The DRC is the third most populous county in sub-Saharan Africa and has many natural advantages that would enable it to experience rapid sustained economic growth and poverty alleviation. These include rich and diverse natural resources, such as minerals (diamond, cobalt, gold and coltan) and hydroelectric potential, forest resources and abundant fertile land, and a large domestic market. The main economic sectors of agriculture and forests, manufacturing industry and mines, and the service industry contribute, respectively, 40%, 28% and 32% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) .
While the DRC is home to vast quantities of natural resources and minerals, unfortunately, this abundance of resources has not adequately translated into stability or wealth for the majority of the population. In the last decades, the country’s evolution has been characterized by significant social vulnerability, political instability, food insecurity and high poverty rates (64%) .
The DRC’s economy depends mainly on natural resource exploitation, mining, forest resources and subsistence agriculture. Years of conflict and an unfavorable policy environment have severely affected green growth and key economic activities in the country, such as mining and agriculture .
For example, the DRC’s share of the agricultural sector in the economy is falling at a rate that exceeds the average rate of decline for sub-Saharan Africa. A large portion of the agricultural sector is still subsistence oriented, with an average of only 42% of food consumed by DRC households coming from their own production. In addition, smallholder farmers have limited capacity to cope with shocks and climate change impacts.
The DRC has the largest artisanal mining workforce in the world at around two million people, and untapped mineral reserves estimated to be worth US$24 trillion, but a lack of controls has led to environmental degradation and pollution .
Achieving green growth and a climate resilient economy in the DRC will be a challenge, due to long political crisis and conflicts, pressure on forest resources leading to deforestation, poverty, and the dependency of the population on natural resources for their livelihoods.
Key policies and governance approach
In 2016, the Ministry of Planning, with support from the United Nations, began prioritizing the SDGs at the national level, with the aim of integrating them and their related targets into development plans.
The National Strategic Plan for Development (PNSD) is the DRC’s overarching development strategy of the country. Articulated into three phases, its vision is for the country to progressively reach the status of developed economy by 2050. Environmental protection and climate change adaptation constitute one of the seven strategic objectives of the PNSD.
Several of the PNSD’s objectives are in line with greening the economy, such as a sustainable increase in agricultural productivity; improving access to quality food, especially for vulnerable populations such as women through social safety nets and other programmes; strengthening the national system for monitoring and managing food security and markets; and investing in nutrition to ensure the productivity of human resources for sustainable social and economic development in the country.
Successes and Remaining Challenges
The DRC economy experienced relatively rapid growth before 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, conflicts in the 1990s and earlier, which supported resource mismanagement at the time, continue to have an impact on the efficiencies of natural resource management today .
In addition, the DRC is at the bottom of the countries for Doing Business , this affects investment from private sector opportunities to diversify the country’ economy beyond natural resources overexploitation. In DRC, the industrial and commercial sector is made up largely of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Congolese Business Federation, which is the largest employer organization, has about 3,000 members consisting essentially of SMEs (80% of the economy). Nevertheless, the informal sector still represents a significant share of the country's economic activities, especially in services and commerce market.
Spending green now could bring significant short-term COVID recovery advantages in DRC, as well as long-term development opportunities, all while making progress towards climate and environmental goals. However, to date, and like most low-income nations, total recovery spending has been low and green recovery spending has been almost zero.
Historically, the DRC has relied heavily on support from international partners, though limited formal systems for managing foreign aid highlights the need for long-term partnerships rather than once-off investments. Transparent collaboration between domestic and international actors, driven by domestically determined priorities, will be key to the success of any economic plans to ensure long-term prosperity. It is essential that international partners, urgently direct significant concessional finance to provide support.
With support from international partners, Vivid Economics modelling has suggested that green investments (in utility-scale renewable energy and power lines, mini-grids, and nature-based solutions) could provide a strong economic recovery and advancement pathway for the DRC, leading to job creation, economic growth, and better environmental outcomes .
Goals and Ambitions
DRC aims for sustainable land use and management to address the drivers of deforestation (stabilize forest cover to 65% by 2030) while ensuring economic growth, increasing population income and improving livelihoods.
For the DRC to achieve the great ambitions of a green economy and continue to progress towards sustainable development, it is crucial that:
- Political, economic and commercial development is prioritized.
- The enforcement and monitoring of its environmental legislation is strengthened, green investments are encouraged, and sound environmental economic instruments are implemented.
- Incentives for investments in greener and less polluting technologies continue to be developed and implemented.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented adverse social and economic impacts in the DRC. As the Government takes urgent action and lays the foundations for economic recovery, the creation of economic opportunities that are more sustainable, inclusive and resilient to climate change are crucial. The recovery efforts should prioritize investments that boost jobs and economic activity; have positive impacts on human, social and natural capital; and protect biodiversity and ecosystems services . E.g. investments in utility-scale renewable energy and power lines, mini-grids, and nature-based solutions .
 [Online]. Available: https://www.thegef.org/sites/default/files/documents/10314_Project_Document_1.pdf.
 Draft Democratic Republic of the Congo Interim Country Strategic Plan.
 [Online]. Available: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/unep-study-confirms-dr-congos-potential-environmental-powerhouse-warns#:~:text=Story%20Disasters%20%26%20conflicts-
 Oxford University Economic Recovery Project, SSEE and Vivid Economics (2021). Green Economic Growth for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
 Climate Risk Profile: Congo, Democratic Republic (2021): The World Bank Group