Republic of the Congo Economy Facts
Congo-Brazzaville is considered one of the more developed countries in Africa and the income per person is relatively high for African conditions thanks to the country’s oil resources. The weaknesses are the country’s unilateral dependence on oil revenues and widespread corruption.
Due to debt write-offs, the country has got rid of large external debt, but at the same time it is creating new ones through large infrastructure investments financed by loans from China.
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Congo-Brazzaville’s economy is based almost entirely on oil, which accounts for the next 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 percent of export revenue.
The income from the oil is very unevenly distributed. The oil industry creates few jobs and corruption is widespread so profits benefit only a small minority of Congolese while almost half live below the poverty line. Government members have for a long time seized part of the oil revenue, for example by forming companies and buying the oil at prices below market value and then selling at a higher price. The money has since been deposited into private accounts abroad.
In addition, oil dependency makes the economy sensitive to changes in oil prices on the world market. The sharp fall in oil prices in 2014 has led to lower revenues. In addition, oil production has decreased slightly.
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Other industries are poorly developed, as is agriculture, which only contributes a few percent to GDP.
The economy also encompasses a large informal sector, ie black jobs of various kinds such as street trading, shoe cleaning, etc.
Obstacles on the road
For companies and potential investors, corruption, complicated bureaucracy and a lack of legal security are serious obstacles. The difficult business climate has also hampered foreign investment in other than the commodity sector. The uncertain political situation with the risk of new outbreaks of violence has also been daunting. On the World Bank’s ranking list for 2014 of various countries’ business climate, Congo was ranked 178 out of 189.
The recurring unrest and fighting have been devastating for economic development. During the civil war of 1997 ̶ 2000 (see Modern history) most of the infrastructure was destroyed and almost all production (outside the oil sector) stopped. A slow rebuild has been going on ever since.
Despite oil revenues, Congo-Brazzaville is in need of assistance and loans from the outside world. France is the main donor.
Sassou-Nguesso’s regime was initially seen with skepticism by international lenders holding the loans. After a year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) began to lend the country, and aid came from France and the EU, among others.
In order to obtain loans from the IMF, Congo-Brazzaville has been forced to implement so-called structural transformation programs. Among other things, they have meant that the IMF has demanded greater transparency in the oil sector, improved control of government spending, a more efficient tax and customs system, privatization of state-owned companies and more.
Reduced debt burden
Until 2010, Congo-Brazzaville was one of the world’s most debt-burdened countries, but then the country’s foreign debt decreased through a so-called debt-cancellation program for heavily indebted countries. The program reduced the external debt from the corresponding 78 to 20 percent of GDP.
New major investments in infrastructure expansion – roads, power plants, telecommunications – began in 2012 after the government concluded bilateral agreements with China. The money came from Chinese companies that would also be responsible for the construction itself. Exactly how the agreements looked was not known, which drew criticism from the IMF, among others. There was also concern that the loans would cause the central government debt to rise again.
Since the turn of the millennium, economic growth has fluctuated. 2007 was a year of negative growth, mainly caused by a temporary decline in oil production, but growth picked up rapidly and in 2010 it was almost 9 percent. It was mainly the oil industry, but also the construction sector, which accounted for the growth. Since then, growth has averaged just over 4 percent.
FACTS – FINANCE
GDP per person
US $ 2,148 (2018)
US $ 11,264 million (2018)
1.0 percent (2018)
Agriculture’s share of GDP
7.1 percent (2018)
Manufacturing industry’s share of GDP
6.5 percent (2017)
The service sector’s share of GDP
40.0 percent (2018)
1.5 percent (2019)
Government debt’s share of GDP
87.8 percent (2018)
US $ 4,456 million (2017)
Central African Franc
US $ 4,356 million (2016)
US $ 5,071 million (2016)
– US $ 3 594 million (2016)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
120 percent (2018)
Main export goods
oil, timber, plywood, sugar, cocoa, coffee, diamonds
Largest trading partner
USA, China, France, India, Italy
Peace agreements are concluded and collapses
The government signs a peace deal with the opposition ninja militia, which continues to invite government resistance in the Pool region in the southeast. However, the peace agreement collapses and Ninja continues to fight until early 2005.
Congolese workers’ party wins election
In the May / June parliamentary elections, Sassou-Nguesso’s party wins the Congolese Workers’ Party (in French abbreviated to PCT) by a wide margin, along with the Allied Party Alliance United Democratic Forces (FDU). The largest opposition parties, Upads and the Union for Democratic Renewal / Mwinda (URD / Mwinda) win only a few seats.
New constitution is approved
A proposal for a new constitution that gives the president great power is approved in a referendum. Sassou-Nguesso wins the presidential election in March with 89 percent of the vote.