SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
After an unstable and violent beginning to the 21st century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has begun to make significant and encouraging progress in the campaign for poverty reduction. Investments from The World Bank have provided the capital that the DRC’s government needs to begin addressing the largest obstacles in the way of poverty reduction. Though SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still a long-term one, which aims for no poverty, the nation is beginning to make progress in the process of rebuilding.

A History of Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo first gained independence in 1960 and has had a somewhat turbulent history since. The violence began in 1994 as a spillover from the genocide in nearby Rwanda. Hutu génocidaires fled into eastern provinces of the DRC and their presence soon sparked tension and conflict. Additionally, the DRC fought a civil war known as the Second Congo War between 1998 and 2003.

This presence of conflict in eastern provinces has had numerous effects on social and economic structures in the country, most notably the destruction of most of the country’s infrastructure. This has left poor conditions for personal hygiene and a serious transportation problem. According to a report from the World Bank, the limited availability of transportation–stemming from the lack of public infrastructure–is the single biggest obstacle to SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Projections have determined that the DRC’s population will increase from 30 million to 44 million in the next 15 years. The subsequent increase in demand for infrastructure of all kinds will only exacerbate existing problems if no one addresses this fundamental obstacle to poverty reduction.

The World Bank’s Efforts

The World Bank has led investment in the DRC over the last decade and has seen encouraging success. The High Priority Reopening and Maintenance Project began in 2008 and concluded in early 2020. The project’s objective was to re-establish lasting access between provincial capitals, districts and territories in three provinces in a way that is sustainable for the people and the natural environment in the project’s area of influence.

The World Bank invested more than $100 million in order to fund the reopening and subsequent maintenance of 376 km of high priority national roads in the Equateur province, caretaking of 741 km and rebuilding of six worn out panel bridges on the Route National (RN4) in the oriental province. This much-needed investment in transportation services has the potential to significantly expand the DRC’s economy. Investment in transportation addresses the infrastructure problem in the DRC and improves Congolese citizens’ ability to relocate in pursuit of more job opportunities. This is especially helpful for those citizens living in rural areas who are otherwise isolated and lack the ability to diversify their occupations. It is also an important measure in rebuilding the unity and interconnectedness of a nation divided by civil war in recent decades.

The DRC’s Efforts

In 2010, the government of the DRC provided a report on its poverty reduction efforts to the OCHA division of the United Nations. The report detailed government spending and effort related to poverty reduction. In 2009, 60% of primary public expenditure went toward  “promoting good governance and peace.” The second-largest area of expenditure was for “promoting access to social services.”

This spending has been productive in helping the government improve the security of the nation. A variety of operations successfully reestablished peace and the government’s authority in the eastern and western parts of the country.

Spending on social services in 2009 also improved transportation infrastructure. The project completed 22,900.60 kilometers of roads, representing 113% of the project’s target of 20,352.05 kilometers. The efforts largely focused on rehabilitating and modernizing roads while re-opening unpaved roads and focusing on large-scale maintenance projects. The poverty rate in the nation has also decreased from around 85% in 2008 to 76.6% in 2012.

By investing in infrastructure and modernization, the DRC’s government is helping the nation to move forward following a period of serious instability and unrest. The presence of additional roads, houses and social services creates an environment in which Congolese citizens can build an economy for a post-war future. The social cohesion and unity of the people are just as important as government programs and foreign investment; by demonstrating an ability to take care of its people, the DRC’s government is showing that there is the potential for recovery and improvements in quality of life.

The Eastern Recovery Project

The Eastern Recovery Project (STEP)–another World Bank-led effort–received approval in 2014 and should reach completion in 2024. Its objective is to improve access to employment and socio-economic infrastructure like schools in vulnerable communities in the eastern provinces of the DRC. Since its beginning, the Project has rehabilitated more than 850 community infrastructure facilities and has created 1.3 million person-days of employment for vulnerable people. Additionally, markets are now present in every province. Reports showed that the poverty rate was 72% in 2018, which was down from 94% in 2004 and 85% in 2008.

Over the last decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has begun the process of recovery. Years of devastating conflict and poor governance have left much room for improvement within the infrastructure and social services of the nation. Investments from the World Bank as well as commendable efforts from the DRC’s government have resulted in significant progress regarding the largest obstacles facing the nation.

Though there is still much work necessary to reach SDG Goal 1 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the process of rebuilding is underway.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Internet Access in the DRC
Internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been almost nonexistent for the past decade. The DRC’s internet access is 145th in the world, which is horrendous knowing the haunting past of its internet accessibilities. It was just in 2019 that the DRC lost its internet access completely amidst its election cycle. This has become a growing trend amongst several African and Asian nations, as governments are becoming more capable of shutting down electronic ways of communication and civil discourse. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Skype have cut communication. Here is some information about internet access in the DRC.

Economic Burden of Internet Loss

The financial burden that the DRC has faced has become an eroding problem after every internet shutdown of 83 million people. NetBlocks and the Internet Society, both internet access groups, calculated these shutdowns by using an algorithm. NetBlocks is a website that has a Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) that “estimates the economic impact of internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat, and U.S. Census.” NetBlocks estimated that the DRC’s shutdown costs an economic downturn of $3 million or more. This paints a bleak picture for the people of the DRC and their government.

Cutting off internet access is one thing but to cut it off at the expense of losing capital funds is a losing feat on both ends. The Internet Society has been trying to answer the question, how can internet access be better for the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

New Approaches to Internet Access

In 2019, The Internet Society started working on launching the second Internet Exchange Point in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kojo Boakye, that Head of Public Policy for Africa, said that “This new infrastructure will help improve connectivity by lowering the cost of delivering Internet services to people in the region.”

Since then, the DRC has seen a steady increase in internet access. Mobile connectivity has increased by 1 million (3.1%) from January 2019 to January 2020. This increase still means that 60% of the DRC’s total population does not have a mobile connection via the internet. Social media accounts have increased by 680,000 (28% increase) from April 2019 to January 2020.

The Future of the Internet in Congo

With TIS and NetBlock’s help, internet access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should continue to expand as more IEP emerge. Another way of helping the Congo is by advocating for the removal of censorship laws from laws like No. 13/2002. No. 13/2002 “governs the telecommunication sector and confers powers on the government to take charge of communication facilities in the interest of national security or public defense.”

Not complying with these laws makes internet service providers like Bharti Airtel and Orange Group afraid that the country could revoke their licenses. If these laws change or the DRC puts a new one in place, internet access in the DRC should allow others to hear all voices without the government’s force.

Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in DRCThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nation in Central Africa with a population of nearly 80 million people, the vast majority of whom live below the global poverty line. While statistics are hard to come by due to the nature of the DRC, there are estimates that nearly 80% of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. The DRC consistently ranks as one of the world’s poorest, least stable and most underdeveloped countries.

How Has This Happened?

The DRC’s current poverty and instability are rooted in its decades-long history of violence, mismanagement and corruption. This dates back to the colonial era when millions died due to the abuses committed by the Belgian colonial administration. Immediately after declaring independence from Belgium, the so-called Congo Crisis caused more woes for the nation. Even their independence would not stop interference from Europe.

Mobutu Sese Seko took power after the Congo Crisis. He made the country into a one-party dictatorship with widespread corruption, funneling money out of the DRC, and into his own inner circle. Poverty in the DRC grew significantly worse as Seko and his inner circle grew wealthier. His regime was kept afloat by his cult of personality and Cold War foreign aid, both of which dried up in the 1990s. This “drying up” resulted in two devastating wars, both of which increased poverty in the DRC.

The Longevity of Poverty in the DRC

The country began reconstruction in the mid-2000s, in an effort to tackle the growing poverty following the Congo Wars. Despite poverty reductions in some areas of the country – particularly urban ones – recovery efforts did not reduce the overall poverty levels in the country between 2005 and 2012. Roughly two-thirds of the population of the DRC remained in poverty.

Today the DRC is one of the world’s poorest nations, with stunted economic growth and poor development. According to the World Bank, poverty in the DRC is so severe that roughly half of children grow up malnourished, with most lacking access to education. The longevity of this poverty has resulted in a scarcity of drinking water and limited access to proper sanitation. These conditions are present even more often in rural areas. The present COVID-19 epidemic has only made the situation in the DRC more hazardous, especially for those in poverty.

NGO Work in the DRC

While poverty in the DRC may seem insurmountable, there are hundreds of nonprofit agencies working to help in the region. The Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, or CARE, is a nonprofit NGO (non-governmental organization), dedicated to reducing poverty worldwide. They work alongside the Congolese government to provide aid.

With 12.8 million Congolese in need of urgent assistance, NGO work is more important than ever. In a country like the DRC, where poverty is so extreme, the humanitarian actions of CARE have made an important difference. This NGO has provided food security to thousands of people and assisted thousands of women to gain access to economic and health resources.

CARE is one of the hundreds of NGOs operating in the DRC that rely on donations to make a difference. Poverty in the DRC is too massive for any singular NGO to tackle. The combined efforts of multiple groups are needed. When poverty is so widespread, a widespread response is warranted.

Matthew Bado
Photo: Flickr

War Child U.K. Helps Children
Filmmakers David Wilson and Bill Leeson founded War Child after they witnessed the horrors of the Bosnian war and saw the apathy that political leaders back home in the United Kingdom had towards it. Some of the organization’s highlights include providing support to 123,182 children and families around the world and helping some 26,274 undocumented children receive recognition. War Child UK has grown since its founding and now has sister organizations in various countries such as Holland, Canada, the U.S., Australia and Sweden. These help War Child support and protect even more children. War Child UK helps children affected by war in various ways which include providing education, protection and advocacy, and helping improve youth livelihoods. These are a few highlights of the organization’s work:

Child Helplines in the DRC

Life in eastern DRC, where armed groups are still active, is still dangerous, even though the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ended officially in 2003. Children bear the brunt of the conflict in this country. The U.N. reports that children were victims of more than 11,500 violations between 2014 and 2017. War Child UK runs a free helpline called Tukinge Watoto (meaning “Let’s Protect Children”) to help provide support to at-risk children and make sure that law enforcers respect their rights. Using the helpline, children can speak directly to social workers and trained counselors. The helpline then refers them to local child protection organizations, but those in emergency or high-risk situations go into protective care. So far, 4,860 children in DRC have received protection information through the helpline.

Emergency Food Assistance in Yemen

War has been going on in Yemen for more than four years now. The U.N. estimates that more than 80 percent of the population needs some form of humanitarian aid, with 7.4 million of this number being children. It has also been reported that more than 2 million children are malnourished. War Child UK helps children by offering both food and cash assistance in Yemen. The first food assistance program started in 2017. Rather than directly distributing food items, the organization provides food vouchers that help families buy food that can last for around a month. War Child U.K. began distributing unconditional monthly cash assistance to vulnerable families in the governorate of Sana’a because they felt it gave families the independence to choose how they spend their money, be it on food, clothing or medicine. Currently, the organization is working in the governorates of Sana’a, Ibb and Taiz.

Livelihoods in Uganda

Northern Uganda has received a huge influx of some 200,000 refugees from South Sudan in the past few years. War Child works with KATI, a social enterprise, to provide youth in the region with business training and access to start-up loans. War Child initially set up KATI, but it is now an independent organization. The partnership between the two organizations has had plenty of success as 1,500 youth have benefitted since its beginning. In 2017 alone, KATI helped launched 146 business ideas in Northern Uganda. War Child notes that it is important to help the youth find jobs or start businesses to prevent social tension and further instability. It also helps youth transition successfully into adulthood.

War Child UK helps children by providing them with a voice and support, especially those who grow up in environments of conflict and war. It is important that an organization exists like it exists to cater to the needs of these young people who the future of their respective nations.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr