Published on Africa Can End Poverty

DRC can overcome fragility to become Africa’s leading climate solutions country

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Timber is floated on Congo river to wood depot near Kinshasa. Timber is floated on Congo river to wood depot near Kinshasa.


At the end of the month, civil society, governments, international organizations, and private sector actors will meet in Dubai for the UN Climate Change Conference - COP28 to course correct and help keep global warming at 1.5°C above the preindustrial average within reach, in line with the Paris Agreement. As such, this event can be a transformational moment for the world to unite around tangible climate action and deliver realistic solutions. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the many countries in attendance, and one of the few that can make this happen.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a true climate “solutions” country with its enormous reserves of green minerals, pristine forests, and a large hydro power capacity. But several building blocks will be necessary to support this vision, such as continued political commitment, well-aligned multi-level governance, clear institutional frameworks, robust laws, policies, and strategies, well-managed oversight and financing, and robust data management, as the new DRC Country Climate Development Report (CCDR) finds.

The DRC’s history of conflict and political instability has long hampered economic growth, undermined state capacity, entrenched corruption, and hindered the delivery of basic services to its people. At 234 million hectares, DRC is the largest country by surface area in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the world’s poorest, with an estimated 95.3 million people and a poverty rate of 62.3%, ranking 178 out of 182 on the 2020 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. This is, by far, the most talked about reality of the Congo. At the same time, the country stands ready to punch above its weight and lead in the global climate arena. This strategic vision is strongly supported by the President (who once said “With its forests, water and mineral resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a genuine ‘Solution Country’ to the climate crisis”) and enshrined in the 2030 National Strategic Development Plan which defines a path for DRC to reach middle-income status by 2035.

To achieve such ambitious goals, the country must pursue structural transformation and diversify its economy to promote sustainable development in an inclusive way, all while reducing poverty and tackling regional disparities. DRC holds almost half of the world’s mineral reserves, with more than 1,000 different substances, including 20 strategic ores. The world’s fifth-largest copper producer also produces more than 70% of the mined global output of cobalt. With 5.6% average growth over 2002-2021, the DRC economy is among the fastest-growing in Sub-Saharan Africa. DRC’s hydropower potential could supply the current energy consumption of the entire African continent. Yet the benefits of the natural wealth are not widely distributed, and are not enhancing DRC’s human capital, nor promoting a diversified economy. While providing long-lasting solutions to the world’s climate problems, DRC also needs to pursue its development goals and address formidable climate risks. Enhancing institutions, building capacity, and improving governance are important pre-conditions for climate change action, and will help DRC become Africa’s leading climate solutions country.

The 2023 DRC CCDR, which will be showcased at COP28, finds that climate-related shocks, including floods and droughts, are expected to rise in both frequency and intensity, with the poor bearing the brunt of the impacts. Increased infrastructure damage and connectivity issues due to climate change are expected to worsen fragility, conflict, and violence by intensifying competition over food and jobs, increasing internal migration, reducing economic opportunities and social cohesion, and straining public institutions and trust in the state. The impacts of climate change on poverty and human capital accumulation can negatively reinforce one another, further deepening poverty. DRC’s development goals will be harder to achieve in the context of a changing climate, which can reverse hard-won gains in human capital. Climate-sensitive Ebola outbreaks, malaria, cholera, and other diarrheal and vector-borne diseases are expected to increase as flooding and droughts intensify and affect labor productivity. The rural and urban poor, women and children, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities all have heightened vulnerability.

The CCDR also finds that under different development scenarios, climate change without adaptation could result in up to a 13% loss in GDP for the country. Economic development and growth in the DRC will help build its overall resilience but do not suffice. If DRC stays on its current growth trajectory, by 2050 climate change could result in GDP losses ranging between 4.7 and 12.9%. However, selected adaptation measures could reduce the economic damage of climate change by almost half.

With this in mind, the CCDR sets out four urgent action areas:

1. Underpin the vision of DRC as a climate “solutions” country through climate-smart mining, hydropower development, forest preservation, and integrated landscape management;

2. Increase agriculture productivity and food security through climate-smart agriculture and support to farmer-led irrigation;

3. Develop climate-resilient transport and cities, enhance digital access, and improve access to basic services; and

4. Enhance governance and boost human capital by reducing poverty, increasing social inclusion, and enhancing security.

Implementing DRC’s climate solutions vision and its associated adaptation strategies requires considerable financing. The initial public investments needed to partially offset climate change risks are estimated at around $10.9 billion by 2050. Given DRC’s limited financial capacities, engaging the private sector and identifying other sources of finance is crucial. DRC could seek international payments for its global ecosystem services, by leveraging various public and private streams of climate finance. The credibility of a fund to collect grant-based payments for ecosystem services hinges on DRC’s governance, and the readiness to access new and innovative financial mechanisms.

DRC has already adequately defined the core elements of its climate agenda. The country should now increase its focus on operationalizing climate action and addressing governance challenges. For this, DRC needs a wide array of investments and policy packages to build resilience and sequence reforms, recognizing its fiscal constraints and low institutional capacity. By supporting higher-quality infrastructure and greater diversification, economic development, in and of itself, is a powerful form of adaptation. Overcoming fragility and pursuing an economy-wide, resilient development path that will benefit its people, the region, and the world is entirely possible for Africa’s giant.


Ana Bucher

Senior Climate Change Specialist

Sandra El Saghir

Senior Economist, World Bank

Ruxandra Burdescu

Lead Governance Specialist

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