28 facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo

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From diverse flora and fauna to a tragic history, these are the most interesting facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Interesting facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo include its magnificent biodiversity
Interesting facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo include its magnificent biodiversity (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Capital city: Kinshasa
Population: 101,780,263
Area: 2,344,858 sq km
Major languages: French, Lingala, Kingwana, Kikongo, Tshiluba
Time zone: UTC+1 (West / Central African Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo

1. The Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa is often referred to as DRC, DR Congo and sometimes Congo (Kinshasa) to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo which is often referred to as Congo (Brazzaville).
– Source: Britannica, BBC News

Note: we refer to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as DR Congo below.

2. Harpoon tips discovered on the banks of the Semliki River in DR Congo are more than 90,000 years old and some of the earliest instruments ever shaped by modern humans using a material other than stone or wood.
– Source: The Guardian

3. The Kingdom of Kongo ruled much of the region from the 14th to 19th centuries.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

4. In 1482, Portuguese navigator Diogo Cao became the first European to visit the Congo setting up ties with the king of Kongo.
– Source: BBC News

5. Belgium’s King Léopold II set up a private venture to colonise Kongo from the 1870s onwards. The colony was the largest private estate ever acquired by a single man and possibly led to the deaths of 10 million people.
– Source: The Guardian, BBC News

The flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo
The flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Shutterstock)

6. DR Congo’s flag consists of a blue background with a yellow-bordered red diagonal stripe running across it and a yellow star in the top left corner. The flag dates from 1877 and was initially blue with a gold star symbolizing a shining light in the “Dark Continent.”
– Source: Britannica

7. In 1960, DR Congo finally gained independence from Belgium.
– Source: BBC News

8. DR Congo’s recent history has been plagued by civil war, conflict and politic upheaval. It has been at the centre of what has been called “Africa’s world war”, which directly or indirectly killed up to six million people.
– Source: BBC News

9. In 1971, the country was renamed Zaire and the River Congo became the River Zaire following a military takeover. The country reverted to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997.
– Source: BBC News

10. At 2,900mi (4,700 km), the Congo River, which runs through DR Congo, is Africa’s second-longest river after the Nile. It is also the world’s deepest river.
– Source Britannica, Smithsonian

The Congo River
The Congo River (Shutterstock)

11. DR Congo’s capital city, Kinshasa, is located on the Congo River opposite Brazzaville, the capital of Congo (Republic of Congo). The two cities are less than a mile (1.6km) apart, making them the closest capital cities in the world. Rome and Vatican City are closer, but Vatican City is not a UN member and as it’s a city-state, it technically doesn’t have a capital.
– Source: Condé Nast Traveler

12. From 1881, Kinshasa was called Léopoldville after King Léopold II of Belgium. In 1966, the city was renamed Kinshasa, after a village that once stood near the site.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

13. From 1874-77, famed British explorer Henry Stanley became the first to navigate the Congo River to the Atlantic Ocean. The city of Kisangani (Stanleyville) and the Boyoma Falls (Stanley Falls) were named after him. The Boyoma Falls are a 100km (60mi) stretch of seven cataracts that are the last point ships can travel upriver from Kinshasa.
– Source: BBC News, Lonely Planet, Lonely Planet

14. The world’s second-largest rainforest, the Congolese Rainforest, is part-located in DR Congo. The Congolese Rainforest spans six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
– Source: WWF

15. The Congo Basin spans six countries including DR Congo. The Congo Basin makes up one of the most important wilderness areas on Earth and is home to approximately 10,000 plant species, 400 mammal species, 1,000 bird species and 700 fish species.
– Source: WWF

A gorilla in the Congolese Rainforest
A gorilla in the Congolese Rainforest (Shutterstock)

16. As such, DR Congo is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Megadiverse countries are the world’s most biodiversity-rich countries.
– Source: The Telegraph

17. DR Congo and the Congo Basin countries are home to the ethnic group of Pygmy people, known for their short stature – typically under five feet tall. The word “Pygmy” comes from the Greek for “dwarfish”, although Pygmys are conventionally proportioned.
– Source: Smithsonian Magazine

18. In 1904, Pygmy Ota Benga was kidnapped from what is now DR Congo and taken to the US, where he was exhibited with monkeys in a zoo. More than a century later, the Bronx Zoo in New York finally issued an apology.
– Source: BBC News

19. There are more than 200 African ethnic groups in DR Congo. The majority are Bantu with the four largest tribes – Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu) and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) – making up around 45% of the population.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

20. The DR Congo is home to the endangered okapi. Known as the “forest giraffe,” the okapi looks more like a cross between a deer and a zebra. The okapi is native to the Ituri Rainforest in DR Congo, the only place where it can be found in the wild.
– Source: National Geographic

An okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The okapi looks like a cross between deer and a zebra (Shutterstock)

21. DR Congo has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. All are natural heritage sites and include four national parks and one wildlife reserve.
– Source: UNESCO

22. The UNESCO-listed Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park and home to an array of wildlife and natural landscapes including mountain gorillas and chimpanzees as well as the active volcano Nyiragongo.
– Source: Lonely Planet, UNESCO

23. DR Congo is the world’s 11th largest and Africa’s second-largest country after Algeria.
– Source: World Bank

24. Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes and is known locally as “General Nyiragongo”. In 2002, lava from the volcano destroyed part of the nearby city of Goma.
– Source: National Geographic

25. DR Congo would be landlocked if it weren’t for a 25-mile (40-km) coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.
– Source: Britannica

Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Mount Nyiragongo (Shutterstock)

26. DR Congo is potentially one of the world’s richest countries with vast natural resources including cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium, coal, hydropower and timber.
– Source: BBC Magazine, CIA World Fact Book

27. DR Congo is the world’s fourth poorest country when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP).
– Source: World Bank

28. DR Congo’s capital city Kinshasa, with a population of 11,587,000, is the world’s largest French-speaking city.
– Source: Dialogue Journal

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.