Congo (Brazzaville), a country on the west coast of Africa. Prior to independence in 1960, it was part of French Equatorial Africa and was known as Middle Congo. During the 1960's it came to be known as Congo (Brazzaville), after its capital, to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo (now called Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this article, the country will simply be referred to as the "Congo".
|Facts in brief about Congo (Brazzaville)|
|Official language: French.|
|Area: 132,047 mi2 (342,000 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 590 mi (950 km); east-west, 515 mi (829 km). Coastline—100 mi (160 km).|
|Population: Current estimate—3,921,000; density, 30 per mi2 (11 per km2); distribution, 54 percent urban, 46 percent rural. 1996 census—2,591,271.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—bananas, cassava, coffee, corn, palm kernels and oil, peanuts, plantains, rice, rubber, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, yams. Forestry—limba, mahogany, okoume. Mining—copper, lead, natural gas, petroleum, potash, uranium, zinc.|
|Flag: The flag of Congo (Brazzaville), adopted in 1991, has a large green triangle is in the upper left corner, and a large red triangle in the lower right corner. The triangles are separated by a yellow diagonal stripe.|
|Money: Basic unit—CFA franc. CFA stands for Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale (Financial Cooperation in Central Africa).|
The country lies on the Equator and fronts on the Atlantic Ocean; it is bounded by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cabinda (part of Angola). The area is about 132,000 square miles (342,000 km2).
A flat coastal plain borders the Atlantic Ocean, giving way inland to the Crystal Mountains, a series of heavily forested ridges and low mountains about 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 m) high. In the heart of these uplands lies the Niari River Valley, which contains the country's most productive farmland. Savanna-covered plateaus, 1,000 to 2,500 feet (300 to 750 m) above sea level, make up most of the central Congo. Near the Gabon border, hills attain elevations of more than 3,000 feet (900 m). The Congo River Basin occupies more than one-third of the country and consists mainly of swampy flood-plains covered by dense tropical rain forests. The Congo River and its tributaries—the Ubangi, Sangha, Likouala, and Alima rivers—drain most of the country. The southern uplands and much of the coastal plain are drained by the Kouilou River system.
The Congo has a tropical climate, with temperatures averaging 75° to 80° F. (24° to 27° C.) and high humidity the year round. Annual rainfall varies from 45 inches (1,140 mm) in the south to as much as 80 inches (2,030 mm) in the Congo Basin. In the south and central areas most of the rain falls between November and April.
The Congo is primarily an agricultural country. Most of the people live by growing yams, cassava, plantains, and other subsistence crops on small plots. Sugarcane, cacao, tobacco, palm nuts, peanuts, citrus fruits, and coffee are among the leading cash and export crops.
Petroleum production and exporting are of major importance to the Congo's economy. Lumbering is also a significant economic activity contributing to the Congo's export earnings. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of agricultural and forest products and the making of basic consumer goods.
The Congo River and its tributaries, especially the Ubangi, provide the nation's main transportation routes. The Congo-Ocean Railway links Brazzaville, a major port on the Congo River, with Pointe Noire, a large Atlantic port. A spur line runs north from Loubomo to the Gabon border. The Congo's river and rail transport system forms an important international trade route; it is used extensively by several nearby countries. The Congo's road system is generally poor. There are international airports at Pointe Noire and Brazzaville.
Various Bantu peoples account for most of the population. Small groups of Pygmies inhabit the northern forest region. There is a small European population, mainly of French descent.
The Congo has a density of about 20 persons per square mile (8 per km2). Most of the people are concentrated in the south, along or near the railway. The largest cities are Brazzaville, the capital, and Pointe Noire.
The official language is French, but it is seldom used outside of government and the educational system. Indigenous languages consist almost entirely of various Bantu tongues and dialects.
Congolese generally follow traditional animist beliefs. Roman Catholicism has the largest following among Christian faiths. Congolese who profess Christianity—about half the population—tend to adhere to traditional beliefs also, and in the Christian churches of African origin many indigenous customs are retained.
The government provides free education. After primary school, a student may either take training courses in practical skills or enter secondary school. Institutions of higher learning include a university at Brazzaville and a number of technical schools. About 25 per cent of the population is literate. The country's educational system was profoundly disrupted by civil war in the late 1990's.
The constitution of 1992, which provided for a democratically elected president and National Assembly, was suspended in 1997. A new constitution was adopted in 2002. Under the new constitution, the president is elected to a seven-year term. Members of the National Assembly and the Senate make up Parliament. These members serve five-year terms.