Congo's Environmental Paradox

Potential and Predation in a Land of Plenty

Theodore Trefon


A concise and revealing analysis of Congo's forest, mineral, land, water and oil sectors, and the tangled politics behind them

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the natural resources the world needs – it is crucial to satisfying our craving for the latest high-tech gadgets; the Inga Dam could light up all of Africa; while Congo’s farmers could feed a billion people. These realities are redefining the country’s strategic contribution to a globalized world. A resource paradise for some, the DRC is an environmental nightmare for others.

Congo’s Environmental Paradox analyses the new dynamics in the country’s forest, mineral, land, water and oil sectors, revealing the interactions between these sectors. Connecting the dots, it shows how we need to fundamentally rethink power, politics and resource management in Congo today.

Author Bio

Theodore Trefon (PhD, Boston University) studies the politics of state–society relations and natural resource governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the Belgian Royal Museum for Central Africa. His previous book, Congo Masquerade: The Political Culture of Aid Inefficiency and Reform Failure (2011), also appeared in the African Arguments series.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction: Potential in a Land of Plenty
  • 2. Forests of Wealth and Mystery
  • 3. Food and Agriculture
  • 4. Water: An Uncertain Ebb and Flow
  • 5. Oil: Plenty for Some, Nothing for Most
  • 6. Mining: Rise, Decline and Renaissance
  • 7. Conclusion: Uncertainty and Predation in a Land of Plenty


'A sharp and well informed argument that shows that Congo’s environmental paradox is also at the heart of the world’s environmental paradox.'
Africa at LSE

'An unusual, fascinating and important book … While there is often a tendency to sensationalize the country, the author takes a more balanced approach, demonstrating deep insight, engagement and knowledge.'
International Affairs

‘Eloquent and richly documented..’
David Booth, Overseas Development Institute

‘A remarkable guide to the tangled relationships between minerals, water and other sectors of the political economy in the Congo. Indispensable reading for humanitarians and human rights advocates, both Congolese and international.’
Tom Turner, author of The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth and Reality

‘A fascinating read, giving a no-nonsense view of the multitude of problems besetting Congo’s natural resource sectors. The book puts today’s problems into historical perspective and will serve as a reality-check to politicians and activists.’
Daniel Balint-Kurti, Global Witness

'An invaluable contribution. The author's capacity to convey a rich treasure chest of information and acute analytical skills make this a landmark work.'
Crawford Young, University of Wisconsin

‘This should confirm Trefon’s standing as one of the most perceptive observers and analysts of this central African giant.’
Edouard Bustin, Boston University

'Well-written, clearly structured and thoroughly documented, Trefon offers fresh analysis on the gap between resource potential and socio-economic development.'
Jeroen Cuvelier, University of Ghent

'An excellent overview of the major ecological resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo … reading this book is essential for understanding the many environmental paradoxes.'
African Studies Quarterly


Publication Date: 15 May 2016
208 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783602438
Hardback: 9781783602445
eBook ePub: 9781783602469
eBook PDF: 9781783602452
eBook Kindle: 9781783602476

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