A translation of my answer on a similar question in the English-language Quora.Sorry for my English. 🙂
In short: colonialism, corruption, greed, wars, among other factors
Cool, let’s take a look at this country:
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
It is the richest country in the sense of minerals hidden in the soil: the value of Congolese reserves of treasures such as cobalt, copper gold, and much more is estimated at around USD 40 trillion!
In comparison, the US GDP is USD 19 trillion. The largest river in Africa, the Congo, flows through the country, as seen in the above picture. The country also has the second largest rainforest in the world. Sounds like the country should be one of the richest countries in the world! However, the country has a very dark, terrible history. I hope my translation is enough to transmit my message.
The history of Congo begins with the takeover of the territory of the then King Leopold II of Belgium as a separate, private, personal colony.Under his supervision, the country was more than exploited.Through his forced labor, slavery, mutilation and many other tortures and crimes against humanity, half of Congo’s population, about 10-15 million people, died. The rest remained traumatized.
Eventually, the Belgian government took over the administration of the Congo, and the territory became a Belgian colony.However, not much changed after that.
After the Second World War, in the 50s and 60s, a national feeling quickly developed in the colonies of Africa.Many African countries gained independence, some peacefully, some rather not. The Belgians recognized the trend, and in 1960 they hurriedly granted independence to the Congolese. In a very short time (a couple of months only) they left the country hastily.
The problem was now: The Belgians do not eat qualified people.No troops. No government people. No doctors. No economists. nothing. Only a few million people who knew nothing but terror, exploitation and mutilation. They were not educated, because they were all just slaves in the now-past colonial machine.
By pulling back so hastily, they have not planned anything in the direction of government, infrastructure, etc., of an independent country.Issues such as, among other things, ethnic tensions and nationalism, tribalism and regionalism remained unresolved. Many of these tensions were exacerbated even during the colonial era to help with the colonialists’ “divide and rule” strategy.
Well, of course, within two weeks of independence, as they say in English: Shit hit the fan.The country disintegrated into small warlords-ruled areas. All wanted to either take power or their own country’s own reasons separated from Congo. This was the situation until the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko took power, stabilizing the country and its economy for a time. After he fell ill, much the country returned to chaos.
This vicious circle was repeated several times.One of these crises developed into the deadliest war after the Second World War!
The country remained belligerent and arm.Since there is little to no government presence in large parts of the country, especially in the east, it is still very easy to exploit the inhabitants. Today, Congo’s men, women and children in the mines must give their country’s wealth to the conglomerates of the world, and make them rich with cheap raw materials.
The history of the Democratic Republic of Congo is one that saddens me.However, this is similar to the stories of many other African countries. Brutal colonialism, hasty independence with little preparation, and then a continuous vicious circle of corruption, dictatorship and war. That’s why so many African countries remain so poor.
Some countries, such as my own country, Namibia, were lucky enough to be relatively developed before they became independent.Most have not, but Africa is now moving fast.
As far as Congo is concerned, there may be some hope, because there are elections this year and the incumbent is stepping down. Hopefully there is a figure who can turn the country with the most potential in the world.
What I forgot to mention in the English answer:
Because of the jungle in Congo, it is both historical and today, very difficult to build infrastructure such as roads and a railway system.