The Republic of Congo has witnessed a 40% decline in living standards since independence from France in 1960 since when it has mainly been ruled as a totalitarian state with corruption being cited as one major cause of this deterioration. With a population of 5,74 million (2022), the majority of whom are located in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and the surrounding areas. Life expectancy is 64.57 years (2019) and the poverty rate is running at 52.5% (2020), mainly in rural areas with the country in 149th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards. Despite this, it should be acknowledged Congo Brazzaville has been addressing these challenges in the last two decades with its 'The Future Path' initiative which aims to modernize the country and has been making substantial progress with finanicial aid from the World Bank with overall gross national income rising by 50% since 2011. For example, there are also now high literacy levels and longer periods of required education for children which is seen as a key to future economc development although, it should be noted, the number of street children in cities such as Brazzaville has increased during the same period.
The situation for children inside the Republic of Congo today is mixed. As with so many African nations, the Republic of Congo is a destination country for trafficked children for the purpose of enforced labour, domestic servitude and exploitation, however the government is making some progress on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and has enacted laws on child protection. Like in so many sub-Sahara countries, AIDS is a major issue however not as acute in some other Africa countries, with the current number of AIDS orphans in Congo Brazzaville estimated to be around 10,000. The government has also been overseeing a program to ensure that all children have a birth certificate for, without such a document, children have no rights as they cannot even prove their country of origin. There are four major ethnic groups inside the Republic of Congo ~ these groups are the Kongo, the M'Bochi, the Sangha and the Teke. Additionally the Baka people, often called pygmies (see article below), live in the country and rainforest regions.
60% of those living inside the Republic of Congo reside in concrete built homes in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire with a further 12% living close to the railway that connects those two cities. The remaining 28%, including the indigenous Pygmy population, live in rural communities, normally in homes made of mud bricks with thatched or tin roofs with no access to electricity, relying upon wood for fuel. Unlike many other African countries, the Republic of Congo does not suffer from lack of rainfall and despite the country having one third of its mass as part of the Congo basin, it still has eight million hectares available for farming to support its population so should be food self sufficient, yet out of that great landmass only 200,000 hectares are used for agriculture. Part of the reason for this is that under Marxist rule, which was abandoned in the early 1990s, peasant organisations were set up to run state farms, however with the collapse of the state farm policy in 1986, these large farms were abandoned and the agriculture sector became dominated by smallholdings managed by families without the skills and knowledge to work the land effectively.
Today most farming in the Republic of Congo is undertaken by around 30% of the workforce and is subsistence farming concentrated on cassava, a hardy plant that thrives in poor soil conditions and is the equivalent of the potato in terms of its use in meals with its starchy roots and protein and vitamin high leaves. In the south of the country growing bananas and plantains, a banana lookalike vegetable that is used in recipes like potatoes. Other agricultural production includes peanuts, maize and potatoes as well as fruit whilst cash crops are primarily sugarcane and tobacco. Most rural families also keep chickens, goats, sheep and pigs to supplement their diet. As noted above, there is a plentiful supply of water in Congo Brazzaville and there have been improvements to safe drinking water in Congo Brazzavile in recent years with 84% of the urban population now having access however this drops to just 27% for those living in rural areas of the country.
In these rural areas, water continues to be collected from springs and wells and is also of questionable quality with dozens of children regularly being admitted to hospital because of chronic diarrhoea, with dysentery being one of the main cause of death in the country not least because access to healthcare varies considerably with 66% of all doctors in the country living and working in the capital city Brazzaville. Congo Brazzaville has a current infant mortality (under fives) rate of 44.6 for every 1000 births compared with 66.1 deaths per 1000 live births in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. For comparative purposes the rate is 3.4 deaths per 1000 live births in Europe. The video (below) provides a glimpse of daily life inside the Republic of Congo.
Life in Congo Brazzaville: Volunteer in Congo Brazzaville
Life in Congo Brazzaville: Pygmy People
Life in Congo Brazzaville: Child Sponsor Congo Brazzaville
Life in Congo Brazzaville: Congo Brazzaville Profile
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