Geography Now! CONGO (Democratic republic)

Hey geograpeeps! Okay, let's take a poll.

Who here is old enough is remember when this country was named "Zaire"?

Yeah? Alright, 90's kids. Ah yeah!

I feel so old.

(Geography Now opening jingle)

It's time to learn geography... NOW!

Hey everybody, we've reached our first set of twin countries the Congos

and you're in for a real treat because these 2 African states may seem very similar, but there's a strange story

that kinda sets them apart.

But first -

(slot machine noises)

The flag is a sky blue field with a yellow star in the left hoist side

and cut diagonally by a red stripe with a thin yellow frame.

The star symbolizes the radiant future of the country.

The blue represents peace.

The yellow frame, for the wealth.

And the red stands for...

(music and battle noises)

Look, I'm just going to say: it's interesting that they claim a radiant future with peace and wealth

because... yeah, let's just move along.

Now, whether you're reading some Michael Crichton or some Tin TIin comics,

the Congo has been romanticized and embellished in the pages of classical literature for centuries.

Whenever you hear someone referring to "The Congo"

they're most likely referring to the DRC.

Even when you type in "Congo" on Google Maps and Google Earth, it just defualts to the DRC.

RC: Um.. Hey, uh, don't I get a say in this?

DRC: (shushes) No. No you don't.

The DRC is a large country located in the central African area, bordered by nine other countries

and is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria

and the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The country has 10 provinces, and the city province of Kinshasa - even though the constitution mandates that

that there are like 26 provinces, but they haven't really gotten around to that.

The capital Kinshasa is right across the mighty Congo River from Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo,

making the 2 cities the world's closest capitals.

Kinshasa is a huge city with millions of people and a weird 24 foot tall statue of the former leader Kabila that was constructed by North Koreans and has a suspiciously "Kim Jong Il" type of body.

Side note: North Korea has a weird industry of manufacturing and exporting dictator statues.

Unfortunately, there are no bridges that connect the 2 cities.

So in order to cross, you either have to take a ferry

which can be incredibly crowded and sketchy.

Some tourists that visit Brazzaville will go so far as to charter flights that go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then to Kinshasa to avoid the hassle.

Even though the distance is literally less than 7 kilometers, or 4 miles apart.

If you look at the DRC's borders, you'll notice that the further west you go, the land kind of funnels into this incredibly narrow panhandle known as the "Bas Congo Province."

This area just barely touches the Atlantic Ocean with a 32 kilometer-wide coast in the town of Muanda that extends all the way to the sea port of Banana.

That's right. They named a sea port "Banana."

However, don't let Banana fool you.

Most cargo ships and freight vessels do not stop over here, and in order to recieve bulk shipments,

all cargo must travel up the Congo River to the ports on either Boma or Matadi.

Matadi being the bigger one, since they have a direct train line and highway that goes straight to Kinshasa.

These 2 small ports are the mian life line of the DRC's main international trade sector.

Speaking of which, only about 2% are paved and due to the terrain of the Congo Basin, building roads and railways has always been a little difficult.

Water transport has always been the dominant means of moving around, as nearly 2/3 of the entire country is navigatable by rivers and creeks.

In the south of the Katanga province,

you have the Congo Pedicle, or the Katanga Boot,

another narrow quarter that protrudes into Zambia, almost cutting it in half.

The reason why this happened all had to do with the Belgian king Leopold II and the Berlin conference.

Basically, he claimed the borders to ride along the Luapula River and the watershed between Zambezi and Congo to be the southernmost borders of the country.

But the whole thing was still a little hazy and unclear, so he invited the king of Italy to draw a straight line and then end it all.

Which the Africans had absolutely no consultation in.

In fact, the reason why the country's domain is so big is mostly because King Leopold somehow ended up convincing the summit to alot him the entire area.

Wildly unexplored, and in return making it a free state with open trade policies and no direct soveriegn allegiance, but rather as his own "personally-controlled state".

Basically, the country became his own twisted, messed up African playground.

And that's where things got really messy.

We'll talk about it in the demographics, but first we have to discuss the:

(earthquake rumbling)

(bird caws)

Now the one thing that you have to understand is that the DRC is one of, if not probably one of the world's resource-rich yet economically untapped and mismanaged country in the world.

The country has everything, and yet so much is not being done.

First of all, the country is generally divided into 5 physical regions:

the western region, the Congo basin, Kivu region, the Kasai, and the Katanga.

The western region is lush with deep vegetation and crop lands, most Congolese are subsistence farmers that survive off of what they can grow in the soil-rich are over here.

Fishing is huge out here, too.

Fish is the most popular source of protein for the average person in this area, since the Congo River provides a variety of tropical species that are cooked in dishes like one of the most favorite dishes in the area, Maboke.

Which is warpped in kasaba, or banana leaf, and roasted with spices.

No, I think I may have incited something.

Ah, I think I'm gonna go out for some Thai for lunch.

Thai? Ugh, that is 2009-basic.

I prefer this Fufu'm'boke place, you probabaly never heard of it.

It's around this tool shed, behind the alley.

You have to climb through the dumpster to get into the restaurant.

The Congo basin is where you find the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon, the Congo rainforest.

This place is loaded and heavily packed with incredibly large amounts of plants and wildlife, including some of the rarest primates on Earth, like Bonobos and the lowland gorillas.

Many species are [native] to the area, like the curiously-looking Okapi.

This is also the area that has the largest amount of rain in the entire country, with an average of over 120 centemeters.

And the DRC is also known for having the highest frequency of thunderstorms out of any other country on the planet.

The Kivu region is known as the "lake and volcano region", as it sits on many of the major lakes, like Lake Kivu and Tanganyika.

And 2 of the most active volcanos in Africa, Mt. Niragongo and Mt. Nyamuragira, which make up about 40% of all documented African volcanic activity alone.

Mt. Niragongo alone has the world's largest lava lake nestled inside of the crater.

Yeah, that is not a lake you want to jump in.

It's also home to the tallest mountain in the country, Mt. Stanley, that straddles the border with Uganda and the 3rd highest peak in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya.

Then we reach the Kasai and Katanga regions.

These areas are slightly drier, yet still humid and lush with plants and rivers.

However, they are most widely known for being the mining and mineral-extracting regions of the country.

Kasai known for their diamonds, and Katanaga known for their metals.

Now let me just illustrate how much potential is found in the DRC:

It's estimated that the entire country holds about 25 trillion dollars of untapped minerals and ores.

That's about the same amount of the GDP of the US and Europe combined.

No joke.

The DRC has the world's largest deposit of coltan, or a natural ore of neopiuma and thantilum.

And over 60% of the entire world's cobalt stock.

The country is very slow and cautious on how it goes about extracting these resources. In the past there have been huge problems with

with both domestic and international looting from agents on both sides.

To this day, the industry, although still booming, is relatively underdeveloped compared to what it could be.

In a weird counteractive way, though, it also is kind of good cause it kind of preserves the forest and wildlife which is already threatened enough as it is.

Overall, if you look at the satellite images of the country, you can tell that there's a ton of green.

The country may have over 70 million people, but overall, there's still a lot of land that hasn't even been exploited or destroyed yet.

It isn't necessarily because the people are very enviornmentally conscious, though, it kinda has to do with... administration.

Or, lack thereof.

Let's explain in:

(conch horn)

Alright. Fun little quick side note:

People typically distinguish if they are from the DRC or the RC by using the capitals in the titles, by saying they are either from Congo Kinshasa for the DRC and Congo Brazza for the RC.

Now you know.

So, in general, the DRC is a huge country with lots of different types of people groups.

Let's just jump into it.

The country has about 80 million people and is the 3th most populous country in Africa and one of the fastest growing.

Now when it comes to ethnic distinctions, the line is a little hazy because there are over 250 tribes and people groups, however, in general

about 80% of the country is made up of Bantu peoples.

These all classify under the Bantu parent group and the largest ones being the Mongo, the Luba, the Mangbetu-Azande, and the Bakongo.

The rest are non-Bantu groups like the Gilima, Mono, Adamawa, and so on.

There is also a small percentage of pygmies that make up about 1% of the population, and barely 1% are whites, mostly Belgian and French Europeans.

With all these people groups and dialects, you would think that communication would be difficult, however, fortuantely, almost everybody in the country speaks French

as an intercessary language.

Making the DRC the largest Francophone nation in the world, even more than France itself.

Yes, I know the Belgians took over, and yes, they did try to initially institute Dutch and French as national languages, but it was a lost cause and French just kind of took over.

Dutch language: "Why won't anybody learn Dutch?"

Because everytime we try to speak Dutch to you, you respond back in English!

In addition, the DRC has 4 other official languages: Lingala, Swahili, Tshiluba, and Kikongo.

These languages are spoken in distinct regions.

Lingala, the most commonly spoken language, can be found in the capital Kinshasa as well as pretty much all of the areas that flow along the Congo River to the north and north east.

Kikongo is spoken in the west, all the way through the panhandle that goes to the coast.

Tshiluba is spoken mostly in the middle regions of the country.

And Swahili is spoken all along the east and southeast parts of the country.

In terms of statistics, the DRC is pretty underdeveloped and economically disadvantaged.

Typically, the country ranks within the bottom 10 countries with the lowest GDP index scores, only a little over 10% of the country even has access to electricity and running water.

On top of that, the country is scattered with thousands of small tribal villages not even documented or even charted on maps.

See how many you can find on Google Earth!

Make it into a game.

Yes! 3 degrees latitude and 24 degrees longitude!

Also, due to the fact that the DRC was a huge provider of slaves that were dispersed around the world

during the Atlantic and Arabic slave trade years, it's highly contested that many modern dances and music styles across the world can be stemmed from this very region, since the slaves incorporated their traditional styles while performing.

Calypso, jazz, reggae, rumba, merengue, and so may more all have roots possibly from Africa.

Many speculate from the Congo area as well.

Now we have to get a little controversial.

Now, I'm not gonna give you the whole story, I'll let John Green do that in this video right here, he does a great job.

By the way, John. If you're ever free, let's hang out sometime. Waffles are on me.

In a nutshell, things gots pretty messed up and the exact numbers are hard to calculate, but it's speaculated that

during the reign of terror of King Leopold, about half of the entire country's population of 20 million were killed.

Furthermore, almost immediately after independence, things got messed up again and regimes fought and Mobutu took over and renamed the country Zaire.

Then when he died, more craziness insued and the Congo wars erupted, sometimes referred to as "the African World War."

Sucking in every neighbor nation around them and nearly 5 and a half million people died, making it the most deadly conflict after World War II.

Student: Wow, really? My textbook doesn't say anything about that!

That's because your school, like many others in the western world, does not care about Africa AND IT SHOULD!

On top of that, internal conflict was bad enough.

Both the Kasai and Katanga areas had a short succesionist movement.

And for a brief 3 years, Katange even became a breakaway state back the 60's.

Then another group attempted in 2013 called Mai mai Bakata Katanga (misprounces the group's name badly).

Seriously, it would have been better if you guys just named yourselves Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

But no, you had to go with (badly mispronouces the name).

Putting all this into perspective, you can probably see why the DRC hosts the UN's largest peace keeping missions.

Speaking of diplomacy:

Now you might think that the DRC's relations are pretty complex,

but if you look at the big picture, it all kinda makes sense.

First of all, it's no suprise, but the DRC does get along with pretty much most Francophone countries, even though the Belgians

did leave a sour taste, they did kinda help unite the DRC with half the entire continent through linguistic coherence.

When it comes to Rwanda, it all kinda went down like this.

DRC: "Aw, come here Rwanda, I'll totally help you out with the crisis."

[3 years later]


Rwanda essentially used the eastern side of the DRC for refugee camps during the Rwandan genocide.

But also as a militia base for insurgent forces that would eventually invade the country.

When it comes to Belgium, it's a little weird because yes, they generally don't favor them,

but they still haved privileged relationship status with them as well, with embassies in each country.

And regular flights between Kinshasa and Brussels.

Of course, because of all the minerals, major world powers have been jumping on the Congo for decades.

China, Russia, and the US have all given their shot at coaxing the Congolese for investment opportunity.

Cameroon and Gabon are good friends to the west, and Kenya and Africa's favorite uncle Tanzania

are good friends to the east.

But when it comes to their best friends, they would probably have to go back to their twin, and say the Republic of Congo.

The 2 Congos are really the best friends and identify with each other closer than any other country in the world.

There is a reason why they never decided to become one single Congo country, though, and that will be discussed in the next episode.

In conclusion, the Congolese will tell you that the DRC is both the richest yet the poorest country on the Earth. There's so much potential,

but until things get straightened out, we'll just have to see what happens.

Stay tuned. The Republic of Congo is coming up next!

(upbeat music)