Economic and Political Overview

flag Congo Congo: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Heavily dependent on oil revenues, the Republic of Congo’s economy was already hurt by low oil prices when it was hit by the Covid-19 global pandemic. The country’s GDP contracted by -8.2% in 2020, and despite the nascent recovery, economic growth remained negative for the seventh consecutive year in 2021 (-0.2%) (IMF). According to IMF estimates, the recession should turn into a positive growth of 2.3% in 2022 and 3% in 2023, driven by higher oil prices, a rebound in oil production, a vaccine rollout, social spending, domestic arrears repayments, and expansion of non-oil sectors (IMF). Downside risks include a possible worsening of the pandemic, volatility in oil prices and production, natural disasters and slow reform implementation (IMF).

The Congolese economy is largely dominated by oil production, which accounts for 80% of exports and 60% of domestic revenues (Coface). This oil dependency makes the country vulnerable to shifts in commodity prices. Already in recession due the collapse of oil prices, the economy was further hit by the measures put in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. The recovery in oil prices allowed the -1.2% GDP budget deficit to switch back to a surplus of 1.5% GDP in 2021 (Coface). Budget surplus is expected to increase to 3.3% GDP in 2022 thanks to the authorities efforts to restore debt sustainability (Coface). Congo's public debt, which was already unsustainable before the pandemic, soared to an estimated 101.1% GDP in 2020 (IMF), threatening the stability of the whole financial system. The country started a process of debt restructuring with its creditors and is committed to fiscal prudence. According to IMF estimates, public debt decreased to 85.4% GDP in 2021, and is expected to further reduce to 76.9% GDP in 2022 and 73% GDP in 2023. Inflation staid stable at 2% in 2021, and is expected to remain close to the CEMAC criterion of 3% in 2022 (2.8%) and 2023 (3%) (IMF estimates). In January 2022, the IMF approved a 36-month arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility in an amount equivalent to about USD 455 million, to help the country maintain macroeconomic stability and support economic recovery. Reducing debt vulnerabilities, strengthening domestic revenue mobilization and public spending efficiency, and advancing wide-ranging structural reforms are the main priorities. The authorities are also committed to the National Development Plan 2022-26, which focuses on social and infrastructure spending. Lack of economic diversification is a major challenge for the country. While some progress has been made in translating its natural resources into economic growth, the country has not fully succeeded in leveraging them to achieve robust socio-economic outcomes.

Poverty rate is alarming, reaching 52.5% in 2020 according to the World Bank. The country ranked 149th in the world on the 2020 human development index, falling 11 places. Unemployment rate in Congo was estimated at around 10.3% in 2020 (World Bank).

 
Main Indicators 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 10.3312.6414.4914.3415.13
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -8.1-0.64.34.67.3
GDP per Capita (USD) 22222
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 114.0103.682.073.964.5
Inflation Rate (%) 1.42.03.53.23.0
Current Account (billions USD) -0.011.592.771.591.22
Current Account (in % of GDP) -0.112.619.111.18.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

In Congo, agriculture contributes to 9.6% of GDP and employs 34% of the active population (World Bank, 2020), most of whom practice subsistence farming. Though it possesses many fertile lands, only a minor part of these lands is cultivated (less than 10%). As the sector fails to meet its domestic demand, Congo relies heavily on food imports. The latter accounts for about 80% of domestic food consumption. The main crops are cassava, plantains, bananas, peanuts, and palm oil.

The industrial sector contributes 31% of GDP and employs 21% of the workforce. The petroleum, timber, and mining sectors are the economy’s main drivers. The oil sector, in particular, is the country's major revenue earner, though Congo is too exposed to fluctuations in commodity prices. This sector is dominated by foreign companies, with the French giant TotalEnergies accounting for an estimated 70% of the country's total annual oil production. The country boasts significant hydrocarbon reserves, with an estimated 1.6 billion barrels of oil reserves and 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

The services sector accounts for 53.7% of Congo’s GDP, and employs 45% of the workforce. The sector is based mostly on support services for the oil sector. Tourism struggles mostly due to security issues and insufficient infrastructures. While it is extremely buoyant, Congo’s banking sector remains less dynamic compared to other countries in the region.
In 2020, the measures put in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic such as lockdown, border closures, curfews and closure of non-essential businesses impacted Congo's economic sectors, especially the service and industry sectors.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 33.5 21.5 45.0
Value Added (in % of GDP) 9.0 40.0 38.8
Value Added (Annual % Change) -6.0 -7.7 -8.7

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc BEAC (XAF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 16.6816.8816.3816.5014.63

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
50,7/100
World Rank:
156
Regional Rank:
37

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Congo’s foreign trade policy promotes a favorable social and economic environment aimed at fostering international trade, which represented 110% of GDP in 2020 (World Bank). Customs duty are harmonized by the Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC). They fluctuate between 5 and 30%. Congo is also a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). However, its integration is being delayed. Congo mainly exports crude oil and refined petroleum (75% of total exports), vessels (14%), raw timber (7%), machinery and refined copper. Its main import products are special-use vessels (14% of total imports), machinery (11%), meat, electrical equipment, cereals, vehicles, steel structures, food and medicinal products (International Trade Centre).

Congo's exports are mainly sent to China (63.8% of total exports), Spain (8.6%), Gabon (4.6%), the United States, India and Peru; while its main suppliers are China (18.7% of total imports), France (14.5%), Belgium (7.4%), the United States, Spain and Indonesia (International Trade Centre).
 
In 2020, WTO data showed that the country’s exports and imports of goods were valued at USD 3.34 billion and USD 1.87 billion respectively. Export of goods and services decreased by -8.5% compared to 2019, while imports decreased by -10.4%. Due to the COVID-9 pandemic, trade volume dropped significantly in 2020. Import compression and increased oil exports resulted in large trade surplus in 2021 but in 2022, the import bill is expected to rise faster than oil exports (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,7453,4862,2421,8662,302
Exports of Goods (million USD) 6,07811,1555,5763,3406,970
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,9090000
Exports of Services (million USD) 1870000
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -34.55.13.2-10.4n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 14.411.47.4-8.5n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 55.149.153.455.9n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 58.071.274.158.0n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 113.0120.3127.5114.0n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 
 
 
 
 

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Finances and Budget
Ministry of Hydrocarbons
Ministry of Special Economic Zones and Economic Diversification
Statistical Office
National Institute for Statistics (currently unavailable)
Central Bank
Bank of Central African States
Stock Exchange
The ROC does not have a stock exchange. ROC-based companies may be listed on the Douala Stock Exchange (DAC) that was recently merged with the CEMAC Zone Stock Exchange (BVMAC).
Search Engines
Google Congo
YellowPages of Africa
Economic Portals
Fortune of Africa Congo
Les Echoes
Journal de Brazza
France24

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Denis SASSOU-Nguesso (since 25 October 1997)
Prime Minister: Clément MOUAMBA (since 23 April 2016)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: March 2026
Senate: 2023
National Assembly: July 2022
Main Political Parties
Although the Republic of Congo is formally a multi-party country, the Congolese Labour Party (democratic socialist) is the dominant and opposition parties are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power. Other major parties include:
Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (liberalist-conservative)
Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (socialist)
Action Movement for Renewal (socialist)
Convention for Democracy and Salvation (a coalition of sixteen opposition parties)
Type of State
Democratic Republic.
Executive Power
According to art. 64 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic is the chief executive and the head of state. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term (with a maximum of two mandates). Following the approval of a new Constitution after a referendum in 2015, the Republic of Congo became a semi-presidential republic by the creation of the post of prime minister (who is responsible to the legislature and the cabinet).
Legislative Power
The legislative power is vested in the parliament, which is composed of two chambers: the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale, whose members are elected for a five-year terms in single-seat constituencies); and the Senate (Sénat, with members elected for a six-year term by district, local and regional councils).
However, the executive has a major role the legislative process, as the Cabinet deliberates on bills, draft ordinances and draft decrees. Furthermore, the President has the power - concurrently with members of parliament - to initiate bills to be tabled in parliament.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
118/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
The latest status of the evolution of the COVID19 pandemic and the most recent statistics on the COVID19 disease in Republic of Congo are available here.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest
situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the daily global statistics on the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
The latest public health situation in Republic of Congo and the current sanitary measures in force are available here.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
Information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including possible import and export restrictions, if applicable) is available here.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Republic of Congo on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
So far, no information on the economic recovery plan to deal with the consequences of the COVID19 pandemic on the Congolese economy has been published on the official websites of the national government
For an overview of the main economic policy measures (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Congolese government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Republic of Congo in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
The country's official sources do not provide information on specific business support programmes following the coronavirus outbreak.
For a general overview of international SME support measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, please refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
Official government sources do not provide information on specific programmes for exporting companies following the coronavirus outbreak.
 

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Latest Update: November 2022