The macroeconomic environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has improved markedly in recent years, yet the lives of most Congolese have not. According to the 2018 Human Development Index, the DRC continues ranks among the poorest countries in the world (176 out of 189 countries ranked), with one of the highest rates of extreme poverty in the world. Child malnutrition is widespread, and most of the population lives in conditions of moderate to serious food insecurity.
USAID invests in key aspects of the Congolese economy—agriculture, minerals, and energy—to promote inclusive economic growth that reduces poverty and enhances food security. According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development, about 70 percent of the employed population is engaged in agriculture, mostly for subsistence; however, only about 10 million of the country's 80 million hectares of arable land are under cultivation. Increasing the amount of land under cultivation has enormous potential to increase food security and sustainable, equitable economic development. Illegal mining is used by armed groups to finance their activities. Illicit mining also reduces legitimate tax revenue for the government. Although the country has the potential hydropower resources to meet the electricity needs of the entire African continent, the DRC lacks the governance and institutional capacity to utilize this potential to meet even its own energy needs. According to the World Bank, only 18 percent of the Congolese population has access to electricity.
The DRC is a Feed the Future (FTF) aligned country. USAID’s agriculture assistance focuses on livelihoods development and improving household income so that poor communities are more stable and resilient, and are better able to participate in the market. USAID research activities are developing and introducing disease resistant strains of cassava. USAID’s agriculture activities also support women’s empowerment, as women make up a significant proportion of Congolese farmers, have the greatest control over family nutrition, and tend to be among the poorest.
USAID’s Food for Peace (FFP) development activities reduce the food insecurity of vulnerable households. They improve natural resource management and agricultural production techniques, increase agricultural output and incomes, and promote farmers’ integration with the market. FFP activities also improve water and sanitation, promote good health and nutrition practices, and reduce the stunting of children.
In eastern DRC, where economic growth can contribute to establishing and sustaining a foundation for durable peace, USAID is maximizing the impact of developing agriculture and economic opportunities by coordinating its agriculture development, food security, and improved nutritional uptake activities.
Under USAID’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy , FTF value chain development activities, FFP agricultural development activities, and health nutrition activities are co-located and work together to promote increased participation of small-holder farmers in agricultural market opportunities and improved nutrition.
Through its Responsible Minerals Trade (RMT) portfolio, USAID is developing and piloting traceability systems to promote the legal exploitation and sale of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold in international markets. RMT programs increase the proportion of minerals mined and exported legally from the DRC compared to those exported illegally and informally, while establishing sustainable legal incomes for thousands of artisanal miners. (See the Responsible Minerals Trade fact sheet for more information).
USAID’s energy activities promote and implement high-level institutional reforms to improve governance and capacity throughout the power sector. USAID is supporting the implementation of the new national Law on Electricity and assisting the Congolese government’s efforts to establish a new Regulatory Authority and a Rural Electrification Agency. By improving the enabling environment of the power sector, USAID-funded activities will promote both domestic and foreign investment in the energy sector.