Country Overview

Democratic Republic of the Congo is a vast country that has endured many years of war and conflict.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a vast country, spanning 905,354 square miles including much of Africa’s equatorial rainforest. It is the locus of what many call “Africa’s World War”, which killed over 5 million people and ended with the signing of a peace deal in December 2002 and transitional constitution in April 2003, which came into force in 2006. Presidential elections that year were shortly followed by renewed conflict in the eastern provinces (North and South Kivu), a pattern which was repeated when elections in 2011 were followed by a renewed rebellion in eastern DRC in 2012. Despite a peace deal between the M23 rebel group and the government in December 2013, clashes and displacement continue.1 For the philanthropy sector, this highlights the marked difference between operating in the eastern part of the country, which remains relatively unstable and conflict-affected, and other regions which are severely-underdeveloped but less volatile. The vast distances—both geographic and contextual—between governing institutions based in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, and entities operating in the eastern provinces can contribute to lack of coordination and a perception that the effects of governance are concentrated in the west. Some reforms have been implemented at a national level, and a recent World Bank report recognizes DRC as one of the top 10 “improvers” (among 189 economies surveyed) of the business regulatory environment for local entrepreneurs, a distinction which Burundi and Rwanda have shared multiple times in the past.2

Civil society is actively engaged in a number of development initiatives, particularly in the east of the country where attention and funding from international donors is high. The legal environment for local and national NGOs contains a number of potentially burdensome registration and authorization requirements. For example, in order to register, domestic organizations must undergo a two-part registration process, including approval by the concerned ministry followed by a formal request to the Ministry of Justice, as well as “certificates of good conduct, lifestyles and morals from all members of staff charged with the administration or management of the organization.” The government also requires NGOs to share information about planned projects and financial resources with the Minister of Planning.3

DRC ranked 186 out of 187 countries in the 2012 Human Development Report, sharing this position with Niger.4 Average life expectancy for women is 51.6 years,5 and their literacy (52%) is much lower than that of men (80%).6 Article 14 of the Constitution establishes gender parity as a principle for representation in national, provincial, and local institutions, yet women’s leaders lack knowledge and ownership of national and international legal instruments to promote their rights and equality.7 Numerous women-focused organizations (local, national, and international) are active in DRC, and many women's economic development programs are framed within prevention of and response to gender-based violence. In 2009, the government endorsed a UN-developed “Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo” as a common framework for action and integrated it into the National Strategy against Gender Based Violence, which focuses on addressing sexual violence in the east.8 Programming in eastern DRC is typically implemented within a humanitarian response framework, with development-focused programs active in the rest of the country. Several international organizations have demonstrated a sustained commitment to Congolese women. Women for Women International has been active in DRC for 10 years, and in that time served 80,000 women in their year-long training programs focused on marketable skills such as agribusiness and tailoring. Graduates report positive changes in four crucial areas: earning and saving money, developing health and well-being, influencing decisions in their homes and communities, and creating and connecting to networks for support and advocacy.9 Successful women's economic development programs in DRC recognize the importance of women and girls’ voice and agency and support them to play an active role in their protection and empowerment.


  1. BBC. “Democratic Republic of the Congo Country Profile.” Last modified September 16, 2014, accessed November 21, 2014.
  2. World Bank. “Sub-Saharan Africa Implements the Most Business Regulatory Reforms Worldwide.” Press release, 29 October 2014.
  3. International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. “Global Trends in NGO Law,” Vol 3 Issue 3. Accessed November 21, 2014.
  4. UN Development Program. “Human Development Index 2013: Congo (Democratic Republic of the).” Accessed November 21, 2014.
  5. UN data. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Accessed November 21, 2014.
  6. UNESCO. “Local radios: Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Empowering Local Radios with ICTs website. Accessed November 21, 2014.
  7. International Alert and the Eastern Africa Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, “Women's political participation and economic empowerment in post-conflict countries: Lessons from the Great Lakes region in Africa.” (2012).
  8. MONUSCO. “The Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Accessed November 21, 2014.
  9. Women for Women International. “What we do: Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Accessed November 21, 2014.

Top Funders

Partnering In Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation $143.8 M
  2. Howard G. Buffett Foundation $101.7 M
  3. Mastercard Foundation $46.2 M
  4. Bloomberg Philanthropies, Inc. $42.9 M
  5. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation $33.4 M
  6. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation $30.7 M
  7. Cordaid $19.9 M
  8. Arcus Foundation $18.2 M
  9. National Endowment for Democracy $14.7 M
  10. King Baudouin Foundation $14.1 M

Top Recipients

Serving Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Virunga Fund, Inc. $55.2 M
  2. Women to Women International $30.7 M
  3. Tulane University $29.2 M
  4. PATH $28.0 M
  5. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development $23.3 M
  6. Institute of Tropical Medicine $21.1 M
  7. DKT International $17.6 M
  8. HarvestPlus $15.0 M
  9. Coronavirus Disease 2019 - Unknown Recipient $14.0 M
  10. Sustainable Growers $12.4 M

Democratic Republic of the Congo News

Economic Development

Case Study

Promoting and protecting women's rights and land

Sample Grant


The majority of traders in the Great Lakes region are young women.

World Bank

Female entrepreneurs are more effective in terms of growth of annual sales than male entrepreneurs.

From the Report: Gender and Entrepreneurial Performance in Democratic Republic of Congo