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December 20, 2023

Why the DR Congo Is the Most Important Country Right Now

With today’s national election, all eyes are on the Democratic Republic of the Congo – something that happens way too rarely. The DR Congo is essential in stopping the climate crisis, and not just because of its essential materials for renewable technology, like Cobalt. The Congo basin is home to the second-largest rainforest in the world, behind only the Amazon.

We are not doomed to destroy our rainforests. Brazil is proving that right now. The country’s deforestation rate peaked in 2004 and has gone down substantially since then. Thanks to the very engaged work of the Lula Administration, the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon fell by 48% in the first eight months of the year (INPE, 2023).

But in the DR Congo, the situation is quite different. The deforestation rate is still quite low, largely due to high poverty rates and violence. Most forests are not destroyed by individual loggers but through international agricultural supply chains. Because the DR Congo is so poor and unstable, it has not received the large investments that lead to large-scale deforestation. But this may change soon.

Today, the world looks to Brazil when we think of tropical rainforests. But as Brazil hopefully continues to reduce deforestation and as the DR Congo will hopefully be pacified and escape extreme poverty, it will become a major challenge to protect its forests.

Forests are safest in very poor and very rich countries. And most at danger in between. But with the right support, the DR Congo can succeed just like Brazil.

Therefore, the DR Congo should become the center of European Africa policy: First, we have to support the country in ending the violence and bringing prosperity. Secondly, European policymakers should establish a Congo Basin Rainforest Fund, modeled on the very successful Amazon Fund established by Norway and Germany in 2007 to finance forest conservation. The rules of the fund are simple. The EU pays into an independently controlled fund. The funds are paid out only when forest conservation and deforestation reduction targets are met. And the money can only be used for conservation projects.

We have succeeded before. We can do it again. The Democratic Republic of the Congo deserves our attention every day.