Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents



Zaire's ability to achieve long-term economic development and growth depends in large measure on the willingness of the government to resolve decisively the conflict between authoritarian patrimonialism and democracy. Patrimonialism has led inexorably to widespread corruption, economic mismanagement and miscalculation, and chronic borrowing.

Resolution of this conflict is considered vital to removing Zaire's primary economic constraints: a heavy external debt burden, which has grown as a result of repeated reschedulings at market interest rates; dependence on primary commodity exports--copper, coffee, cobalt, and diamonds--that have poor market price prospects and are in any case subject to severe price fluctuations; an outdated and deteriorating transportation and communication infrastructure; and a badly neglected rural sector. In order to resolve its chronic economic problems and move toward sustained growth, Zaire would need to generate confidence in its institutions and to mobilize and invest substantial additional resources, both domestic and foreign. Observers increasingly believe that such changes will not be possible so long as the Mobutu regime remains in power. Thus, democratic change is the key to economic development.

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The writings of Thomas M. Callaghy, Thomas E. Turner, and Crawford Young continue to provide the most insightful analyses of the Zairian state. For analysis focused more directly on the economy, see David Gould's Bureaucratic Corruption and Underdevelopment in the Third World: The Case of Zaire; Zaire: The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, edited by Guy Gran; and Gregory Kronsten's Zaire to the 1990s: Will Retrenchment Work?. Janet MacGaffey's The Real Economy of Zaire provides an insightful analysis of Zaire's vibrant unofficial economy. The Economist Intelligence Unit's quarterly Country Report: Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and annual Country Profile: Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi are the best sources for current economic and political trends and up-to-date statistical information. The annual Africa South of the Sahara also provides information on current economic developments in Zaire, as well as a statistical survey.

Data on various sectors of the economy are provided in specialized publications such as the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Mineral Perspectives: Zaire; Jean-Claude Willame's L'Épopée d'Inga; and the International Petroleum Encyclopedia. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1993