More information about the Democratic Republic of the Congo is available on the Democratic Republic of the Congo Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
U.S.-DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO RELATIONS
U.S. relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), led by the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, are deep and longstanding. U.S. foreign policy is focused on advancing our mutual global priorities, including advancing democracy and human rights, combating the climate crisis, countering wildlife and timber trafficking, responding to multiple security, health, and humanitarian crises, and securing supply chains of critical minerals necessary for the global transition to cleaner forms of energy and mitigation of transnational organized crime. The United States is the DRC’s largest bilateral donor.
The United States established diplomatic relations with the DRC in 1960, following its independence from Belgium. Following independence, the country saw a mix of unrest, rebellion, secession movements, a three-decade long dictatorship, armed conflict, and foreign intervention, including on the DRC’s territory. The DRC’s last protracted conflict, commonly known as Africa’s World War (1998-2003), involved nine African countries and resulted in more than 3 million deaths in the DRC from the fighting and ensuing humanitarian crisis. In 1997, the 32-year regime of Mobutu Sese Seko was overthrown by Laurent Kabila, who was in turn succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila, who was named head of state in January 2001 following his father’s assassination.
The DRC held multiparty elections in 2006 and 2011 in which Kabila was declared the winner. Following a two-year delay of the planned 2016 elections, presidential elections took place on December 30, 2018. On January 10, 2019, Felix Tshisekedi was announced the provisional winner and subsequently inaugurated as president on January 24, 2019. The next national elections are planned for December 20, 2023.
Regional stability and security are dependent on durable peace in the DRC, as it is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa and is home to substantial natural resource wealth, including an estimated $25 trillion in mineral reserves and relatively unexploited Congo Basin rain forests and peatlands that serve as the world’s “second lung.” Bordering nine other nations and with close to 110 million (primarily young) inhabitants, a stable and secure DRC can support prosperity and stability in the Central African region; conversely, as history has taught us, an unstable DRC can yield a catastrophic regional vortex of cross-border conflict, displacement, and human suffering.
Protracted insecurity in the DRC’s impoverished but resource-rich eastern provinces is one of the biggest challenges to governance in the DRC and the overriding concern of the government and public. Multiple conflicts over almost three decades have produced between 15 and 20 significant armed groups, including FTO-designated ISIS-DRC/Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and dozens of smaller armed groups and criminal networks. In November 2021, the Rwanda-backed M23 armed group reappeared after almost a decade of obscurity and, since then, has killed hundreds of civilians, displaced more than a million people from their communities,
occupied economically important and politically sensitive areas of the eastern DRC, and ushered in a cascade of severe socioeconomic, health, and security consequences for the residents of North Kivu province. The United States is the single largest financial contributor to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC since 1999. MONUSCO’s mandate was renewed on December 20, 2022, continuing its mission to protect civilians, support stabilization efforts, and strengthen state institutions. MONUSCO is currently in the process of drawing down its presence, in accordance with a UN Security Council-mandated Transition Plan that sets forth 18 mutually agreed benchmarks to be met for an orderly, responsible, conditions-based transition. The timeline for MONUSCO’s full withdrawal continues to be discussed between the UNSC, DRC officials, and the DRC’s international partners.
U.S. Assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The DRC’s development and humanitarian needs are vast. U.S. assistance supports a more stable, democratic nation by improving the capacity and governance capabilities of core national-level institutions, creating economic opportunities, responding to urgent humanitarian needs, and addressing the root causes of conflict.
The United States has provided more than $1.7 billion in health assistance to the DRC over the past 20 years and has worked with the DRC for decades to fight infectious diseases like Ebola, measles, and HIV/AIDS. With the support of USAID and the CDC, the DRC has successfully contained seven Ebola outbreaks since 2018, including the 2018-2020 eastern DRC outbreak, the first ever in an active conflict zone. CDC is supporting and building a critical health workforce and has trained rapid response teams and more than 450 field epidemiologists through the field epidemiology training program (FETP) for investigation and response to outbreaks. CDC is also supporting the establishment of a National Public Health Institute, a key body for better coordination of various public health functions. Since September 2021, the United States has shared over 3.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the people of the DRC both in partnership with COVAX and through the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). The DRC was designated as a U.S. Global Health Security Agenda support country in 2020, providing an opportunity to further build long-term preparedness and capacity amidst the backdrop of Ebola, Mpox, measles, polio, and other health-related security threats. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy provides assistance for lifesaving antiretroviral treatment to the DRC’s population living with HIV and programs to reduce transmission of the disease. Approximately $112 million in bilateral PEPFAR funds were implemented in FY 2022. The United States procures and distributes HIV commodities, strengthens the DRC supply chain systems at-large, and bolsters laboratory diagnostic capacities and networks in country. Department of Defense programs also support HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment services for military personnel and their families at select military facilities.
The United States provides more than $500 million annually in humanitarian assistance in the DRC to help relieve suffering for those affected by conflict and support government efforts to
provide services to its citizens. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides life-saving food, safe drinking water, emergency medical care, critical nutrition services, improved hygiene and sanitation conditions, psychosocial services and other support for vulnerable children, as well as essential household supplies for families who were forced to flee violence and leave everything behind. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) supports countrywide protection programs and multi-sector assistance, including gender-based violence prevention and response targeting refugees and displaced conflict victims in the DRC. USAID development assistance integrates programs in education, stabilization, democracy and governance, health, social protection, and economic growth. The DRC is a Feed the Future target country, which will help develop the DRC’s own food and agricultural systems.
The United States also works to promote Security Sector Reform by focusing on national-level security systems and processes emphasizing professionalization of the armed forces, the military justice system, respect for human rights, and Sexual and Gender Based Violence prevention, as well as improving the effectiveness, transparency, and accountability of the civilian justice system. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) supports government and civil society to combat corruption and impunity, increase Congolese law enforcement capacity, fight child labor in the mining sector, strengthen the judicial system, and investigate and prosecute illegal wildlife traffickers.
Through six American Spaces across the DRC, Embassy Kinshasa also supports a full range of virtual and in-person exchanges, English language programming, speaker programs, and grants to alumni and partners to foster open societies, deliver democratic dividends, advance economic opportunities, and support conservation and a just energy transition.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States aims to develop an enhanced economic relationship with the DRC as a major investor and trading partner. This includes introducing more U.S. private sector companies and products into the DRC market. Direct bilateral trade with DRC was approximately $332 million in 2022. Leading U.S. exports to the DRC include pharmaceutical products, poultry, machinery, used clothing, and wheat.
The top U.S. import from the DRC is copper, accounting for over 50% of total exports to the United States. Many DRC exports go to the United States through third countries. Leading DRC exports to the United States include copper, diamonds, and cocoa. The two countries have signed a bilateral investment treaty. The United States also has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which the DRC is a member. In 2021, the DRC regained eligibility for trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In 2022, U.S. goods exports to the DRC totaled close to $149 million and good imports from the DRC totaled $183 million
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Membership in International Organizations
The DRC and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. The DRC is a member of the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo maintains an embassy in the United States at 1100 Connecticut Avenue NW #725, Washington, DC 20036: tel. 202-234-7690. The current DRC Ambassador is Marie-Hélène Mathey Boo Lowumba
More information about the Democratic Republic of the Congo is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Democratic Republic of the Congo Page
USAID Democratic Republic of the Congo Page
History of U.S. Relations With the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics (see “Congo (Kinshasa)”)
Export.gov International Offices Page (see “Congo – Kinshasa”)
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
Library of Congress Country Studies (see “Zaire (Former)”)