Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents



Population: Estimated at 39.1 million in 1992; annual growth rate estimated at 3.3 percent. Estimated at 42.7 million in 1994, with estimated annual growth rate of 3.2 percent.

Language: About 250 languages spoken. French remains primary language of government, formal economy, and most education. Four indigenous languages also have official status: Kikongo, Tshiluba, Lingala, and Kiswahili.

Ethnic Groups: As many as 250 different groups, mostly Bantu-speaking. Largest Bantu-speaking groups are Luba, Kongo, Mongo, and Lunda.

Religion: Majority of population Christian: 46 to 48 percent Roman Catholic, 24 to 28 percent Protestant, up to 16.5 percent members of indigenous Kimbanguist Church. About 1 percent of population Muslim. Most other people practice traditional African religions.

Education and Literacy: Numbers of schools, teachers, and pupils have increased, but enrollment ratios relatively low--78 percent for primary school and 23 percent for secondary school in 1990. Only 56 percent of primary school-aged children reach fourth grade. Pervasive and accelerating qualitative decline at all levels. In early 1990s, most state-run schools reported to have closed. Adult literacy rate estimated at 72 percent (84 percent for males, 61 percent for females) in 1992.

Health and Welfare: Life expectancy at birth in 1991 estimated at fifty-two for males and fifty-six for females. In 1994 overall life expectancy estimated at forty-seven years, forty-nine for females and forty-six for males. Infectious and parasitic diseases--including malaria, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), onchocerciasis (river blindness), and schistosomiasis--major health threat. Measles, diarrheal diseases, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, and leprosy also prevalent. Majority of population also infected with intestinal worms. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases spreading rapidly. State-run health care system in virtual collapse in early 1990s. Private sources of health care reach only 50 percent of population. Only 14 percent of population has access to safe water. Malnutrition widespread, especially among children.

Data as of December 1993