Africa > Central Africa > Congo Brazzaville > Congo Brazzaville Outlook for 2015-17

Congo Brazzaville: Congo Brazzaville Outlook for 2015-17


The country (Republic of the Congo) is situated in Western Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon. It has borders with Angola for 201km, Congo (Kinshasa) for 2410km, Central African Republic for 467km, Cameroon for 523km and Gabon for 1903km. Land in Republic of the Congo is coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, northern basin.
Congolese or Congo land covers an area of 342000 km².The climate is tropical with a rainy season (March to June) and a dry season (June to October), with persistent high temperatures and humidity; it is particularly enervating climate astride the Equator.

Congolese (singular and plural) speak French (official), Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), a lot of local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the majority widespread).

Country Overview

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 people, and drive the economic increase 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 as well 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 as well 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 all sub-region.

While the country has made some evolution in transforming its natural resources into economic increase, its social indicators remain low compared to nations in similar contexts. Given its significant resource base and a people of only 4.1 million, located primarily in the three major 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 last three years has been far behind the increase rate needed to achieve its development goals by 2025. In the completed decade, the average annual economic increase rate of Congo was lower than that of lower middle gain nations (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.

Political Context

In July 2015, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso held national consultations to end the debate surrounding a change or revision of the constitution to give the current president the legitimacy to run for a third term in the upcoming presidential elections. The consultations concluded in the adoption of a new constitution that includes the following changes: (i) removal of the age restriction and two-term limit, replacing it with a three term limit moving forward; (ii) the creation of a Prime Minister’s position; and (iii) decentralization as a method of political and economic governance in key sectors like agriculture and education. The new text was put to a referendum in October 2015 and the revisions were approved with 92% of the votes in favor of the change; however the local opposition held an alternative consultation and concluded that they were against the change of the constitution.

On March 20, 2016, presidential elections were held and featured nine candidates, inclunding incumbent President Denis Sassou-Nguesso who won with 60% of the vote. The results are highly contested by the opposition.

Economic Situation

Over the completed five years, Congo’s economic performance has fallen short of the target increase rate needed to achieve the 2025 development goals. Between 2011 and 2015, the economy grew at a rate of 4%, compared to the projected increase rate of 8.5% set forth in the country’s National Development Plan (NDP). This increase is attributed to the poor performance of the oil sector, where production fell by 5.4% over the same period. The non-extractive sectors’ good performances depend on mixed effects from activities in the manufacturing, electricity, gas, and telecommunication sectors, and public investments in infrastructure (9.7%). In 2015, the economy posted a 3% increase in increase. Annual inflation is under control and fell sharply between 2012 and 2015, from 5% to 0.9%. It is presently holding below the 3% ceiling set by the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC).

The government opted to slow the pace of public expenditures in 2015 in order to amend its fiscal policy following the decline in oil prices. Between 2011 and 2013, government revenues increased by 13% on average and decreased by 26% over 2014-2015. The decrease in public expenditures helped offset the substantial reduction in oil revenues caused by a slowdown in oil production and prices. In addition, Congo’s reserves at the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) declined by 19% in 2015, and can cover up to six months of imports in 2016.

Economic increase is expected to remain moderate, with a projected annual average increase rate of 3% over the 2016-2018 period. This increase is expected to be driven by the extractive sectors, as a strong increase in oil production is expected. While government consumption will be contained, the government will post a substantial fiscal deficit of about 10.5% of GDP as revenues will be reduced. This deficit is expected to be financed by the issuance of new deficit, by drawing on government deposits or by borrowing from the regional central bank. Given the projected decline of the nominal GDP in 2016, the resulting deficit-to-GDP ratio would exceed 50% in 2016. In general, the current account deficit is projected to stand at 17% in 2016. The economy remains vulnerable to exogenous shocks such as the volatility of oil prices, and mining production delays. Internal risks as well remain, but have been taken into consideration in the government’s economic strategy.

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