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Congo-Brazzaville - Introduction

The Republic of the Congo, originally a French colony, is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville — as opposed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known from 1971 to 1999 as Zaire) which is often called Congo-Kinshasa or DR Congo, originally a Belgian colony. Brazzaville, commonly called "Brazza the green", has a population of 600,000, compared with Kinshasa’s 6.8 million in 2004. Kinshasa’s population has more than doubled in 20 years. Kinshasa is now far larger than the entire Congo-Brazzaville republic, which has a population of almost 3 million.

Congo- Brazzaville has had a violent history since receiving its nationhood in 1960. There have been a dozen coups, aborted coups, and one miniature civil war, as well as over a dozen presidents. Four leaders were overthrown, one was assassinated, and another was executed. The division between the North and the South is most pronounced, the North having always ruled except for the time right after independence and the short period under Lissouba's government. People from the North are generally better off than people living in the South.

The Republic of Congo is endowed with a wealth of assets that can be used to build a robust economy, improve the living standards of its population, and drive the economic growth of the sub-region. The country has substantial oil reserves, vast natural forests (close to 22 million hectares), and extensive arable land (10,000,000 hectares). It also has a highly developed hydrographic network, a climate conducive to agriculture, a world renowned biodiversity that helps regulate greenhouse gases, and mineral resources. It is also strategically positioned in Central Africa, possessing a 170-kilometer long coastal front on the Atlantic Ocean and a deep-water port in Pointe-Noire that could benefit the entire sub-region.

The official change of the name of the country in 1969 to the People's Republic of the Congo instead of the former Republic of Congo, which had been adopted after the country became an autonomous member of the French Community on November 28, 1958, ending a period of fifty-five years as Moyen-Congo (Middle Congo), an administrative unit of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (Afrique Equa-toriale Frangaise—AEF). In international usage the capital of the new country has often been included as part of an abbreviated name, as in Congo (Brazzaville), to differentiate it from the neighboring Congo (Kinshasa), or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for a time Zaire, which was formerly the Belgian Congo.

While the country has made some progress in transforming its natural resources into economic growth, its social indicators remain low compared to countries in similar contexts. Given its important resource base and a population of only 4.1 million, located primarily in the three largest urban centers, the Republic of Congo could be an emerging economy over the next 15 to 20 years if the right polices and action are taken by the policy makers.

However, the Republic of Congo’s economic performance over the three years 201232015 was far behind the growth rate needed to achieve its development goals by 2025. In the past decade, the average annual economic growth rate of Congo was lower than that of lower middle income countries (LMICs). The Republic of Congo remains fragile; the high poverty rate, unemployment, inequalities, and low access to efficient public services are significant challenges to the country.

Founded in 1880 on the Stanley Pool (called Malebo Pool in the DRC) area of the Congo River, Brazzaville [aka 'Brazza'] has always been the junior partner economically with Kinshasa (DRC), which tempts and taunts from the other shore. With most evidence of the war years washed away, Brazzaville has a lot of charm and many visitors claim that it's the most pleasant city in Central Africa. The city is named after Count Pierre Paul Pranqois Camile Savorgnan de Brazza (1852-1905), French explorer, administrator and founder of French Congo.

Frequent mention is made of the word "Pool" - derived from the Stanley Pool. The Pool owes its name to the vast interior lake formed by the Congo River upstream of Brazzaville. During the colonial conquest, this lake, which marks the beginning of navigable Congo, was named Stanley Pool, in reference to the English explorer Henri Morton Stanley that he discovered. It was renamed Pool Malebo to independence. The French, accustomed to designate their departments by a geographical name, retained the English term to denominate the region surrounding Brazzaville. This is how the Pool inherited a "British" name.

The Department of Pool lies south of the capital Brazzaville. The Pool Department is Brazzaville's granary, where it supplies 80% of the fresh food it consumes, especially cassava. It produces a lot of cassava (roots and leaves), chikwangue (cassava breads), bean, peanut, ginger, vegetables, plantain, fruits (litchis, mangosteens, grafted mangoes and citrus) And palm nuts, the majority of which is destined for Brazzaville. Not to mention eggs, broilers, pork coming from the agricultural villages of Nkouo and Imvouba. The oil palm grows in the northern part of the department.

The Pool once experienced intense mining activity in Mpassa. Indeed, since the 17th century, Kongo and Téké killed to control the mining site, to beat money and to make tools and weapons of war. Finally, they set the boundary of the two kingdoms on this site. The working-class city created on this frontier was called mindélé (plural de ondelé), which means a limit in the Teké language, which became Mindouli in the transcription in French.

The Republic of the Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the “FinancialCooperation in Central Africa" Franc (CFA). U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency, but traveler’s checks are generally not accepted and cannot be cashed at local banks. Some hotels in Brazzaville and in Pointe-Noire now accept major credit cards, but cash remains the preferred method of payment.

Travel in the Republic of the Congo is hampered by road conditions, in addition to security considerations. There are reports of thieves establishing roadblocks outside of cities to solicit bribes. The road between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire is currently under construction. While large portions are now paved, this road is not to western highway standards.

Traffic safety is hazardous due to high speeds, aggressive driving, poorly maintained vehicles, and indifference toward the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season from October to May. Gasoline and diesel fuel are sometimes unavailable in the major cities and especially in the more isolated regions of the country. Mosquito borne illnesses such as malaria, yellow fever, and chikungunya are a major problem throughout the country and prevention of bites and proper immunizations are important for all areas. Diarrheal diseases are prevalent throughout the country and may be contracted even in luxury hotels in major cities.

It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, and other key infrastructure such as ports, train stations, and airports. Keep cameras out of sight in such locations, and do not take photos of Congolese without permission.

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Page last modified: 14-06-2017 19:45:42 ZULU