The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Role in Africa’s Poverty Narrative 


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa, covering an area that exceeds two-thirds of Western Europe. Its land is home to huge quantities of natural resources, minerals and vast regions of fertile farmland. Despite this abundance, poverty reduction in the DRC continues to falter. The purpose of this blog is to shed light on these developments and the DRC’s future role in Africa’s poverty narrative.

Based on the projections of the World Poverty Clock, the 61 million people currently living under US$1.90 a day in the DRC, are expected to increase to some 70 million by 2030. Overall, this amounts to 60.5% of the entire population. At this rate, our predictions suggest that by 2019, the DRC will overtake India to rank second on the list of countries with the most number of people living in extreme poverty.

Figure 1: The DRC overtakes India with the most number of people living in extreme poverty

Figure 1: Number of People living Extreme Poverty over time Source: Authors’ estimates based on PovCal (World Bank), World Economic Outlook (IMF); World Population Prospects (UN); Shared Socio-Economic Pathways (IIASA), World Income Inequality Database (UNU-WIDER); Algorithm developed by World Data Lab

The DRC falls under one of the fourteen African countries where poverty levels are on a steady rise. Figure 2 illustrates the sharp distinction between these varying poverty levels, as Nigeria and the DRC exceed other states by at least twice, if not four times, as many millions of people living under the extreme poverty line.

Figure 2: The DRC is the second poorest country in Sub-Saharan Africa


Figure 2: Number of people living in extreme poverty; Source: World Poverty Clock

The DRC has been drawn into conflicts for over twenty years, while unstable governance continues to devastate the economy. At the moment, four million of its citizens are internally displaced and approximately half a million have fled to neighbouring states. Viewed as the most “under-reported war zone in the world”, the conflicts in the DRC have claimed six million lives, marking it the deadliest feud since the Second World War. The lack of key infrastructures, such as hospitals and schools have resulted in a pressing humanitarian challenge.

The DRC encompasses more than 200 ethnic groups and is bordered by nine countries, all of which contributes to ongoing schisms and conflicts. The current poverty rate in the DRC is likely to be exacerbated by climate variability, which has slowed agricultural produce and increased food scarcity.