The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has said it cannot afford $1.8bn (£1.5bn) to organise much-anticipated elections in 2017. Such financial strain could imperil a deal struck on 31 December 2016 stipulating that Joseph Kabila should step down as president after elections held by the end of the coming year.

On 15 February, Minister of State in charge of Budget, Pierre Kangudia Mbayi announced that Kabila's administration cannot afford the expensive $1.8bn cost needed to hold elections this year.

"It will be difficult to think that we can mobilise $1.8bn this year. At this stage, I prefer to keep a language of sincerity," Kangudia Mbayi said during a press conference in the capital Kinshasa.

The country faced a political impasse after it was clear that presidential elections originally scheduled for November 2016 would not take place, a move critics said was an attempt by President Joseph Kabila to try to hold on to power in Africa's largest copper producer.

Congolese political leaders, however, reached the eleventh-hour agreement – a deal that initially reduced tension between the government and the opposition.

Current election costs stand at $500m higher than a previous 2013 estimation from the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante (Ceni).

Ceni said, last November, it needed at least until July 2017 to register more than 30 million voters, and came up with the figure under a provision of an earlier agreement reached by the government and a faction of the opposition in October 2016.

In February last year, activists alleged the electoral commission was 'playing the game of the regime', after the body announced revised dates and budgets for the upcoming elections in the Central African nation.

A clause under the 31 December agreement says the main opposition group, led by Etienne Tshisekedi, should appoint a Prime Minister for a new unity government.

However, Tshisekedi, who was set to oversee transition of presidential power, died of a pulmonary embolism in Brussels aged 84, on 1 February.