The (dynamics of the) Congolese state has/have been widely analysed, both at a national and local level. Yet, what does this mean for policy and change? What is the room for manoeuvre for external actors to try and positively influence how DRC is governed, reduce conflict and reduce poverty? This two-year research programme (1 January 2017- 31 December 2018) aims to tackle these what, why and how questions, pushing existing research on governance, service delivery and livelihoods further to examine the details of policy implementation from national to local levels and generating lessons from what works in promoting positive change. We explore a range of sector-specific topics that link closely to DFID programmes, policies were chosen for their potential to contribute practical operational knowledge. At the same time, the individual research projects also address big cross-cutting questions of governance and state-society relations that might help inform DFID’s broader discussions on how to engage in fragile states with weak governance.

This research is coordinated by the Overseas Development Institute and the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC), and is implemented by the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) at the University of Antwerp, International Institute of Social Studies (in particular Thea Hilhorst), and Claremont Graduate University/ Pomona College (in particular Pierre Englebert). For the IOB, the project is coordinated by Kristof Titeca and Tom De Herdt.

The following research projects are part of this program:

Power and policy-making in the DR Congo: The politics of human resource management and payroll reform - Stylianos Moshonas.

Over the past fifteen years, the DRC has been engaged in a vast process of state reconstruction and reform, with significant support provided by donors. Partly due to an  inimical political context, though, until 2012 donor-sponsored attempts at civil service reform and retirement remained limited and proved largely inconclusive. Since then, a series of encouraging steps have been taken with regards to administrative reform. First, the launching in 2011 of the key reform of bancarisation, the payment of civil servant wages and salary supplements through the banking sector (without any donor participation or involvement). Second, the government has taken a series of positive steps with regards to CSR: a revised implementation strategy with a much greater degree of ownership, an overhaul of reform structures, the promulgation of several important pieces of legislation such as the new civil service Statute, and the launching of ambitious initiatives, such as the establishment of an integrated HR and payroll management system, the Système Integré de la Gestion des Ressources Humaines et de la Paie (SIGRH-P), currently undergoing implementation. Payroll and HR reform components, such as the SIGRH-P – which aim for the rehabilitation of the role of the Ministère de la Fonction Publique in the expenditure chain – have the potential to define orientations in the civil service for years to come, or at least profoundly alter existing configurations. However, these ongoing initiatives face highly uncertain prospects. If anything, previous phases of implementation suggest the broader political context surrounding reforms is of paramount importance.

This two-year project will explore the interaction of major actors, including donors, within and outside government, in order to understand the dynamics behind current civil service and payroll reform initiatives. The political economy of wage payment has already been substantially altered by bancarisation, and payroll and HR management can be considered as the administrative and technical 'infrastructure' on which payment of remunerations rest. While bancarisation has been presented as a resounding success, HR and payroll management is mired in considerable opacity and malpractice. Why do certain policies in the DR Congo work, and others fail? What are the wider political dynamics, but also the sectoral specificities, which drive such reforms? And what impact do donors have on these policies? This research project relies on political settlement analysis as well as organisational ethnography in order to unravel these questions. Aside analysing the meso- and macro-dimensions of public policy in these areas, the project will also focus on tracing down the implications of HR and payroll management reforms in two areas: the health sector, and in primary and secondary education.

Dynamics of poverty and wellbeing in the DRC - Sarah Thontwa, Cyril Brandt

DRC recently experienced relative periods of peace and stability in the attempt to part away from the legacy of colonial rule, decades of dictatorship, civil wars and continuous unrest. The country applied rudimentary fiscal and monetary policies, which maintained inflation around 1% from 2013 to 2015 (Worldbank, 2015), propelling the country to an economic growth rate of 7.7%, standing well above the average economic growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the said growth has not translated into concrete social outcomes for citizens who continue to live in abject poverty. 

The above mentioned economic growth path is likely to be short lived, however, for a combination of external and internal reasons.  As the global fall in commodity prices is impacting the demand and supply of minerals worldwide, it prompted the government to downwardly readjust its forecasted growth from 7.7% in 2015 to 4.3% in 2016 (Worldbank, 2015). The timing is even more critical because DRC is currently experiencing considerable social, political and economic anxiety due to elections. Such political uncertainty in light of elections is influencing the national economy as well as investment perceptions as data from the Central bank indicate the depreciation of the exchange rate, a decline in imports level of high priced commodities and an accelerating inflation rate of 2.2%.

Building upon ongoing work on livelihoods in the DRC, this research project aims to conduct analysis and gain in depth knowledge on how the economic growth realized in the last decade was experienced throughout the country and across differing layers/sectors of the society. This research will deepen our understanding on the livelihoods of Congolese citizens by analyzing whether or not this growth has been pro-poor and if so, to what extent. A data collection unit called ‘Cellule d’Analyse des Indicateurs de Développement’ (CAID) has been established by the DRC government, with technical assistance from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), to collect and compile real time data across 145 rural territories  across the country.  This dataset currently available in the DRC is a viable source of information and will be critical in triangulating household budget survey data and to complement them with meso-level contextual information. The overall research objective is to pinpoint the relevant determinants of livelihoods for urban and rural households in the DRC and relate them to sectoral and geographical patterns of accumulation, thus informing decision makers and development partners on the political economy of inclusive growth and transformation in the DRC.

The quantitative side of the project has recently been complemented by a qualitative study on the political economy of data collection and statistics in the DRC. More concretely, a study investigates the attempt to conduct a population census in the DRC. Precise knowledge on the number of people living in the DRC is important for the analysis of, for examplpe, data surveys. However, the last population census in the Congo was carried out in 1984. Since the early 2000s, different groups of domestic and international actors have envisaged a new census, which was formally authorized in 2009. Since then, the Second Population and Housing Census in the DRC (RGPH2) has received funding by several donors (UNDP, World Bank, ABD, UNFPA, and others) but the census has not been executed. This research project is based on empirical qualitative research in the DRC and aims to analyse the unfolding of the census over time. The census continues to tie in supporters and attract funding, thus being a prime example of a project that persists despite the envisaged results. While the research is focused on the population census, this project will also deliver a comparative study between three unachieved censuses in the DRC: civil servants, teachers, population.

Urban governance in Kinhasa – Albert Malukisa

In a context characterized by the weakness of public authorities, informality, normative pluralism, the multiplicity of often competing state and non-state actors, this project seeks to understand the functioning of urban governance in Kinshasa. As a case-study, it will look at the political economy of taxes in urban markets: urban markets are particularly places were public authority is produced through a variety of formal and informal actors, and where taxation is part of these processes. While the urban level is taken as the main point of analysis, it aims to look at the interaction between various level of governance: the national, provincial and local level. This research will primarily rely on ethnographic research, but will also make use of quantitative surveys.