The mighty Congo is Africa’s second-longest river after the Nile; in terms of flow, it’s second only to the Amazon. With a basin spanning most of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and parts of six neighboring countries, the river has been a vital lifeline for centuries, forming (with its tributaries) a vast inland waterway that allows access to places still inaccessible by road. 

The river also nourishes immense biodiversity: It’s home to at least 700 fish species, and it supports the world’s second-largest rainforest. It also empties water and sediment into one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, the Congo Plume in the Atlantic.

A man and woman in a boat, fishing on the Congo river.
Community members on the Congo River in the DRC. The river is used as a waterway for travel and trade. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Threats to the Congo

Hydropower companies have targeted the river for decades. The country commissioned two disastrous, corruption-laden projects in 1972 and 1982: Inga 1 and Inga 2. These projects displaced thousands, destroyed livelihoods and impoverished generations while plunging the country into debt. The dams never generated the power promised: 84% of Congolese people still lack access to electricity. But the debacle inspired a civil society movement that demands reparations for displaced residents as well as just energy transition. 

Our Work: Strengthening the Movement

The government continues to pursue dangerous, expensive hydropower schemes like the proposed Inga 3 dam and Grand Inga. With our partners, we have leveraged international expertise to expose the project’s fundamental flaws, successfully delaying it and changing the conversation both nationally and internationally. A vibrant and growing civil society movement, including women and Inga survivors, is working to change the country’s development path. They demand the immediate and equitable development of DRC’s other abundant resources, including solar, micro-hydro and wind power, to finally deliver much-needed energy access to the Congolese people.

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