Congo, beyond the conflict: Six reasons why it matters – by Vava Tampa ( – August 28, 2013)

Editor’s note: Vava Tampa, a native of Congo, is the founder of Save the Congo, a London-based campaign to tackle “the impunity, insecurity, institutional failure and the international trade of minerals funding the wars in Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

(CNN) — Mention DR Congo, Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, and what comes to mind? Probably conflict minerals, proxy wars, the rape capital of the world, or the trigger for the 19th century “Scramble for Africa.”

But beyond the despair, there is another country; a country not like any other country in the world — a country with rich ancient traditions, a colorful cultural energy and creativity, amazing potential and much, much more.

Ask historians or archaeologists — one of the earliest known mathematical objects, the Ishango bone, was not made in Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia or Renaissance Europe but around Congo’s Lake Edward around 18,000 BC.

It is certainly difficult to picture this today: thirty-two years of dictatorship followed by wars, invasions and bad governance reduced Congo from being a potential economic powerhouse to one of the world’s poorest countries.

But little by little, individuals and organizations in and outside Congo are creating glimmers of hope. The future of Congo still looks more exciting than its past and with a bit more push we can tilt the balance and awaken the world to a century, if not centuries, of “Made in Africa.” Below are six reasons why saving the Congo is critical.

Congo’s strategic position in the continent

Congo’s unique geo-strategic position, more than its gold, diamonds and coltan reserves, makes it of interest to anyone with a keen eye for Africa’s future.

Neighboring nine other countries at all four cardinal points, Congo sits right at the crossroads of African democratization and development, as well as the intersection of a series of real and potential security dilemmas.

This means whatever happens in Congo could have an impact across the continent. And a stable and functioning Congo could trigger prosperity and development throughout Africa, and most critically, play a role in assuring security in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere in the continent.

Helping to make famine in Africa history

Congo’s vast, fertile agricultural land has tremendous potential to make it the breadbasket for the entire African continent. If Congo’s fertile land were used effectively it could lift millions out of extreme poverty in a continent where malnutrition and food insecurity are rife. But this potential has barely been tapped. In spite of climatic conditions favorable for farming and abundant water resources, only a small proportion of Congo’s arable land and pasture lands is under cultivation.

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