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Congo-Brazzaville - Geography

The Republic of Congo is an equatorial country on the west coast of Africa. It has a coastline of about 170 km on the Atlantic Ocean, from which the country extends northward to Cameroon and the Central African Republic. The Republic of Congo is bordered by Gabon to the west and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the east, while in the south there is a short frontier with the Cabinda enclave of Angola. The climate is tropical, with temperatures averaging 21 degrees centigrade to 27 degrees centigrade throughout the year.

This elongated country has a maximum north-south distance of nearly 800 miles but extends only 300 miles from east to west at its broadest point. Its perimeter measures slightly more than 2,900 miles, of which only 100 miles are coastline along the south Atlantic Ocean, between Gabon and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda. Approximately 60 percent of the country is lowlands covered by forest, and the remainder consists chiefly of plateaus, valleys, and savanna table lands. In the main, the soils are sandy, infertile, and poor, except in the Niari Valley in the south, where most of the commercial and experimental agricultural activity is concentrated.

The country has an area of 342,000 sq km (132,000) sq miles. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into ten regions - Bouenza, Cuvette, Cuvette Ouest, Kouilou, Lekoumou, Likouala, Niari, Plateaux, Pool and Sangha.

Roads were rare in the Congo and airfields more rare. The Republic of Congo plays an important role in the transport system that links Chad, the CAR and parts of Cameroon and Gabon with the Atlantic coast. All of the rail and much of the river portion of the system is located in the Congo. The port of PointeNoire is the terminus of this network. The river system is also of great significance as a transport artery throughout the country. The Congo-Ocean Railway carries mostly freight and links Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville. Other transport facilities including the road network are little developed owing to the great distances and dense equatorial forest. Large areas of the north have no road access. In the past couple of years, the RoC has made significant investments to develop its weak infrastructure, including the completion of thousands of kilometers of paved roads linking its departmental capitals, including all but 80 miles of the road between the commercial capital of Pointe-Noire and administrative capital Brazzaville.

There are international airports at Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, as well as five regional airports and 12 smaller airfields. The Congo River is one of two major national thorough- fares, and the 520-kilometer Congo-Ocean line between Brazzaville and Pointe Noire is the other.

The GRoC signed a contract in November 2015 to rehabilitate its river ports along the country’s two main waterways, the Congo and Oubangui rivers, as well as refurbish over 500 kilometers of railway from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire. Challenges remain, in particular with the RoC’s nascent broadband internet, and inconsistent electric and water supply, which present the biggest hurdles for most foreign direct investment. The country’s paved road system remains underdeveloped and its railroad system to connect inland iron ore and timber resources in the north and west of the country to the port of Pointe-Noire is still on the drawing board. However, infrastructure improvement projects are evident in the major cities of the RoC, and the government continues to report spending enormous amounts of capital on infrastructure improvements, though at a decreasing rate with the drop in oil revenues.

Four states and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda had land boundaries with the Congo. Three of these boundaries — those with Gabon, Congo (Kinshasa), and Cameroon - incorporated natural features; the remaining two traversed rolling hills, savanna lands, rain forests, and low-lying plains. The relatively short coastline was fairly regular, but its inshore approaches were partially obstructed by sandbars, shoals, and scattered rocks.

The longest boundary, over 1,100 miles, was contiguous with Gabon to the west. The southern portion of this border crossed flat plains, rolling hills, and dissected plains whose vegetation varied from savanna or grass to dense, broadleaf evergreen forest. The central section traversed relatively flat, dissected plains that lay almost entirely within the tropical rain forest. The northern part of the boundary passed though the upper reaches of the rain forest and, for the final 250 miles, was marked by the Ivindo and Djouab rivers, which formed a part of the Ogooue River watershed.

The western half of the approximately 320-mile boundary with Cameroon to the northwest cut across relatively flat plains and rolling hills almost entirely covered by dense, broadleaf evergreen forest. The eastern half also passed through tropical rain forest and was delineated by the Sangha River and one of its tributaries, the Ngoko River. To the north, the border with the Central African Republic was traced for approximately 280 miles across almost flat plains, which also lay within the extensive rain forest area.

The boundary with DR Congo (Kinshasa) on the east was well defined for most of its 980 miles and generally followed the Oubangui and Congo rivers. About 75 miles below Brazzaville it moved to the southwest and traversed low, rounded hills and intermittent small areas of dissected plains. All of these landforms were covered with savanna, grass, or fairly dense evergreen forest.

The 120-mile border with Cabinda was the shortest shared with any neighbor. It was irregular and crossed low-lying, rolling plains covered with broadleaf evergreen and savanna. This boundary was the first to be regularized. It had been settled by special agreement with Portugal in May 1885, shortly after the Berlin Congress, which had been convened to consider plans for the development of African territories.

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