Republic of the Congo
The Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) is a lower middle-income country rich in raw materials and natural resources. Negative macroeconomic trends and weak governance undermine economic development and Congo’s attractiveness to investors. Key challenges lie in the diversification of the economy, improving the business climate and combining environmental sustainability with growth and jobs creation.
Social disparities remain strong, particularly between urban and rural areas, and participation in democratic processes is limited.
A 3 year IMF programme, signed in July 2019, aims to help the country restore macroeconomic stability, including debt sustainability and improve governance to achieve greater efficiency and transparency in the management of public resources, especially in the oil sector.
- Congo enjoys a geo-strategic location in the sub-region, with a deep-water port and a significant potential for cross-border trade.
- only 2% of the 10 million hectares of arable land are cultivated, with a large potential for development of the agricultural sector.
- the country enjoys an immense hydroelectric potential (estimated at 14 000 MW).
- 65% of its territory is covered by the Congo Basin rainforest with very rich biodiversity (some of its protected areas are in the UNESCO World Heritage list).
The country is a founding member of the 'Blue Fund for the Congo Basin' and of the 'Global Peatlands Initiative'.
After long periods of political instability, particularly during the 1990s, the Republic of Congo is today an important centre of stability in the Central African region. The most crucial issues for the country lie in the diversification of its economy. Other challenges relate to improving economic governance, improving the business climate, and the sustainable management of natural resources.
Given the state's heavy dependence on revenue linked to oil production, public debt is estimated to have increased at the end of 2020 to around 100% of GDP. In this context, the EU gives great importance to the issue of Congo’s debt, as well as to the consistency of its support with any fund programs and their included reforms. A joint strategy was decided upon in 2019 that forms the basis of the MIP as seen from the following priority areas:
Economic governance and transition to a green economy
Faced with the prospect of a 75% reduction in oil production by 2035, the main challenge for the country’s economy is the transition towards a post-oil economy, one based on private initiative and green growth. Economic diversification with a strong emphasis on the eco-responsible development of agricultural and forestry sectors, accompanied by vocational training and human capital development is essential.
Sustainable management of natural resources
Pressure on the environment is mounting and making long-term political decisions in the use and management of natural resources, including fisheries, is essential. Sustainable land use, protected areas, forestry, and agriculture, constitute important elements for this purpose and the continuation of the EU's long-standing commitment to the preservation of biodiversity can contribute to achieving these goals.
Democracy, human rights, and participatory governance
This area’s priorities concern the strengthening of the protection of the rights of vulnerable populations as we are committed to supporting the country’s democratic institutions. Joint efforts by the EU and Member States could improve the capacities of law enforcement and specialized institutions, following actions for strengthening the rule of law, the promotion of human rights, and support for the justice sector.
The Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for the Republic of Congo for 2021-2024 amounts to €73 million.
Priority area 1: ‘’Economic governance and transition to a green economy’’ contributes to the development of a diversified economy and the capacities of the private sector, small and medium-sized enterprises, with emphasis on agriculture, sustainable and circular production methods, working conditions, dignity, entrepreneurship and qualifying vocational training.
Priority area 2: ‘’Sustainable management of natural resources’’ supports the sustainable management of natural resources and the preservation of biodiversity, including forest cover, through sustainable land use and the improvement of forest governance, the promotion of a forest economy, and sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, it strengthens the resilience of cities to climate change, including the management of urban waste and sanitation, local governance, and local capacities to deliver public services.
Priority area 3: ‘’ Democracy, human rights, and participatory governance’’ advances the development of a diversified economy and builds the capacities of the private sector, including the development of a favourable business climate, better economic governance, and public finance management.
The ambition of the EU in the Republic of Congo finds its inspiration in the fundamental EU values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including minorities. The EU will remain committed through specific actions in favour of civil society in supporting democratic institutions and promoting these values. Other initiatives will also be considered in order to strengthen the grassroots associations of the civil society on an institutional level, and to involve the intervention of European cooperation as a partner to improve the coverage of basic social services.
EU experiences and added value
For several years, the EU has been actively engaged, alongside the Republic of Congo, in the forestry sector, through the FLEGT VPA and the CAFI, to improve forestry governance, promote sustainable forest management and promote the legal timber trade. The EU is considered a key partner for the country regarding sustainable forest management, and is recognized as a world leader in the transition to a greener economy and the fight against climate change.