The largest country in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is “among the five poorest nations in the world.” Political instability, humanitarian crises, and conflict have aided the fact that 64% of all Congolese lived under the poverty line in 2021. With the population growing, along with unemployment, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government, joined with international aid, has been making efforts toward poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to data from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and the International Monetary Fund’s country reports, unemployment impacts 30% of young citizens, which the COVID-19 crisis has only impacted more. Within the workforce, there is a gap between genders. In 2021, Congolese women only made up 23% of the government, 14% of the parliament and 24% of communal councils. Unemployment is higher among women, at 10.2% juxtaposed to 9% for men.
The country is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa in levels of morbidity and mortality, along with having a maternity mortality ratio of 378 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy for the Republic of Congo report. When it comes to education, the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen a shortage of qualified teachers, a high student-to-teacher ratio and poor school infrastructure.
Poverty is the main issue within the country, as estimates have stated that the poverty rate rose between the years 2019 and 2020 by 4%, according to IMF. This is in large part due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which aggravated an economic recession and made it hard for Congolese people to afford rent, electricity and water bills, food and health care.
National Development Plan
The IMF report outlines the country’s National Development Plan 2022-2026. The goal of the plan is to “build a strong, diversified and resilient economy.” To do so, the government plans on focusing on agriculture, industry, tourism, real estate, technology and economic zones. This plan to regrow the economy comes with the prospect of an agreement with the IMF that could provide monetary aid.
Agriculture is an essential employer within the DRC, making it the first priority in the plan. By focusing on it, the country believes it can “fight effectively against unemployment, poverty, uncontrolled urbanization, the disarticulation of the national territory, food insecurity, and the foreign aid deficit.” The development of industry could bring modernization to the country and create jobs. In a similar vein, developing economic zones can create a “new national economy” and open them up to globalization. Tourism is a potential new market for the country to open up to, along with digitalization.
Following a visit to the DRC on February 15, 2023, the IMF released a statement reviewing the country’s recent economic data, saying that the agency “looks forward to continuing engagement in support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
The World Bank
In 2022, the World Bank endorsed a Country Partnership Framework for the DRC that “promotes the stabilization and development of DRC, supporting strategic priorities and critical reforms to improve governance and deepen stabilization efforts.” The World Bank focuses on supporting the country’s developments in education, health and social protection.
As of June 2022, the World Bank aided poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo with $7.27 billion that financially supported 21 national projects and four regional projects. One of these projects is the Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education, which supports the country’s free primary education and lessens the burden of education costs on Congolese families. This project saw 2.5 million additional students enroll in school within 2021-2022 and allowed for around 60,000 teachers to receive regular salaries, the World Bank reports. The World Bank Urban Drinking Water Supply Project saw the installation of more than 450 community waterpoints, and the STEP-KIN project, launched in March 2021, is targeted to help 250,000 in its next phase.
The Human Rights Council
Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council has been holding hearings with the Presidents of nations such as the DRC regarding peace plans. The speakers at this panel said that “human rights were at the centre of all global issues the world confronted today” and that “international financial institutions needed to undertake special measures to support developing countries in protecting basic rights to food, livelihood and a decent living.”
Félix-Antione Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the president of the DRC, spoke about political and military conflict within the country, a factor that can worsen poverty. The Human Rights Council and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights recently addressed this conflict, reiterating a call for peace in Africa, along with assuring that “the U.N. Human Rights Office stands ready to continue our work to support the country in its efforts to overcome the human rights challenges that remain.”
As poverty reduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues, it is important to keep in mind how valuable foreign aid is to the rebuilding and restructuring of communities and countries.
– Audrey Gaines