3. Opportunities

Looking Ahead

Many things are evolving that can be advantageous to Congo Basin countries. Climate finance opportunities have increased, technology continues to develop apace, and awareness of the value of forests and peatlands in the Congo Basin are increasing. These, if harnessed taking into account natural capital and Sustainable Development Goals, should give new impetus to economic and social development.

Climate Finance

Forest carbon in the Congo Basin is significant – second only to the Amazon Basin – the equivalent of 85 billion tons of carbon is locked in the living vegetation of the DRC alone.

Whilst there are numerous national, bilateral and international initiatives funding economic, social and environmental interventions in the Congo Basin, this section focuses mostly (not exclusively) on the climate funding opportunities related to forests and peatlands. More comprehensive climate portals are available that capture finance flows through the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, amongst others.

Financing Opportunities and REDD+

Countries of the Congo Basin have been involved in initiatives to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, known as REDD+. The international climate negotiations opened the door to REDD+, and REDD+ finance, to contribute to reducing CO2e emissions and increasing forest capacities as carbon sinks in 2007. Since then, many initiatives have focused on forests and livelihoods in Congo Basin countries, such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the Forest Investment Program, UN REDD+, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, the GEF Sustainable Landscapes Impact program and the Central African Forest Initiative.

As part of the work under REDD+, countries need both to show their readiness in preparation but also their investments and actions (e.g., policy changes) that reduce emissions. This process which is internationally agreed and monitored, can results in quantified emission reductions, that can ultimately be paid for. The first ever large-scale Emission Reductions Payment Agreement - ERPA- contract globally was signed with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This marks the importance of this region from a climate perspective, and the need to value standing forests. The investment initiatives in the Congo Basin can be accessed here (click on Investments).


The Congo Basin’s is home to the world’s largest tropical peatland, the “Cuvette Centrale”. This hugely rich carbon store is the equivalent of three years’ worth of the world’s total fossil fuel emissions (2017 data). It is the most carbon-rich ecosystem known on earth. Although not the main focus of climate finance, conversion of peatlands is monitored in some initiatives, such as the Republic of Congo’s REDD+ program.

The greatest threat to this ecosystem is from climate change. Any drying up or change in rainfall patterns in this area would contribute to a release of greenhouse gas emissions and possibly an increase in fires and further release of carbon to the atmosphere. Other human-induced changes to peatlands could be an increase in logging, draining of areas for agriculture, mining, infrastructure etc. So far, these remain relatively low which should give policy makers time to take appropriate actions for conserving – and recognizing the value of - this important ecosystem.



Recent years have seen a dramatic acceleration of technological innovation that is expected to continue into the future. These include an emerging work of “disruptive” technology that can disrupt the way we make data-driven decisions, produce things, and interact with each other.

Rethinking Decision-making: How we gather, analyze, access, and visualize information

An exciting range of technologies are emerging to help us better make evidence-based decisions. Inexpensive sensor networks integrated into an Internet of Things (IoT) approach are complemented by new “eyes in the sky” with satellite and drone earth observation power to help use better gather data and integrate with an increasingly digitalized economy. Improved telemetry, open data, cloud storage and analytics services, and distributed ledger (Blockchain) approaches to disrupt trust concerns are transforming the way this data is managed and analyzed using big (including geospatial) data processing, enhanced use of online modeling, machine learning and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. Access to these data are being revolutionized using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), data and mapping standards, and innovative interactive data visualization. These can then be accesses using a range of platforms including portals, mobile Apps, and networked smart hardware at the user end (from smartphones, tablets, and computers to augmented/virtual reality devices.

Rethinking Production: How we create, assemble, and supply products

Increasing automation is helping firms rethink the way products are made and distributed. Innovative technologies such as 3D printing or additive manufacturing has the potential to completely disrupt the location and methods of production and construction across sectors. A new generation of AI-powered robots has the potential to change the nature of work in several sectors. Automated transport have the potential to disrupt the way people and goods are moved around by driverless cars, trucks, ships, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The use of advanced materials, nanotechnology, biotechnology, batteries, renewables, and other innovative manufactured products can help lower costs and improve performance across a range of development sectors.

Rethinking Interactions: How we connect and work together

This new world of disruptive technology is changing the way we all interact with each other, leveraging the economies of scale that comes from platforms that connect us. This includes enhancing the use of social networks facilitated by increasingly available digital connectivity, crowdsourcing ideas and financing, as we move to a sharing economy that encourages peer to peer platforms for collaborative consumption. Supply chains facilitated by blockchain has the potential to cut out many middlemen to improve efficiencies. A new generation can be part of the maker movement with do-it-yourself technologies in tech incubators. Digital ID and digital finance has the potential to change governance and spur financing innovations across the economy.

The real power of disruption comes in the way these technologies are combined and deployed to solve development challenges. They have tremendous potential in changing the way development happens around the world and also bring in concerns that need to be effectively managed.

Reimagining the Congo basin

These innovations could help completely change the nature and paradigm of sustainable development. In the Congo Basin, this could mean leveraging improved digital infrastructure/connectivity, a new generation of young talent that can learn quickly from and contribute to global good practice, and a new world of data and analytics that is expected to accelerate in coming years. These may pose additional risks (more innovative ways to deforest or poach wildlife, privacy, cybersecurity, traditional jobs) but also offer new benefits to address issues of poverty and access to opportunity. In particular, new approaches to monitor the Congo forests, climate, and hydrology using in-situ sensors, earth observation, and crowdsourced inputs/surveys to build a rich knowledge base of the status and trends that can be analyzed using new tools.

Institutional capacity & cooperation

There are opportunities to improve the capacity of the human resources in the countries of the region and better link these with global good practice.