Africa > Central Africa > Congo Kinshasa > Congo Kinshasa Geography Profile

Congo Kinshasa: Congo Kinshasa Geography Profile


The Congo is situated at the heart of the west-central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Central African Republic, the Uganda, Burundi, Zambia. The country straddles the Equator, with-third to the north and-thirds to the south. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is comparable to that of Western Europe.

As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms on Earth. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (200 cm) in some places, and the area sustains the second major rain forest in the world (next the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the west. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

The tropical climate has as well produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, (though they are not mutually exclusive). The name for the "Congo" national is derived from that of the river, along with that of the Kongo Empire which controlled much of the region in precolonial times. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupy nearly all country and an area of nearly million square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation, they have a drastic impact on the daily lives of the people. The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, inclunding Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, again gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are actually on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA image), again the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and again running completed Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river as well has the second-major flow and the second-major watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a forty-kilometre-wide strip of land on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic, otherwise it would be completely landlocked.

The before mentioned Great Rift Valley, in particular the Eastern Rift, plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much additional mountainous, but due the rift's tectonic activities, this area as well experiences low levels of volcanic activity. The rifting of the African continent in this area has as well manifested itself as the famous Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known before as Lake Mobutu), Lake Edward, and Lake Tanganyika. Perhaps most significant of all, the Rift Valley has exposed an enormous all of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, particularly in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region.


Deforestation is caused by farming activity and the country's dependency on wood for fuel. By 1985, 3,701 sq km (1,429 sq mi) of forestland had been lost. The DROC has nine national parks. As of 2000, there were five Natural World Heritage Sites and three biosphere reserves, and 4.3% of the DROC's total land area was protected. The major environmental problem is poor water and sanitation systems, which result in the spread of insect- and rodent-borne diseases. The water is polluted by untreated sewage, industrial chemicals and mining by-products. The country has 935 cu km of renewable water resources with 23% used for farming activities and 16% used for industrial purposes. Roughly 89% of city dwellers and 26% of the people living in rural areas have pure drinking water. In 2000, 38 of the DROC's mammal species and 26 of its bird species were endangered inclunding 69 species of plants. Endangered or extinct species in the DROC include the Marunga sunbird and the northern white and northern square-lipped rhinoceros.

Flora and fauna

The flora and fauna of the DROC include some 95% of all the varieties found in Africa. Part the a lot of species of trees are the red cedar, mahogany, oak, walnut, the silk-cotton tree, and various palms. Orchids, lilies, lobelias, and gladioli are some of the flowers found, along with shrubs and plants of the euphorbia and landolphia families. Larger species of mammals include the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, zebra, leopard, cheetah, gorilla, chimpanzee, wild boar, giraffe, okapi, and wild hog. The baboon and a lot of kinds of monkeys are common, as are the jackal, hyena, civet, porcupine, squirrel, rabbit, and rat. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles are found in the rivers. Large snakes include the python, puff adder, and tree cobra. Lizards and chameleons are part the numerous small reptiles.

Birds are mainly of species common to much of Africa. They include the eagle, vulture, owl, goose, duck, parrot, whidah and other weaver birds, pigeon, sunbird, cuckoo, and swift, along with the crane, heron, stork, pelican, and cormorant. The rivers and lakes have a lot of kinds of fish, part them catfish, tigerfish, and electric eels. Insects include various dragonflies, bees, wasps, beetles, mosquitoes, and the tsetse fly, inclunding scorpions, spiders, centipedes, ants, and termites.


Central Africa, northeast of Angola

Geographic coordinates: 

0 00 N, 25 00 E

Map references: 


Area comparative: 

slightly less than one-fourth the size of the US

Land boundaries Total: 

10,730 km

Land boundaries Note: 


tropical; hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler and wetter in eastern highlands; north of Equator - wet season (April to October), dry season (December to February); south of Equator - wet season (November to March), dry season (April to October)


vast central basin is a low-lying plateau ; mountains in east

Natural resources: 

cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower, timber

Natural hazards: 

periodic droughts in south; Congo River floods (seasonal); in the east, in the Great Rift Valley, there are active volcanoes

Environment - current issues: 

poaching threatens wildlife populations; water pollution; deforestation; refugees responsible for significant deforestation, soil erosion, and wildlife poaching; mining of minerals (coltan - a mineral used in creating capacitors, diamonds, and gold) causing environmental damage

Geography note: 

straddles equator; has narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo River and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands