The modern history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is marred by tragedy and injustice. Brutal colonization by the Kingdom of Belgium followed by the assassination of the democratically-elected leader after the nation’s independence from Belgium in 1960 led to a western-backed dictator, Joseph Mobutu, establishing rule. Joseph Mobutu then led the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and renamed the country and its famous river Zaire.

In 1996, rebels finally captured the capital while Mobutu was away for medical treatment; the dictator would die soon after this historic event. Today, as the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo try to move on from their past and make a new future for themselves, violence and turmoil continue to wreak havoc on the state in the form of corruption and rogue rebels.

Aid from abroad is used to stabilize the country, and some of this money goes towards improving the infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is in dire need of repair.

The Congo River

The Congo river is the lifeblood of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its source lies deep within the continent and its end spills into the Atlantic. The Congo river and its tributaries act as the main highway for the country, as no single railway runs the length of the country, and the few paved roads are in disrepair. Moving goods along the river allows them to be brought to the ports at the end of the river and near the coast, where the goods can then be shipped internationally.

Unfortunately, the entire river is not entirely navigable. Short sections of railway and roads are needed to move goods around obstacles such as waterfalls and rapids. According to the CIA, it is due to these obstacles that the river has never been accurately measured.

More innovative minds see the river as more than just a way to move goods and people; they see it as a way to power the country. The DRC lacks the infrastructure to power many of the homes, even within the cities. The African Development Bank group wants to invest $15 million into the feasibility of the Igna 3 project, which is estimated to produce 400,000 megawatts of power upon completion.

International Involvement

The World Bank also works to improve the infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their $147 million project called DRC Electricity Access & Service Expansion (EASE) means to accomplish its namesake by first improving the existing network, especially in critical areas, and then helping the private sector obtain or improve their access to the electrical grid. The project began in May 2017 and is set to be completed by October 2022.

Initially colonized for ivory, slaves and rubber, other nations and international organizations have again taken notice of the rich natural resources within the DRC. For instance, China is one of the most active countries in the improvement of infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 2007, the governments of the DRC and China came to an agreement: in return for investment in Congolese infrastructure, China would receive beneficial terms when dealing with the rich natural resources of the DRC (especially copper as the mineral is one of the most valuable).

To access this copper and other resources, the Chinese government agreed to invest $8 billion into infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Much of the work was to be done by Sincomines, a Chinese company, but setbacks due to the instability of the country and lack of infrastructure have made the Chinese more hesitant to continue their work in the DRC.

Infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo requires the cooperation of many parties in order to see substantial improvement. Hopefully, as different governments, including the DRC’s own, slowly improve the infrastructure, economic political and social stability can be found in the coming years.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr