Evolution in living standards in eight Congolese cities between 1975 and 2005
Institute of Development Policy and Management
, p. 15-38
University of Antwerp
In this article, we shed light on the changing living conditions between 1975 and 2005 in eight major cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). To this end, household data from two sets of surveys have been combined and analyzed in terms of budget and asset ownership. Although this exercise is seriously constrained by methodological difficulties, some salient facts do emerge. To begin with, the urban sector does not seem to be much affected by the formal crisis the country went through. Apart from in Bukavu and regardless of a substitution effect between technological and nontechnological consumer goods, no general decrease in consumption or assets occurred over these past three decades. An explanation for this remarkable result could be found in a more efficient use of the food budget as well as a further dependence on informal income strategies. Linked to the former explanation, this study pointed to a general replacement of starchy staples by cereals, and, to a lesser extent, (palm) oil. Additionally, a marked increase in the budget share spent on education also seemed to be a common phenomenon for all eight cities. And finally, changes in economic geography seem to have structured the evolution of (mainly technological) assets owned by households quite well. Apart from these general tendencies, this study above all revealed that each city has its own particularities, which deserve to be further researched.