The Congo puzzle. Evolving livelihood and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo (1970-2010)

Date: 18 October 2013

Venue: CST - Universiteit Antwerpen, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Faculty of Applied Economic Sciences and IOB

PhD candidate: Wim Marivoet

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Tom De Herdt

Short description: Public defense of the doctoral thesis of Wim Marivoet - Faculty of Applied Economic Sciences and Institute of Development Policy and Management.

Abstract: The objective of this study was to analyze the multiple current living conditions across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as to identify their dynamics between 1970 and 2010. In the mid 1970s, the DRC entered a long downward spiral, which can be read as a textbook example of state failure and economic regress: the 1973 nationalization policy of Mobutu formed the starting point; the first African World War (1998-2003) was a brutal low. Over this period, the average Congolese saw his income decrease to only one fifth of the level he attained in the 1970s. Surprisingly enough, this economic decay of the country did not seem to have much affected the survival chances of its population: both life expectancy and mortality rates even improved a bit. In short, viewed through a macro-economic telescope everybody must have been moribund, but through a microscope many seemed to be alive and kicking.

To solve this Congo puzzle, five hypotheses were put forward. Whereas the first focused on the validity of this livelihood paradox itself, all other hypotheses were formulated as genuine coping strategies. In order to address each of them, the present study relied on various (national) survey data, coming in total from about 50 000 different households. These raw data allowed the author not only to operate under the political radar of macro-level statistics, but also to adopt a spatially more refined and context-sensitive approach – in many instances indispensable given the multifaceted patchwork nature of the country. Moreover, this geographical approach also has direct policy leverage, given the ongoing process of decentralization in which the country has been engaged since the new constitution adopted in 2006.

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