Geography, Economie and Demographucs of the DRC



The map of Democratic Republic of Congo from the CIA World Factbook


Satellite image of Democratic Republic of the Congo, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library

As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences large
amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms
on Earth. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (200 cm)
in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in
the world (after the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean
in the west. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas
in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and
dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system
which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it
flows through, (though they are not mutually exclusive). The name for
the "Congo" state is derived from that of the river, along with that of
the Kongo Empire
which controlled much of the region in precolonial times. The river
basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries)
occupy nearly the entire country and an area of nearly one million
square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major
offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga)
form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation, they have
a drastic impact on the daily lives of the people. The sources of the
Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville
are actually on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA
image), then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts
in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon
in both respects). The river and a forty-kilometre-wide strip of land
on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic,
otherwise it would be completely landlocked.

The previously mentioned Great Rift Valley,
in particular the Eastern Rift, plays a key role in shaping the Congo's
geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much
more mountainous, but due the rift's tectonic activities, this area also experiences low levels of volcanic activity. The rifting of the African continent in this area has also manifested itself as the famous Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known previously as Lake Mobutu), Lake Edward, and Lake Tanganyika. Perhaps most important of all, the Rift Valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral
wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible
to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality
diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium,
radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply,
especially in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region.

On January 17, 2002 Mount Nyiragongo
erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 40 mph (60 km/h) and
50 yards (50 m) wide. One of the three streams of lava emitted flowed
through the nearby city of Goma,
killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. 400,000 people were evacuated
from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu,
killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the
possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the
airport but ruined the runway, entrapping several airplanes. Six months
after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamuragira also erupted, and again more recently in 2006. Both volcanos remain active.


The economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation
endowed with vast potential wealth, has declined drastically since the
mid-1980s. The two recent conflicts (the First and Second
Congo Wars), which began in 1996, have dramatically reduced national
output and government revenue, have increased external debt, and have
resulted in the deaths from war, famine,
and disease of perhaps over 5 million people. Foreign businesses have
curtailed operations due to uncertainty about the outcome of the
conflict, lack of infrastructure, and the difficult operating
environment. The war has intensified the impact of such basic problems
as an uncertain legal framework, corruption, inflation, and lack of
openness in government economic policy and financial operations. Malnutrition
affects approximately two thirds of the country's population.
Conditions improved in late 2002 with the withdrawal of a large portion
of the invading foreign troops. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bank missions have met with the government to help it develop a coherent economic plan, and President Joseph Kabila has begun implementing reforms. Much economic activity lies outside the GDP data. A United Nations Human Development Index report shows human development to be one of the worst in decades along with other African countries.

The Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt (as ore)[1], and a major producer of copper and industrial diamonds. It has significant deposits of tantalum,
which is used in the fabrication of electronic components in computers
and mobile phones. Katanga Mining Limited, a London based company, now
owns the Luilu Metallurgical Plant, which has a capacity of 175,000
tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, making it the
largest cobalt refinery in the world. After a major rehabilitation
program, copper production was restarted in December 2007. Work on the
cobalt circuit continues, with production expected by the end of Q1 2008[2].


The population was estimated at 62.6 million people according to the United Nations
2007 estimate, growing quickly from 46.7 million in 1997. As many as
250 ethnic groups have been distinguished and named. The most numerous
people are the Kongo, Luba, and Mongo. Although seven hundred local languages and dialects are spoken, the linguistic variety is bridged both by the use of French and the intermediary languages Kongo, Tshiluba, Swahili, and Lingala.

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