The Democratic Republic of the Congo and its coins

Democratic Republic of the Congo - country and coins

The Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa is often referred to as DRC, DR Congo (DR Congo and sometimes Congo (Kinshasa) to distinguish it from the Republic of Congo, which is often referred to as Congo (Brazzaville).

Country Profile

The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is located in the center of the African continent and is the largest country in Africa with 2 345 409 km². Nearly 100 million people live there in 2022 according to

9/10 of its territory lies in the Congo Basin. In the far west, the Democratic Republic of Congo has access to the Atlantic Ocean via a very short stretch of coastline between Angola and Congo. The equator cuts through the country at a distance of 1,300 km. The official language is French. Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo (born June 13, 1963 in Léopoldville, now Kinshasa) is a politician in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the fifth president of his country since 2019. He succeeded Joseph Kabila in this office, who had headed the country for almost 18 years.


The Congo Franc is the currency of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It should not be confused with the currency of the Republic of Congo, the CFA franc, and its former temporary currency, which was also called the “Congo franc.”


The flag of DR Congo consists of a blue background with a yellow bordered red diagonal stripe and a yellow star in the upper left corner. The flag dates back to 1877 and was originally blue with a golden star to symbolize a shining light on the “dark continent”.

Geography and climate

The surface of the Democratic Republic of the Congo resembles a huge bowl that slopes slightly toward the Atlantic Ocean: In the center is the Congo Basin and on the edges is a closed ring of hills. In the southwest, the low is separated from the ocean by the highlands of South Guinea. To the southeast are the flat Mitumba Mountains, the Manica Plateau and Kundegungu. The eastern part of the country, the edge of the East African Plateau, is the highest. Here, a huge arc stretches from north to south across a system of deep depressions in the East African Rift Valley, which includes Africa’s Great Lakes: Mweru, Edward, Mobutu-Sese Seko, Kivu and Tanganyik. Particularly impressive is the snow-covered Rwenzori with the third highest peak in Africa, Marguerite Peak (5109 m). Between Lake Edward and Lake Kivu lies the Virunga Massif, a massif with high seismicity: it includes over 100 volcanoes. The highest of them, Karisimbi (4,507 m), is now extinct, but the Nyiragongo (3,450 m) and Nyamlagira volcanoes have erupted several times in the last century. One of the strongest outbreaks occurred in 1977.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the densest river network in Africa. The rivers, fed by rain and underground springs, are full of rapids and waterfalls. The famous waterfalls are the picturesque multi-level Venus Steps Waterfall on the Ishae River (Upper Zaire), the Guillaume Waterfalls on three branches of the Kwango River, the 340-meter-high Kaloba Waterfalls on the Lovoi River, the seven-level Stanley Waterfalls, and the 70 Livingstone Cascade Falls in the lower Congo near the sea. Many rivers in the upper reaches flow in narrow gorges between cliffs up to 400 m high and form turbulent rapids, but in the middle and lower reaches they are calmer.

The Congo River, which flows through the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the second longest river in Africa after the Nile, at 4,700 km. It is also the deepest river in the world.

The climate of the Democratic Republic of Congo is predominantly equatorial and constantly humid, with a subequatorial climate in the southern half and northern rim. The average temperatures are 25-28 °C. Rainfall in the equatorial zone is 1700-2200 mm per year, with particularly heavy rainfall from March to May and September to November. The equatorial rains during these months are heavy but short. At greater distances from the equator, the dry seasons are more pronounced: in the north from March to November, in the south from October-November to March-April. Precipitation is lower – up to only 1200 mm.


More than 200 languages are spoken in the Congo. Communication between the groups was facilitated by four “national” languages: Swahili, Tshiluba, Lingala and Congo. French is the official language and the language of education, business, administration and international communication. The four national languages are used in regional commerce and broadcasting.

Flora and fauna

More than half of the Democratic Republic of Congo is covered with evergreen rainforest, which contains about 50 highly valued tree species and hundreds of others. The farther you get from the equator, the thinner the forests become, growing mainly along river valleys. Sometimes the tree canopies close over a narrow riverbed and form a green tunnel or gallery, hence the name gallery forest. The south and the high north are dominated by tall grass savannahs with sparse trees. In the mountains, the vegetation at lower altitudes is similar to the plains, but in the forests grow conifers, such as: Podocarpus, and junipers.

The fauna of the Democratic Republic of Congo is exceptionally diverse: the equatorial forests of the central basin are home to lemurs and monkeys, small antelopes, warthogs and okapis. Okapis are ungulates related to giraffes, but have a shorter neck and zebra-like coloring of the back. Mountain gorillas can be observed in one of the national parks – Kahuzi-Biegu. The savannah is inhabited by antelopes, gazelles, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and hyenas. Lizards, turtles and snakes abound. Many snakes, such as the black and green mambas, are highly venomous. Of the birds, ostriches, bustards and guinea fowl are found in the open areas, while peacocks, parrots, hoopoes and woodpeckers are common in the forests. The rivers and lakes are rich in fish – there are up to a thousand species. Almost 15% of the territory is covered by nature reserves and national parks, the most famous of which are Garamba, Virunga, Upemba, North Salonga and South Salonga.


The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s fourth most populous nation in 2022, with nearly 100 million inhabitants, but the inhabitants are unevenly distributed across the territory: The forests are virtually uninhabited, while population density on the eastern lakeshore is a hundred times higher. The ethnic composition of the population is very complex, with more than 200 peoples and small ethnic communities. Most of them belong to the group of Bantu languages. The Bantu are skilled craftsmen known for their metal and wood carvings (Bakuba statuettes and Bapende masks) and inlaid musical instruments, etc. In the north of the country live the Azande and other Adamaoua peoples of the eastern subgroup, who have also largely preserved their traditional culture and are known for their pottery, pinga throwing knives, and fortress construction. The next largest group, the Nilotes, who live on the border with Uganda and Sudan, are predominantly pastoralists. Pygmy tribes live in the equatorial forests.

Largest cities

The capital, Kinshasa (population 15.628.085 million in 2022 –, is the economic center of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a major transportation hub. Kinshasa was called Léopoldville until May 3, 1966. Léopoldville was founded on December 3, 1881 by Henry Morton Stanley as a trading post and in honor of the then Belgian King Leopold II.

French is the language of government, education, media, public services and upscale commerce in the city, while Lingala is used as a lingua franca on the streets.

The city center has a very European look. St. Anne’s Cathedral, built in 1919 in neo-Gothic style and surrounded by a park with a complex of buildings in the same style, stands out among the modern buildings. From Mount Ngaliema you have a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings. There are many hotels in the city, the most original being the Okapi, which consists of single-story houses connected by covered galleries.

For tourists, there are many popular attractions, such as “National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo” (the National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo), Cathedral Notre-Dame Du Congo (translated: the Cathedral Notre-Dame Du Congo) and the Bandombe Gallery.

Kinshasa has two airports: N’djili Airport, which is considered the main airport and connects Kinshasa with other countries in Africa, Europe and some other destinations, and N’Dolo Airport, which is used only for domestic flights.

Matadi, the most important port in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is located on the rocky banks of the Congo River.

The port city of Boma was the capital of the medieval Songo Empire. The picturesque valley town of Likasi is home to several scientific institutes and a mineralogical museum. One of the oldest towns is Kisangani, founded by G. Stanley in 1883. Other important cities are Ngungu, Lubumbashi, Kolwezi, Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi, Bukavu, Mbandaka and Bandundu.

Finance and trade

The national central bank, the Bank of Congo, is headquartered in Kinshasa, as are numerous commercial, savings and development, mortgage and credit institutions. However, penetration of the banking system in Congo is extremely low, and only a fraction of Congolese citizens maintain bank accounts. The majority of monetary transactions within the predominant informal sector are conducted in cash.

Gold mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is very rich in natural resources. There are reserves of copper, cobalt, cadmium, bauxite, iron ore, diamonds, gold, silver, oil, zinc, manganese, tin and uranium.

Gold was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1931, and alluvial gold was mined in the country until 1947. Alluvial is a term that refers to bottom sediments and the various sand, silt, gravel, clay, or other deposits left behind by flowing water. “Alluvial gold” refers to the type of gold dust found in this type of soil. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, intensive mining is currently still taking place in the deposits. The soaps are particularly attractive because they contain not only gold, but also diamonds. The current mining of gold and diamonds in the placers is characterized by an unusual combination of state-of-the-art technology and equipment and primitive manual labor typical of non-industrial artisanal mining.

Mining of ore gold began in 1951 in the first open pit mine. It is estimated that prior to the 1960 unrest, when the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence from Belgium, about 4 tons of gold was recovered from quartz veins with an average grade of 10 g/t. After gaining sovereignty, many mining activities were stopped. Nevertheless, the Democratic Republic of Congo has huge mineral deposits that are still largely undiscovered. It ranks 10th in the world in terms of gold reserves.

Congo coins

Leopold II, King of Belgium, acquired the Congo in 1885 and made it his personal property. This is reflected in the inscriptions on the coins issued in 1887 – he was named ruler of the Congo Free State. Leopold’s abuse of power led to the country being annexed by Belgium in 1908 and renamed the Belgian Congo. The star emblem of the Free State was replaced by the king’s profile and crowned coat of arms. In 1920, a palm tree replaced the coat of arms and a lion replaced the portrait.

Independence 1960

The Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence in 1960, but immediately plunged into civil wars. The coins minted by the National Bank appeared in 1965. The country was renamed Zaire in 1971 and the Zaire currency, equivalent to 100 makuta, was introduced. Later coins showed President Mabotou, but after the 1997 civil war, the country reverted to its former name of Congo and issued coins showing a lion on the obverse and a variety of animals on the reverse. The rectangular or triangular coins from 2000 promoted an animal welfare program.

The variants of Congo coins

Congo coins are available in different varieties, as there are two different states under a similar name. Most of the metal coins of the two countries deal with the theme of plants and animals, as well as famous personalities. Rulers are present in the early series from the colonial past.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has something that delights numismatists:

  • The collectible 240 francs, made of silver
  • 100 Francs Gold Congo 1965 5 years of independence (Edition: 3.000 copies, probably more than 2.100 copies melted down again)
  • 25 centimes with a wild dog
  • 50 centimes issued in 2002 in two series: one commemorating the 1994 World Cup and the other honoring the brave sailor Vernie Cameron
  • 1 Franc issued in honor of the arrival of Pope John Paul II.

All the reverse sides of the above mentioned specimens show a proud lion.

The Belgian colony of Congo dedicated its coins to kings, as it was ruled by them. Interesting examples include the 2 centimes of 1888 minted during the reign of Leopold II, and the 1, 5, and 10 of Albert I. Characteristic features of the coins include a hole in the center, no portraits of statesmen, and pentagonal stars in various designs on both sides. Larger coins have the profile of the ruler of the time engraved on the obverse.

Congo silver coins

The silver coin from Congo has a high value for connoisseurs. It is issued to commemorate a memorable date or an important historical event, African fauna, and is packaged in a separate case. Two popular series of silver coins from Congo stand out: Endangered Wildlife and Magnificent Big Cats. Most commemorative coins are silver plated and made of copper-nickel alloy (old series) or modern alloys (bimetallic new series). The most fascinating animals from land, air and water are minted not only in silver, but also in gold and color. With limited editions and exclusive sets, the series not only offers something for the eye, but is also a lasting investment.

Gold coins from Congo

Congo gold coins are also very popular with collectors, due in part to their annually changing designs and small mintage.

The World’s Wildlife Congo gold coin series, for example, is available for purchase for the first time since 2019. The first motif in the series is “The Giraffe”, “The Whale” in 2020, “The Bald Eagle” followed in 2021 and “The Bear” in 2022. The animal depicted in each case is named in the upper margin. The name of the series “World’s Wildlife” is embossed in the lower rim area. There you can also see the outline of the continent of Africa.

To celebrate 5 years of independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1965 was issued a gold coin. The mint quality is proof and the mintage at the time was only 3,000 copies.

Want to know more about the coins from Congo? Buy or sell a gold coin? Feel free to contact us.