Democratic Republic of Congo- Country Profile

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The population of DRC in July 2020 was estimated to be 101.8 million.1 The World Bank classifies the DRC as a low-income country.2

Tobacco Use in DRC

The Demographic and Health Survey, 2014 reported a current tobacco use prevalence of 26.5% male (15-59 years) and 4.1% female (15-49 years). The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (Kinshasa), 2008 (ages 13-15) found that 36.2% of boys and 29.5% of girls were current tobacco users.3

Tobacco in DRC

According to the Tobacco Atlas in 2014, DRC produced 3887 tonnes of tobacco, which  represents only 0.03% of total agricultural land in the DRC.4 According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2018, DRC produced 3765 tonnes of tobacco leaf.5

The cigarette market in the DRC was estimated to have sold 5,665.4 million sticks and be worth US$231.6 million in 2019 by Euromonitor International. The smoking (pipe) tobacco market was 334.6 tonnes in size and worth US$21.6 million in the same year.6

British American Tobacco (BAT) and Congo Tobacco Company (a subsidiary Mastermind) are the two main tobacco companies present in DRC. Shenimed, a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), also operates in the country. In 2014, BAT closed its domestic production facilities and began to import cigarettes from South Africa and Kenya.7

Roadmap to Tobacco Control

The DRC signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2004 and ratified the treaty in 2005.8 The DRC signed the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products in 2013, and has not ratified it yet.9

The DRC bans smoking in health-care facilities, public transport and educational facilities, though not in workplaces or restaurants and bars. Health warnings covering 30% of the back and front of products are required in DRC, though these requirements are significantly less stringent for smoked tobacco other than cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The area will increase to 50% once Law No. 18/035 is fully implemented. DRC also has fairly comprehensive laws against tobacco advertising. Tobacco taxation, however, lags behind in the country, at only 38.7% of retail price. Cigarettes actually increased in affordability in the country between 2016 and 2018. Some nicotine replacement therapy services are available, but not cost covered, and there is no national toll-free quitline.3410

The WHO report on global tobacco epidemic 2019 reported that some of the tobacco control policies in DRC are adopted but not yet implemented. Up to date information on tobacco control legislation around the world can be found on the Tobacco Control Laws website (published by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids). You can search litigation by country, tobacco control measure, or type of legal action. The website also contains analysis and assessment of FCTC compliance, and policy factsheets. Further information can be found in the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019, which details compliance with MPOWER measures, and FCTC COP reports

Tobacco Industry Interference

Tobacco companies in the DRC are able to gain visibility and support through sponsorship of public events and corporate social responsibility donations. In March 2012, Congo Tobacco Company hosted a Celebration of Women in the city of Goma in Eastern DRC and donated money to a fund for research on sickle-cell anaemia in children.11

The industry also acts through lobby groups to attempt to influence tobacco control legislation. A Guardian investigation in 2017 also found that the chamber of commerce, Fédération des Entreprises du Congo, sent a letter to the president in April 2017 on behalf of the tobacco industry. It listed 29 concerns with proposed tobacco control legislation, claiming they violated the constitution, international agreements and national legislation.12

Extensive research published in 2021 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, a partner in STOP, and in conjunction with BBC’s Panorama, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered multiple instances of British American Tobacco seeking to frustrate tobacco control measures in Africa.

Relevant Links

TobaccoTactics Resources

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  1. US Central Intelligence Agency, Africa: Congo, Democratic Republic of the, The World Factbook, last updated 9 November 2020, accessed November 2020
  2. World Bank Country and Lending Groups, The World Bank, 2020, accessed November 2020
  3. abWorld Health Organization, Country profile: Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2019, accessed November 2020
  4. abThe Tobacco Atlas, Dem. Rep. of Congo,, undated, accessed November 2020
  5. FAOSTAT, Data: Crops, undated, accessed November 2020
  6. Passport, Tobacco market size: Congo, Democratic Republic, Euromonitor International, accessed November 2020 (paywall)
  7. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The Toll of Tobacco in the Democratic Republic of Congo, CTFK website, last updated 31 August 2017, accessed November 2020
  8. United Nations, 4. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Status as at  07-02-2021, accessed February 2021
  9. United Nations, 4. a Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, Status as at  07-02-2021, accessed February 2021
  10. Tobacco Control Laws, Legislation by Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, last updated 4 October 2019, accessed November 2020
  11. A.B. Gilmore, G. Fooks, J. Drope, S.A. Bialous, R.R. Jackson, Exposing and addressing tobacco industry conduct in low-income and middle-income countries, The Lancet, 2015;385(9972):1029-1043, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60312-9
  12. S. Boseley, Threats, bullying, lawsuits: tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market, The Guardian, 12 July 2017, accessed November 2020