Facts & figures
Full name: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Population: 69.6 million (UN, 2012)
Area: 2.34 million sq km (905,354 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy: 47 years (men), 51 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Congolese franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Diamonds, copper, coffee, cobalt, crude oil
GNI per capita: US $190 (World Bank, 2011)
Internet domain: .cd
International dialling code: +243
Joseph Kabila became president when his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001. He was elected in 2006, and secured another term in controversial elections in 2011.
Mr Kabila has enjoyed the clear support of western governments, regional allies such as South Africa and Angola, and mining groups that have signed multi-million dollar deals under his rule.
Visa & travel advice
The rainy season, which lasts from April to November, makes the roads outside of Kinshasa impossible to travel on, although we don’t recommend travel in this part of the country in any case. The majority of Congolese are Catholic, and their festivals reflect that situation.
Concerned about your safety as you plan travel to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? We at Africa.com, together with our friends, family and colleagues, travel extensively throughout the continent. Here are the resources we consult when thinking of our safety in DRC:
- UK Government DRC Travel Advice Guidance
Africa.com comment: Very timely and frequently updated. Perspective assumes that you ARE going to travel to DRC, and seeks to give you good guidance so that you understand the risks and are well informed.
- Mo Ibrahim Personal Safety & Rule of Law Score for DRC
Africa.com comment: An annual ranking of the 54 African countries based on their relative personal security as determined by a highly qualified staff of an African foundation, funded by a successful African philanthropist. See where DRC ranks relative to the other 54 nations in Africa.
- U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on DRC
Africa.com comment: Can sometimes be considered as overly conservative and discourage travel altogether to destinations that many reasonable people find acceptably secure. On the other hand, they have the resources of the CIA to inform them, so they know things that the rest of us don’t know. See what they have to say about DRC.
The region that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo was first settled about 80,000 years ago. Bantu migration arrived in the region from Nigeria in the 7th century AD. The Kingdom of Kongo remained present in the region between the 14th and the early 19th centuries. Belgian colonization began when King Leopold II founded the Congo Free State, a corporate state run solely by King Leopold. Reports of widespread murder and torture in the rubber plantations led the Belgian government to seize the Congo from Leopold II and establish the Belgian Congo. Under Belgian rule, the colony was run with the presence of numerous Christian organizations that wanted to Westernize the Congolese people.
- Music :
Music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo varies in its different forms. Outside of Africa, most music from the Democratic Republic of Congo is called Soukous, which most accurately refers instead to a dance popular in the late 1960s. The term rumba or rock-rumba is also used generically to refer to Congolese music, though neither is precise nor accurately descriptive.
People from the Congo have no single term for their own music, per se, although muziki na biso ("our music") was used until the late 1970s, and now the most common name is ndule, which simply means music in the Lingala language; most songs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are sung in Lingala.
- Film industry :
In the years following independence, the nascent Congolese film industry was held up by many years of war. However, the first Congolese feature film (La Vie est Belle by the celebrated director Mwezé Ngangura) was released in 1987. In recent years, Congolese cinema has reached a wider audience, though the growth of the industry is restricted by the small profits which directors can make (owing to pirating) and rarity of credit.
- Famous monuments :