The Congo River runs 2,920 miles through the center of Africa, most of its massive flow winding through the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It crosses the equator twice before eventually spilling into the Atlantic Ocean, where it creates a huge plume of silt and organic material.
It is the deepest river on earth (up to 720 feet) and its discharge (1,400,000 cubic feet per second on average and over 1,800,000 cubic feet a second in the rainy season) is second only to that of the Amazon. Only the Nile River is longer in Africa.
The Congo basin, which includes nine countries, covers 13 percent of the African continent, and scientists estimate that its hydropower potential is 13 percent of the total for all rivers in the world. That is enough to meet all the electricity needs of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Congo basin already has 40 hydropower plants. However, the greatest hydropower potential is near the river’s terminus, due to an unusual feature of the river which uniquely has major falls and rapids near its mouth (the falls end 100 miles from the point where the Congo River meets the Atlantic Ocean).
At the 2.5 miles wide Inga Falls, which are part of the larger Livingstone Falls system, the Congo drops 315 feet over 10 miles through a series of falls and rapids. Although not strictly a single waterfall, the Inga Falls network is counted the largest waterfall by volume in the world.
Conveniently, the Inga Falls, home to the Inga hydroelectric plants, are just 120 miles from the capital Kinshasa.
The great river is a major supplier of food, in the form of fish that provide a main food source to many people up and down the length of the river. It is also a key piece in DRC’s transport network, with much of the river above Livingstone Falls to Kisangani navigable.
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