With a chance for stability following the first democratic election in over 40 years, the Democratic Republic of Congo is seen as a country with strong potential, especially in its natural resources.

On July 30 an estimated 25 million Congolese will go to the polls with the hope of finally casting their ballots.

Beginning in 1965, the Democratic Republic of Congo witnessed economic impoverishment under the dictatorship of self-declared President Mobutu Sese Seko.

While the economy has been growing steadily in the past five years, its potential is what intrigues many economists and observers. DRC is one of the richest nations in the world in terms raw materials.

The election is comprised of 33 presidential and 9,700 parliamentary candidates in what will be the most expensive and complex ever witnessed in Africa. International organizers, including the World Bank, have poured nearly $400 million into the election, with the hope that it will meet international standards.

The election is also the largest ever supervised by the United Nations. The international body has over 17,000 peace keeping troops in the country.

Among the most popular candidates is incumbent President Joseph Kabila. He has pledged that if victorious, he would help push for a liberalization nation’s economy, build a network of highways throughout the country as well as universities in the capital of each province.

Country’s Resources

Formerly known as Zaire, the country has one of the most diverse economies in Africa, with the potential to become a key supplier of raw materials to the global economy. The country could provide a third of the world’s cobalt supply and a tenth of its copper.

With increased demand for laptops, cell phones and other technological products, coltan mineral ore exports have increased. Over two thirds’ of the world’s Coltan, which is used in such products, is mined in the DRC.

The country also contains nearly 50 percent of Africa’s forests and has a river system that is capable of powering the entire continent. Yet, according to the World Bank, less than 50 percent of the population has access to running water.

Africa’s third largest country has also vast deposits of diamonds, gold, silver, timber, uranium, zinc as well as oil, currently in great demand by global markets.

Current Economic State

Since 2001, the DRC has experienced a significant growth in its economy with regard to per capita income. Inflation has dropped and the exchange rate has remained fairly stable.

Although much economic activity lies outside the GDP data, according to the World Factbook, what can be measure shows that growth has remained above 5 percent annually since 2001.

However Congo remains one of the world's poorest countries, ranking a low 167 out of 177 in the 2005 United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) human development index. Per capita income is $700.

The current business climate is only for the adventurous due to volatile economic markets.

Mismanagement of resources and the civil war during 1998-2001 resulted in a drop per capita GDP from $250 in 1960 to $100 in 2001, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Money management

Fiscal developments were mixed in 2004 as government revenue was higher and expenditure was lower than predicted, according to a report released by the IMF.

However, the manner in which government spent revenues remains a key conflicting issue. End of 2004, more money was spent on political and security issues, and not enough on social and poverty-reducing projects.

Government Requirements

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that in 2002, 80 per cent of the population lived under the poverty line of $0.2 per day.

The OECD also highlighted the need for shared income among regions. For example, the average annual income in the eastern part of the country was $32 per capita, as opposed to $138 in the south and $323 in Kinshasa province.

One international body which has been working to further the economic progress of DRC is the IMF, which which has worked on an initiative (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative) to ensure that poor countries don't face debts they can't manage.

In a report released last year, it urged renewed government efforts to enforce laws against corruption, the strengthening of budget procedures, improvement in the transparency of tax administration as well as remodeling the country’s state-owned businesses.

Stricter enforcement of current laws needs to be implemented to combat corruption in order to improve its public resource management and business climate, according to IMF.