Analysis & Opinions - GLOBALBRIEF

'In 2020, the DRC…

| March 5, 2013

Strategic Futures

Calestous Juma

…will be on a new path toward economic renewal, having endured decades of war and centuries of instability. The road to such a future must commence now through the containment of armed conflict, followed by the election of competent leaders who can focus on laying the foundations for economic growth. The DRC epitomizes Africa's centuries of suffering. Violence, going back to the brutal Belgian colonial rule, continues to haunt the country. Internecine wars have claimed more than 5.5 million lives in the last decade alone.

The most immediate task for the DRC is to bring peace to the country — especially in the more troubled eastern part of the country. It is in the interest of neighbouring countries working through the relevant regional bodies, as well as the African Union (AU) and the UN, to help bring peace to the region. Little will happen without robust regional and international efforts to press for peace. Peace in the DRC should pave the way for free and fair elections in 2016. The next government should have legitimacy at the national, regional and international levels. But equally important is leadership that has the competence and acumen to help the DRC to transition from peace to nation-building and development. A more technocratic and accountable leadership that can address critical issues related to the management of the country's vast natural resources is a must. The DRC is an ethnically diverse country, and a variety of compromises would need to be made.

The post-election era will require economic construction. Much of this will start with building essential infrastructure needed for growth — especially in transportation, energy and in telecommunications. The World Bank estimates the DRC's infrastructure needs at over US $5 billion a year over the next decade. After all, the country is the size of Western Europe, but has only 2,800 kilometres of all-weather paved roads running through it. This is about the same as Rwanda's networks of roads — even if Rwanda is some 90 times smaller than the DRC. The DRC also has extensive potential navigable waterways that need to be developed. And massive investment in air transportation infrastructure could make the country a hub for the rest of Africa, given the DRC's geographical centrality on the continent.

Of course, this same geographical centrality means that stabilizing the DRC is key to the future peace and prosperity of the rest of the continent. The road ahead is long and rugged. But with peace, competent leaders, investment in infrastructure and regional integration, the DRC will put itself on a path to prosperity by 2020. An alternative path is too horrible to contemplate."

» Calestous Juma is Professor of the Practice of International Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and co-chair of the African Union’s High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation. He is the author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.

John C. Bradshaw

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Juma, Calestous, John C. Bradshaw, and Gwndolyn Mikell.“'In 2020, the DRC….” GLOBALBRIEF, March 5, 2013.

The Authors

Calestous Juma