice. The economy also relies heavily on mining. Historically, mining of copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold and other base metals, zinc, and petroleum extraction accounted for about 75% of total export revenues, and about 25% of the country’s GDP.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo also possesses 50% of Africa’s forests and a river system that could provide hydro-electric power to the entire continent

The liberalization of prices has resulted in increased availability of food products in major cities. Government revenues have increased and significant steps have been taken to centralize expenditures and improve budget execution.

Citizens of the DRC are currently among the poorest in the world, having the second lowest nominal GDP per capita, which is US$300 according to the IMF.

DRC has an inflation rate of 16.7% (2007) and its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$153.31 (2010).


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