The 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) display significant variations in their basic institutional capacity, down to the effectiveness of their existence and daily functioning. This paper provides a first attempt at explaining what accounts for these variations.
Initial structural conditions, such as availability of electric power and the wealth of provinces, make a significant difference in terms of capacity and particularly resource extraction, suggesting that decentralisation can further existing inequalities.
New provinces are generally at a capacity disadvantage over old provinces and over the stump provinces of partitioned ones which inherited the existing provincial infrastructure.
By and large, mineral resource endowments promote provincial extractive capacity.
Although there is widespread variation in ethnic homogeneity and polarisation across provinces, it seems to have largely contradictory effects among capacity indicators.
The expected political longevity of governors appear related to other capacity indicators and is a function of their success in balancing their relations with Kinshasa patrons and provincial clients.
The paper concludes with five key policy implications for policy-makers, practitioners and development researchers.