Mobile ownership

During the 1980s, the use of the services of the Telecell network was prohibitively expensive (rental and non-purchase of the device at US$1,000 and calls per minute at US$3/5). Towards the end of the Mobutu regime and at the beginning of the regime of Laurent Désiré Kabila (1997), with the arrival of a new investor (Cell Net) the cost rose to US$300 for the purchase and no longer the rental of a GSM device. Local calls went from US$3/5 to less than US$1 per minute/call. The price went even lower.

The majority of the population has access to cellular services, since costs have become more accessible. During the 1980s, the rent (not the purchase) of a cell phone could reach US$1,000. And this amount was paid each month by the cell phone holders (Télécell). Between 1997 and 2000, cell phones cost (per purchase) between US$300 and 800. Currently, in the DRC, one can buy a cell phone for US$10 only. Commercial competition among the various cellular operators is the main cause of this gradual decline in prices.

A large number of Congolese and most public officials communicate via cell phones. Journalists use telecommunication daily to do live reporting and share information online. Also human rights defenders do so to alert and communicate in a rapid and direct manner about violations. Political actors also use it to mobilise their supporters.

In general, all the inhabitants of the DRC use mobile phones to share messages, photos, videos or recordings either directly on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc) or via email with a network of friends, colleagues or close family members. It was during the 2006, 2011 and 2018 elections that cell phones were widely used by media professionals to make telecommunication more widely available to all these professional and social categories (live coverage by journalists, alerts on human rights violations by human rights defenders, very broad communications about election cheating by election observers and by the general population). The very wide use of telecommunication to monitor the action by the government and other institutions has rolled back electoral cheating. But it has somewhat embarrassed the government, which has, at each of these deadlines, cut off access to the cellular Internet to protect itself but also to prevent the dissemination of information that could disturb public order. The government, unable to control the content of the Internet more broadly, is limited to cut off the signal as soon as it feels attacked by posts of Internet users using cell phones.