Ok, I admit it… I am addicted to factoids. I like a good statistic. (Some even say I misquote them too often, but that’s half the fun right?) I like to learn at least a little about a lot of things. Someday I’m probably going to go to graduate school and learn about one subject in considerable depth. I can see it now… I’ll be studying something quite dense in a library and looking up to spy the titles on spines of books down the aisles nearby… history, cooking, biology, biographies, photography, cultural anthropology… the list goes on.
Without further ado, here are some annotated Congo factoids for you:
- It’s estimated 80% of Congo’s 63 million citizens live in rural settings, many of which are fairly inaccessible. This means that most of these factoids are educated guesses collected on the web (USA CIA Factbook).
- The median age in DR Congo is 16 years old. That means that fully half of the population is too young to drive legally in the USA. In other words, it’s like a constant baby-boom generation.
- Depending on who you ask, there are between 200 and 500 distinct culture and language groups. This diversity plays an important role in many facets of Congo’s story. In many ways it’s very beneficial since nearby nations with only two large groups have seen devastating ethnic violence (Rwanda, Burundi). While war in Congo was sparked by such conflict in the region and there are wider culture tensions, Congo is not beset by deep racial hatred.
- Congo is a little less than 25% the size of the entire USA and often compared to the portion east of the Mississippi. She borders 9 other countries: Angola, The Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, The Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. The only countries to border more other nations are Brazil at 10 and both Russia and China at 14 each.
- Yes there are two neighboring countries called Congo. On the Atlantic side there was a large, organized kingdom of the Kongo. The French and the Belgians literally raced (in their respective ships) to claim Kongo as a colony and the French won by just hours. They claimed most of the South Atlantic coastal region and the evil Belgian King Leopold scooped out the interior, initially calling it his own private possession. The former French Congo is in better shape by many accounts. Name confusion is understandable because the former Belgian Congo (The Democratic Republic of..) was changed to Zaire by the evil dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and changed back again after he was finally deposed (by another pretty much evil guy).
- The estimated annual government budget is $700 million and I expect that’s heavily subsidized externally. The annual foreign aid received is in excess of 2 billion, or at least three times the government’s entire budget.
- The average birthrate in Congo is between six and seven children to each woman and the infant mortality rate is nearly one in ten.
- The literacy rate is officially 65% of the population over age 15. The curious thing is that there are very few books here. I never see people reading anything. I wish there were more books around. And if there are few books in the cities, then there must be even fewer in the villages.