The former Belgian Congo became independent in 1960, and in 1971 changed its name to the Republic of Zaïre. Following the civil war of 1996, a further name change has taken place, and it is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, capital Kinshasa, not to be confused with its neighbour to the west, the Congo Republic (Congo Brazzaville).

The mapping base was established by the Belgian colonial authorities, and much mapping was undertaken prior to independence, initially in Katanga (now Shaba) province, by the Comité Spécial du Katanga (CSK), founded in 1919. A program of mapping the whole country was initiated after World War II, when, in 1949, an Institut Géographique du Congo Belge was established in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa). With independence, this became the Institut Géographique du Zaïre (IGZa), a name which will presumably change again with the re-adoption of the name Congo. Extensive aerial photography was obtained during the 1950s and series of 1:200,000 scale one-degree sheets, 1:100,000 scale quarter-degree sheets, and 1:50,000 scale sheets covering one-sixteenth-degree were initiated. This mapping took various forms, some printed in one, two or four colours and others issued as dye-lines. A number of 1:50,000 scale uncontrolled photomosaics were also produced, and some 1:200,000 scale regional maps (Carte de territoire). Most sheets lacked contours. Early sheets were on a Polyconic projection, but more recent mapping adopted the UTM projection, Clarke 1880 ellipsoid. In the 1950s, large scale, contoured maps of the capital and other major towns were also produced. After independence there was a hiatus in mapping until the late 1960s, and then in 1971 a new program of 1:50,000 scale mapping began, with the intention of achieving complete cover of the country at this scale. About one-third of the country has been covered, but most sheets are planimetric dye-lines, and all work on the 1:50,000 map ceased in 1975. 1:200,000 scale sheets were still being produced in the late 1980s. No funding has been forthcoming for much needed new aerial photography, and with the recent political unrest further progress has not been possible. The post-colonial topographic mapping is all restricted, and the only detailed mapping available is the earlier mapping of Katanga by CSK, which is available from the Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale (MRAC), Tervuren, and some more extensive pre-colonial cover.

Soviet military topographic mapping of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) exists at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (19 sheets, complete coverage, published 1953-1987); 1:500,000 (50 sheets, complete coverage, published 1962-1987); 1:200,000 (95 sheets, partial coverage, published 1979-1985) and city (1:10,000 to 1:25,000) topographic maps of Bangui and Lubumbashi published in 1981. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

Geological mapping is the responsibility of the Centre de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (CRGM), but prior to independence, mapping was undertaken by MRAC and by CSK. After independence, CRGM entered into collaboration with the French Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières. Some 20 1:200,000 scale sheets have been published, but there have been no new maps in the 1990s. Available mapping (from MRAC) includes pre-1960 1:200,000 scale geological sheets of parts of Shaba province produced by CSK, and 1:200,000 and 1:50,000 sheets of Bas-Zaïre produced by MRAC. Small scale, two-sheet geological and mineral deposit maps covering the whole country are also available, with accompanying texts.

Soil, vegetation and land use mapping was undertaken in the 1960s and 1970s by the Institut pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo (INEAC).

A national atlas was initiated in 1976 by the Belgian Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre Mer, but only one sheet, on surface communications, has been published. Other atlases include an Atlas climatique du bassin congolais in four volumes, published in Brussels by INEAC in 1971-77, and an Atlas de l’agriculture des régions du Bandundu, du Bas-Zaïre et de Kinshasa published in 1991 by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

A small thematic atlas was published by Éditions du Jaguar in 1978. The Atlas du Katanga was published by the Comité Spécial du Katanga prior to 1960.

A new general map, with small thematic inset maps of was published in 1988 by the Belgian Institut Géographique National (IGNB) in collaboration with IGZa, and until recently this remained the best available map of the country, but new small-scale maps were issued in 1997 by a Kinshasa company, Médiaspaul, and in 1998 by Cartographia, Budapest. In 1989, a 1:10,000/1:50,000 scale tourist map of Kinshasa was produced in cooperation with a commercial company called Kin-Flash. A new 1:15,000 scale street map, published by Kinart and Media Aquaterra, is available from OMNI.

The Bureau d’Études d’Amenagement Urbains (BEAU), Kinshasa, was formerly an important producer of urban mapping, including a thematic atlas of Kinshasa, produced in collaboration with the French Institut Géographique National (IGN). The organization was looted in the disturbances in Kinshasa in 1991 and 1993.

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