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The Democratic Republic of Congo (République démocratique du Congo; until 1997 Republic of Zaire or Zaïre) is located in Central Africa and, with an area of 2 345 410 km², is more than six times the size of Germany. The country on the equator is one of the most resource-rich countries on the African continent and is largely occupied by the Congo Basin, which is surrounded by marginal mountains.

The Congo Basin consists of stepped levels rising from about 300 m to about 1 000 m above sea level. The river Congo with its countless tributaries flows through the basin, with a length of approx. 4 370 km the Congo is the second longest river in Africa after the Nile. In the west of the country the Congo flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the coastline of the Democratic Republic of Congo is only 40 km.

In the north the Asandeschwelle borders the Congo Basin, in the east the Central African Threshold. Here, on the border with neighbouring Uganda, the country has a share of the Ruwenzori Mountains, the highest elevation on the national territory being the Margherita with 5,109 m. In the southeast the Lundaschwelle with the Kundelungu and the Mitumbabergen borders the basin, here the river Congo originates.

In the east of the country there are several large lakes in which the Democratic Republic of Congo has a share: Lake Albertsee (also: Mobuto-Sese-Seko-See), Lake Edward, Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika. Other large lakes lie in the western part of the Congo Basin (Tumbasee, Mai-Ndombe-See). The capital Kinshasa is located in the west of the country on the shore of the Congo.

Political System

According to the Constitution of 2006, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a presidential republic. The head of state is the president (since January 2001 Joseph Kabila). He is directly elected every five years (one-time re-election possible). The prime minister (since May 2012 Augustin Matata Ponyo) is proposed by the majority faction in parliament and appointed by the president.

The Parliament consists of the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) with 500 deputies elected for five years and the Senate (Sénat). The 108 senators are also elected indirectly every five years. The Democratic Republic of Congo is divided into eleven provinces. The administration is strictly centralised.

Economy

Despite rich raw material deposits and strong growth rates in recent years, the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, with large parts of the population living below the poverty line.

Agriculture employs about 65% of the working population and accounts for 46% of the gross domestic product. Coffee, sugar cane, rubber, tea, fruit, oil palms and manioc are mainly produced for the country’s own needs. Inland fishing also plays an important role for self-sufficiency. The large forest stands are used for the export of tropical timber, which destroys the tropical rainforest and palm oil plantations.

Industry contributes about one fifth of GDP. The most important locations are in the Shaba province and in the Kinshasa and Kisangani area. The mining sector (copper, cobalt, gold diamonds, coltan, casserite, rare earths) makes a decisive contribution to economic growth. In addition to coffee and palm oil, these mining products are also the most important export goods bought by China, Belgium and the USA. Imports, mainly food, mining technology and fuels, mostly come from South Africa, Belgium and France. Other important industries include metal and food processing and the wood and textile industries. International airports are located near Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi, Goma and Bukavu. The currency is the Congo franc (FC).