Economy & Industry

Mining brings hope.....

The DR Congo earns most of its revenues from the mining sector. Recent high prices for commodities such as copper and cobalt have allowed the country’s economy to grow around 7% annually over the last two years.

Natural treasure

The country has important deposits of valuable metals and minerals, such as gold, uranium, zinc and coltan (a metal used in electronic devices). Certain provinces are known for their diamonds.

The southeastern region (Katanga) is particularly rich in minerals. It is home to around 5% of the world’s copper and nearly half its cobalt. Industrial mines were opened up here by the Belgians in the 20th century and the national mining company now oversees activity in the region.

.....but also despair

With a lack of paved roads, many areas rich in gold, diamonds and coltan are not accessible to large mining companies. Mining in interior areas is therefore carried out mainly by individual ‘artisan’ miners, who use traditional and basic techniques (such as panning) to find minerals and gems.

Vulnerable miners

Over the last two decades, poor miners and their families have been at the mercy of armed groups who have exploited the Congo’s natural resources for their military campaigns. The provinces of North and South Kivu in the east have been particularly badly affected.

The government wants to encourage industrial-scale mining. However, this needs investment and the expertise of foreign companies, who are put off by the region’s instability and corruption.

Recently, the USA introduced a law forcing international companies to disclose the exact source of any metals procured from the DR Congo. Known by locals as “the American law”, it has brought mining in some areas to a complete standstill. This has not helped incredibly poor regions which rely on mining.

The government has begun setting up mining “zones” or trading centres to coordinate artisan miners working on sites within a 25km radius. Sites will be certified as “clean” sources, only where armed groups and illegal taxes are not present, and women and children’s rights are observed.

A business jungle

A business nightmare

It takes 65 days to set up a company in the DR Congo (compared to a few days in some countries) and involves 10 steps. Companies are also liable to pay taxes higher than their profits, meaning it is impossible to make money without resorting to illegal practices.

In surveys conducted annually by the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), the DR Congo ranks in the bottom ten countries for ease of doing business. This is partly due to high levels of bureaucracy and a business-unfriendly trading environment.

Manufacturing industries (producing items such as batteries and plastics) and services such as banking, account for around a tenth of the formal economy.

The agricultural sector provides a number of formal jobs, with export crops grown across the country. Tobacco and coffee are the highest-earning agricultural exports, with sugar and cocoa beans also providing much-needed export revenue.