Formerly known as Zaire, The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the largest countries in Africa bordering nine countries: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. It’s also a country whose minerals play a critical role in the world’s economy. Here are five facts to know about the central African country.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the leading producer of cobalt
The country is the driving force behind electric cars thanks to their status as the world’s leading producer of cobalt, which is used to power vehicles as well as mobile phones. In fact, The Democratic Republic of Congo is believed to have more than half of the world’s supply of cobalt in addition to other minerals like diamonds, gold, copper, tantalum, tungsten, and tin.
Despite this wealth of raw materials, the country is one of the poorest in the world due to years of political instability and upheaval. Close to three out of four people live on less than $1.90 per day.
Africa’s oldest national park is in The Democratic Republic of Congo
Virunga National Park was founded in 1925 and is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is home to over one thousand species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, including one-third of the world’s wild mountain gorillas. Virunga’s Senkwekwe Centre is the world’s only facility for orphaned mountain gorillas. The park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 but wound up on the List of World Heritage in Danger from 1994 to the present due to civil unrest and political turmoil in the area.
It is the second-largest country in Africa
With a population of approximately 105 million, DR Congo is the third most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and Ethiopia, the second largest after Algeria, and the 14th most populous country in the world. French is the official language, making it the most populous Francophone country in the world. After Paris, the capital Kinshasa is the world’s second-largest French-speaking city.
Mayo is a very popular condiment
There are over 200 ethnic groups in the DRC and close to 250 languages and dialects spoken throughout the country. The Bantu tribes, Mongo, Luba, Kongo, and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) comprise an estimated 45% of the population. This makes for a very rich culinary tapestry of Congolese and general fare along with Indian, Lebanese, and Belgian. But there is one condiment that transcends all meals — mayonnaise. The creamy dressing accompanies everything from fish to fried plantains, manioc, or salad. Locals typically mix mayo with their hot chilli pepper sauce known as piri piri, or pepper pepper in Swahili.
Kinshasa and Brazzaville are the world’s closest capitals
Brazzaville, the capital of Congo (Republic of Congo) is less than a mile (1.6 km) apart from DRC’s capital, Kinshasa making them the closest capital cities in the world. Technically, Rome and the Vatican City are closer, but the Vatican City is not a member of the United Nations. Instead, it’s a city-state and so doesn’t have a capital. They’re separated by the Congo River, which is the world’s second-largest river. There have long been talks about constructing a road and rail bridge between Brazzaville and Kinshasa.