U S Congo Economic Guide 2017
February 23, 2020
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For decades, the direction of demographic development in the Republic of the Congo has been steadily upwards, and this trend continues unabated. The country thus benefits from a young population, and also has a continuously rising literacy rate: two positive indicators on the path to emergence, which the President, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, envisions for 2025.
This optimism is based on the many assets upon which the country can depend. First, of course, is oil, which largely supports the national economy. Congo is the largest crude oil producer in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) zone and the commodity accounts for 58% of GDP, 70% of government revenues, and 90% of export earnings. Although the mar - ket has experienced some turbulence in recent years due to falling prices, the abundance of reserves makes up for this decline. The industry’s future seems assured thanks to the development prospects of the Moho-Bilondo Nord deepwater project. But oil is not the country’s only source of wealth, far from it! Gold, diamonds, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphate, uranium, coltan, polymetals (copper, zinc, lead), bauxite, rare earth elements (granite, clay, etc.), and cassiterite: Congo’s mineral resources appear to be inexhaustible, and exploitation of these resources is still in its in - fancy. The extractive industries continue to have a very promising future ahead of them.
The tertiary sector, another driver of the country’s economy, is for its part steadily increasing, accounting for 23.5% of GDP. It includes trade activities, hotels and catering, and transport and telecommunications. A number of other economic sectors have a marginal share of national indicators, and are likely to experience significant growth if adequate investments are made: construction and public works, agriculture (food crops, such as rice, maize and cassava, and cash crops, including sugarcane, cocoa, cotton, bananas, peanuts, rubber, and palms), forestry (tropical woods such as mahogany, ebony, okume), and the manufacturing industry all offer scope for substantial development.
To take advantage of these riches, one sector is vitally important: transportation infrastructure. This is essential to facilitate the transit of goods produced in the Congo as well as in neighboring countries, enabling the nation to become a hub for the subregion, supported by its geographic position. Numerous projects are under consideration or already being implemented throughout the country, supervised by the Spatial Planning Ministry and the General Delegation for Major Works. These include a roadrail bridge on the Congo River, connecting the capitals of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, the rehabilitation and asphalting of roads (including between Pointe-Noire, Brazzaville and Ouesso, the nerve center opening up the hinterland), a mining port and pilot special economic zone in PointeNoire, and a hydroelectric dam in Sounda. This list, by no means exhaustive, shows the government’s willingness to tackle not only the problem of transport, but also that of infrastructure as a whole.
In 2014, the continent’s infrastructure investment deficit caused a 40% loss in productivity, with needs estimated at USD 93 billion a year, while effective investment was only USD 45 billion. Congo has therefore decided to take action and mobilize financial players, both private and public, foreign and Congolese, focusing on public-private partnerships (PPPs). The country is something of a pioneer on the continent with respect to the latter, as PPPs remain marginal in Africa despite growing interest.
The Build Africa Forum held in Brazzaville in February 2015 gave politicians, economic decision-makers, top executives and other entrepreneurs an opportunity to meet and exchange views. A technical assistance agreement on PPPs was also signed between the Congolese Directorate of Major Works and the Franco-Luxembourg company Edifice Capital, bringing together institutional and private European investors (pension funds, insurance funds, etc.). This is an invaluable tool for Congo, which will help the country to realize its ambition of emergence. Finally, in 2010, Congo reached the completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, resulting in its external debt being cut almost in half.
The country took advantage of this relief to turn its capital into investments in basic social infrastructure. President Denis Sassou N’Guesso’s “accelerated municipalization” program has, step by step, boosted the country’s departments, developing socio-economic infrastructure to stimulate their economies and improving the living conditions of local populations, providing better access to health, education, water and electricity, not to mention new information technologies.
This guide is intended to offer a detailed picture of a young, dynamic and ambitious country, whose will to attract investors to boost its economic development is matched by its desire to attain political influence on the international stage, especially in Africa, a continent brimming with aspiration.