Chicken now, not eggs later: short-termism, underdevelopment and regime stabilisation in the DRC’s oil governance

Patrick Edmond and Kristof Titeca
Discussion paper 2018.01

The DRC has major possibilities for oil development, but very little actual development. This paper aims to show why this is the case, demonstrating that the main function of the oil sector is regime stability, which manifests itself in various ways. First, the sector is a major source of patronage and rent-extraction. These rents are not created through the active production and development of the sector, but primarily through not developing the sector, which is much more interesting for short-term rent extraction for the concerned actors. Second, we show how there are political and social logics behind corruption, which are also related with regime-stability: rent extraction is allowed as a form of political reward, but this political logic equally means that it should not be overdone. Overdoing corruption brings unnecessary attention, which is detrimental for regime stability. Paradoxically, oil sector development is contrary to regime stability: internal geopolitics, regional relationships, and central control over major wealth are threatened by sector development. The importance of describing these dynamics goes beyond the oil sector: it allows for a better understanding of how political control and corruption function within the DRC, and how development becomes their victim.

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