Kinshasa (/kɪnˈʃɑːsə/; French: [kinʃasa]; Lingala: Kinsásá), formerly named Léopoldville before June 30, 1966, is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once a site of fishing and trading villages along the Congo River, Kinshasa is now one of the world's fastest-growing megacities. With an estimated population of 16 million residents, it's the most densely populated city in the DRC and the most populous city in Africa. It is Africa's third-largest metropolitan area and the leading economic, political, and cultural center of the DRC.[6][7][8][9] Kinshasa houses several industries, including manufacturing,[10] telecommunications,[11][12] banking, and entertainment.[13][14] The city also hosts some of DRC's significant institutional buildings, such as the Palais du Peuple, Palais de la Nation, Court of Cassation, Constitutional Court, Cité de l'Union Africaine, Palais de Marbre, Stade des Martyrs, Immeuble du Gouvernement, Kinshasa Financial Center, and multiple federal departments and agencies.[15][16][17][18]

Kinshasa
Ville de Kinshasa
Flag of Kinshasa
Official seal of Kinshasa
Nickname(s): 
Kin la belle
(lit.'Kin the beautiful')
Kinshasa on map of DR Congo provinces
Kinshasa on map of DR Congo provinces
Kinshasa is located in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Kinshasa
Kinshasa
Kinshasa on map of DR Congo
Kinshasa is located in Africa
Kinshasa
Kinshasa
Kinshasa (Africa)
Kinshasa is located in Earth
Kinshasa
Kinshasa
Kinshasa (Earth)
Coordinates: 04°19′19″S 15°18′43″E / 4.32194°S 15.31194°E / -4.32194; 15.31194
Country Democratic Republic of the Congo
Founded1881 (as Léopoldville)
City hallLa Gombe
Communes
Government
 • TypeProvincial assembly
 • BodyProvincial Assembly of Kinshasa
 • GovernorGentiny Ngobila Mbaka
Area
 • City-province9,965 km2 (3,848 sq mi)
 • Urban600 km2 (200 sq mi)
Elevation
240 m (790 ft)
Population
 (2021)
 • City-province17,071,000[1]
 • Density1,462/km2 (3,790/sq mi)
 • Urban16,316,000
 • Urban density27,000/km2 (70,000/sq mi)
 • Metro
17,239,463
 • Language
French and Lingala
Demonym(s)Kinshasan
Léopoldvillian (1881–1966)
Time zoneUTC+1 (West Africa Time)
Area code243 + 9
License Plate CodeDemocratic Republic of the Congo CGO / 01
HDI (2019)0.577[5]
medium1st

Geographically covering 9,965 square kilometers, Kinshasa stretches along the southern shores of the Pool Malebo, forming an expansive crescent across flat, low-lying terrain at an average altitude of about 300 meters.[19] Situated between latitudes 4° and 5° and longitudes East 15° and 16°32, Kinshasa shares its borders with the Mai-Ndombe Province, Kwilu Province, and Kwango Province to the east; the Congo River delineates its western and northern perimeters, constituting a natural border with the Republic of the Congo; to the south lies the Kongo Central Province. Across the river sits Brazzaville, the smaller capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo, forming the world's second-closest pair of capital cities despite being separated by a four-kilometer-wide unbridged span of the Congo River.[20][21][19][22]

Kinshasa also functions as one of the 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is administratively divided into 24 communes, which are further subdivided into 365 neighborhoods.[23] With an expansive administrative region, over 90 percent of the province's land remains rural, while urban growth predominantly occurs on its western side.[24] Kinshasa is the largest nominally Francophone urban area globally, with French being the language of government, education, media, public services and high-end commerce, while Lingala is used as a lingua franca in the street. The city's inhabitants are popularly known as Kinois, with the term "Kinshasans" used in English terminology.[6][25][26][27]

The Kinshasa site has historically been inhabited by Bantus (Teke, Humbu [fr]) for centuries and was known as Nshasa before transforming into a commercial hub during the 19th and 20th centuries.[19][28] The city was named Léopoldville by Henry Morton Stanley in honor of Leopold II of Belgium.[19][29][30] The name was changed to Kinshasa in 1966 during Mobutu Sese Seko's Zairianisation campaign as a tribute to Nshasa village.[19]

The National Museum of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is DRC's most prominent and central museum, housing a collection of art, artifacts, historical objects, and modern work of arts. The College of Advanced Studies in Strategy and Defense is the highest military institution in DRC and Central Africa. The National Pedagogical University is DRC's first pedagogical university and one of Africa's top pedagogical universities. N'Djili International Airport is the largest airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and ranks 37th in Africa in terms of passengers carried, with 12 international flights per day.[31] In December 2015, Kinshasa was designated as a City of Music by UNESCO and has been a member of the Creative Cities Network since then.[32][33] Nsele Valley Park is the largest urban park in Kinshasa, housing a plethora of fauna and flora.

According to the 2016 annual ranking, Kinshasa is Africa's most expensive city for expatriate employees, ahead of close to 200 global locations.[34][35][36]

Toponymy edit

The origin of the name Kinshasa is rooted in multiple theories proposed by scholars. Paul Raymaekers, an anthropologist and ethnologist, suggests that the name derives from the combination of the Kikongo and Kihumbu languages.[19] The prefix "Ki(n)" signifies a hill or inhabited area, while "Nsasa" or "Nshasa" refers to a bag of salt. According to Raymackers, Kinshasa was a significant trading site where people from the Lower Congo (now Kongo Central Province) and South Atlantic Ocean exchanged salt for goods like iron, slaves and ivory brought by those from the Upper Congo (now Tshopo Province).[19] However, Hendrik van Moorsel, an anthropologist, historian and researcher, proposes that Bateke fishermen traded fish for cassava with locals along the riverbank, and the place of this exchange was called "Ulio".[19][28] In Teke, "exchange" is "Utsaya", and "place of exchange" is "Intsaya". Thus, the name evolved from Ulio to Intsaya, and later, under the influence of Kikongo, transformed into Kintsaya, eventually becoming Kinshasa.[19] Kinshasa, also known as N'shasa, is regarded as the primary "place of exchange" on the southern bank of the Pool Malebo, where bartering occurred even before the commercial boom of Kintambo.[19]

The name Nshasa is believed to originate from the Teke verb "tsaya" (tsaa), meaning "to exchange", and the noun "intsaya" (insaa), referring to any market or place of exchange. It was at this location that Teke brokers traded ivory and slaves from the Banunu slave traders, often mistaken for the Yanzi, for European trade items brought by the Zombo and Kongo people.[19] Despite the various theories, the historical name of Kinshasa is known to have been Nshasa, as documented by Henry Morton Stanley during his crossing of Africa from Zanzibar to Boma in 1874–1877 when he mentioned visiting "the king of Nshasa" on March 14, 1877.[19][30][29]

History edit

 
View of Léopoldville station and port (1884)
 
Kinshassa village (1912)

Prior to the establishment of the city that is now Kinshasa, the area was for a time part of the Anziku Kingdom. By about 1698, it had become an essentially independent domain known as Nkonkobela.[37]

The city was established as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881.[38] It was named Léopoldville in honor of Stanley's employer King Leopold II of the Belgians, who would eventually seize control of most of the Congo Basin as the Congo Free State, not as a colony but as his private property. The post flourished as the first navigable port on the Congo River above Livingstone Falls, a series of rapids over 300 kilometres (190 miles) below Leopoldville. At first, all goods arriving by sea or being sent by sea had to be carried by porters between Léopoldville and Matadi, the port below the rapids and 150 km (93 mi) from the coast. The completion of the Matadi-Kinshasa portage railway, in 1898, provided an alternative route around the rapids and sparked the rapid development of Léopoldville. In 1914, a pipeline was installed so that crude oil could be transported from Matadi to the upriver steamers in Leopoldville.[39] By 1923, the city was elevated to capital of the Belgian Congo, replacing the town of Boma in the Congo estuary, pursuant to the Royal Decree of July 1, 1923, countersigned by the Minister of the Colonies, Louis Franc.[19][39] Before this, Léopoldville was designated an "urban district," encompassing exclusively the communes of Kintambo and the current Gombe, which burgeoned around Ngaliema Bay.[19][40][41] Then the communes of Kinshasa, Barumbu, and Lingwala emerged. In the 1930s, these communes predominantly housed employees of Chanic, Filtisaf, and Utex Africa.[41]

In 1941, legislative ordinance n°293/AIMO of June 25, 1941, conferred Kinshasa the status of a city and established an Urban Committee (Comité Urbain), with an allocated area of 5,000 hectares and a population of 53,000.[42][41] Concurrently, it became the colony's capital, the Congo-Kasaï Province's capital, and the Moyen Congo district. The city was demarcated into two zones: the urban zone, comprising Léo II, Léo-Ouest, Kalina, Léo-I, or Léo-Est, and Ndolo; and the indigenous zone to the south. The urban populace swelled in 1945 with the cessation of forced labor, facilitating the influx of native Africans from rural regions. Léopoldville then became predominantly inhabited by the Bakongo ethnic group.[41]

In the 1950s, planned urban centers such as Lemba, Matete, and a segment of Ndjili were established to accommodate workers from the Limete industrial zone.[41] Lovanium University, the colony's inaugural university, was founded in 1954.[41] By 1957, Léopoldville comprised eleven communes and six adjunct regions: Kalamu, Dendale (present-day Kasa-Vubu commune), Saint Jean (now Lingwala), Ngiri-Ngiri, Kintambo, Limete, Bandalungwa, Léopoldville (current Gombe), Barumbu, Kinshasa, and Ngaliema; along with the adjunct regions of Lemba, Binza, Makala, Kimwenza, Kimbanseke, and Kingasani. Subsequently, the adjunct regions of Ndjili and Matete were incorporated.[41]

After gaining its independence on 30 June 1960, following riots in 1959, the Republic of the Congo elected its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba whose perceived pro-Soviet leanings were viewed as a threat by Western interests. This being the height of the Cold War, the U.S. and Belgium did not want to lose control of the strategic wealth of the Congo, in particular its uranium. Less than a year after Lumumba's election, the Belgians and the U.S. bought the support of his Congolese rivals and set in motion the events that culminated in Lumumba's assassination.[43] In 1964, Moïse Tshombe decreed the expulsion of all nationals of Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Mali, as well as all political refugees from Rwanda.[44][45][46][47] In 1965, with the help of the U.S. and Belgium, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu seized power in the Congo. He initiated a policy of "Authenticity", attempting to renativize the names of people and places in the country. On May 2, 1966, the government announced that the nation's major cities would be restored to their pre-colonial names, effective on June 30, the sixth anniversary of independence. [48] Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, for a village named Kinshasa that once stood near the site. Kinshasa grew rapidly under Mobutu, drawing people from across the country who came in search of their fortunes or to escape ethnic strife elsewhere, thus adding to the many ethnicities and languages already found there.

In 1991 the city had to fend off rioting soldiers, who were protesting the government's failure to pay them. Subsequently a rebel uprising began, which in 1997 finally brought down the regime of Mobutu.[39] Kinshasa suffered greatly from Mobutu's excesses, mass corruption, nepotism and the civil war that led to his downfall. Nevertheless, it is still a major cultural and intellectual center for Central Africa, with a flourishing community of musicians and artists. It is also the country's major industrial center, processing many of the natural products brought from the interior.

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2001 to 2019, was not overly popular in Kinshasa.[49] Violence broke out following the announcement of Kabila's victory in the contested election of 2006; the European Union deployed troops (EUFOR RD Congo) to join the UN force in the city. The announcement in 2016 that a new election would be delayed two years led to large protests in September and December which involved barricades in the streets and left dozens of people dead. Schools and businesses were closed down.[50][51]

Geography edit

 
Dawn at the banks of the Congo River in Ngaliema commune

Location edit

Kinshasa is strategically situated on the southern bank of the expansive Malebo Pool, spanning 9,965 square kilometers, configured in a grand crescent shape atop a low-lying, flat terrain with an average elevation hovering around 300 meters.[52][53] Positioned between latitudes 4° and 5° and longitudinal coordinates 15° to 16°32 east, Kinshasa is flanked by the provinces of Mai-Ndombe, Kwilu, and Kwango to the east, while the Congo River delineates its western and northern boundaries, naturally demarcating the border with the Republic of the Congo. To the south, it is demarcated by the Kongo Central Province.[54]

The Congo River is the second longest river in Africa after the Nile and has the continent's greatest discharge. As a waterway it provides a means of transport for much of the Congo Basin; it is navigable for river barges between Kinshasa and Kisangani; many of its tributaries are also navigable. The river is an important source of hydroelectric power, and downstream from Kinshasa it has the potential to generate power equivalent to the usage of roughly half of Africa's population.[55]

Relief edit

A view of Congo River from Kinshasa
Sunset by the Congo River in Kinshasa

Topographically, Kinshasa has a marshy, alluvial plain, with altitudes ranging from 275 to 300 meters, along with hilly terrain that elevates from 310 to 370 meters.[56][54][57] The city has four principal features: the Malebo Pool, a vast expanse of water with islands and islets; the Kinshasa Plain, which is a highly urbanizable space, but susceptible to drainage issues; the Terrace, which is a series of low ridges overlooking the plain; and the Hills Area, which is characterized by deep valleys and cirque-shaped formations.[54]

The Malebo Pool spans over 35 kilometers in length and 25 kilometers in width and is encircled by Ngaliema Municipality to the west and Maluku Municipality to the east, traversing through Gombe, Barumbu, Limete, Masina, and Nsele municipalities.[54] The Kinshasa Plain has a banana-like shape and is surrounded by eastward-oriented hills. Its low sandy alluvial masses extend from Maluku Municipality in the east to the western foothills of Ngaliema, covering approximately 20,000 hectares.[54]

The Terrace is mainly situated in the city's western expanse, between N'djili and Mount Ngafula. It comprises stony blocks of soft sandstone and silica-covered yellow clay, topped with brown silt, and ranges from 10 to 25 meters in height. It retains vestiges of an ancient surface.[54] The Hills Area commences several kilometers from the Malebo Pool and is characterized by deep valleys and cirque-shaped formations. These hills reach heights surpassing 700 meters and exhibit gentle, rounded contours sculpted by local rivers.[54] While their eastern counterparts may reflect remnants of the Batéké Plateau, their origins in the west and south remain enigmatic. Their natural erosion processes are exacerbated by human intervention, sometimes assuming catastrophic proportions.[54]

Hydrography edit

 
Congo River in full flow at Parc de la Vallée de la Nsele

Kinshasa's hydrographic network encompasses the Congo River and its principal left bank tributaries, traversing the city from south to north. These include the Lukunga, Ndjili, Nsele, Bombo, or Mai-Ndombe rivers and the Mbale.[54][58][59] Unfortunately, these waterways are polluted due to the city's demographic pressures and inadequate sanitation.[54]

Geology edit

Geologically, the soil in Kinshasa is of the Arenoferrasol category,[60][61] characterized by fine sands with a clay content typically below 20%, low organic matter, and absorbent complex saturation.[54] The basement is composed of Precambrian bedrock, featuring finely stratified red sandstone often infused with feldspar. This rock is visible at the rapids' base near Mount Ngaliema and south of the N'djili River, and effectively withstands erosive forces.[54]

Vegetation edit

 
A view of Congo River from Kinshasa

Kinshasa's vegetation comprises gallery forests, grassy formations, ruderal plant groups, and aquatic formations. These gallery forests, found along the main watercourses within humid valleys of the Congolese guinéo ombrophile type, have degraded into highly exploited pre-forest fallows, manifesting as reclusive foresters of varying ages.[54] Ruderal plant groups line railway tracks within narrow strips, reflecting the region's vegetation cover's discontinuity and repetition. Kinshasa is home to diverse vegetation types, each intricately linked to specific ecological parameters.[54]

Residential and commercial areas edit

Kinshasa is a city of sharp contrasts, with affluent residential and commercial areas and three universities alongside sprawling slums.[62] The older and wealthier part of the city (ville basse) is located on a flat area of alluvial sand and clay near the river, while many newer areas are found on the eroding red soil of surrounding hills.[2][49] Older parts of the city were laid out on a geometric pattern, with de facto racial segregation becoming de jure in 1929 as the European and African neighborhoods grew closer together. City plans of the 1920s–1950s featured a cordon sanitaire or buffer between the white and black neighborhoods, which included the central market as well as parks and gardens for Europeans.[63]

Urban planning in post-independence Kinshasa has been limited. The Mission Française d'Urbanisme drew up some plans in the 1960s which envisioned a greater role for automobile transportation but did not predict the city's significant population growth. Thus much of the urban structure has developed without guidance from a master plan. According to UN-Habitat, the city is expanding by eight square kilometers per year. It describes many of the new neighborhoods as slums, built in unsafe conditions with inadequate infrastructure.[64] Nevertheless, spontaneously developed areas have in many cases extended the grid street plan of the original city.[62]

Administrative divisions edit

Kinshasa is both a city (ville in French) and a province, one of the 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nevertheless, it has city subdivisions and is divided into 24 communes (municipalities), which in turn are divided into 369 quarters and 21 embedded groupings.[65] Maluku, the rural commune to the east of the urban area, accounts for 79% of the 9.965 km2 (3.848 sq mi) total land area of the city-province,[24] with a population of 200,000–300,000.[62] The communes are grouped into four districts which are not in themselves administrative divisions.

The 24 communes of Kinshasa
 
Abbreviations : Kal. (Kalamu), Kin. (Kinshasa), K.-V. (Kasa-Vubu), Ling. (Lingwala), Ng.-Ng. (Ngiri-Ngiri)

Climate edit

Under the Köppen climate classification, Kinshasa has a tropical wet and dry climate (Aw). Its lengthy rainy season spans from October through May, with a relatively short dry season, between June and September. Kinshasa lies south of the equator, so its dry season begins around its winter solstice, which is in June. This is in contrast to African cities further north featuring this climate where the dry season typically begins around December. Kinshasa's dry season is slightly cooler than its wet season, though temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year.

Climate data for Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36
(97)
36
(97)
38
(100)
37
(99)
37
(99)
37
(99)
32
(90)
33
(91)
35
(95)
35
(95)
37
(99)
34
(93)
38
(100)
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 30.6
(87.1)
31.3
(88.3)
32.0
(89.6)
32.0
(89.6)
31.1
(88.0)
28.8
(83.8)
27.3
(81.1)
28.9
(84.0)
30.6
(87.1)
31.1
(88.0)
30.6
(87.1)
30.1
(86.2)
30.4
(86.7)
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.9
(78.6)
26.4
(79.5)
26.8
(80.2)
26.9
(80.4)
26.3
(79.3)
24.0
(75.2)
22.5
(72.5)
23.7
(74.7)
25.4
(77.7)
26.2
(79.2)
26.0
(78.8)
25.6
(78.1)
25.5
(77.9)
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 21.2
(70.2)
21.6
(70.9)
21.6
(70.9)
21.8
(71.2)
21.6
(70.9)
19.3
(66.7)
17.7
(63.9)
18.5
(65.3)
20.2
(68.4)
21.3
(70.3)
21.5
(70.7)
21.2
(70.2)
20.6
(69.1)
Record low °C (°F) 18
(64)
20
(68)
18
(64)
20
(68)
18
(64)
15
(59)
10
(50)
12
(54)
16
(61)
17
(63)
18
(64)
16
(61)
10
(50)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 163
(6.4)
165
(6.5)
221
(8.7)
238
(9.4)
142
(5.6)
9
(0.4)
5
(0.2)
2
(0.1)
49
(1.9)
98
(3.9)
247
(9.7)
143
(5.6)
1,482
(58.4)
Average precipitation days 12 12 14 17 12 1 0 1 6 10 16 14 115
Average relative humidity (%) 83 82 81 82 82 81 79 74 74 79 83 83 80
Mean monthly sunshine hours 136 141 164 153 164 144 133 155 138 149 135 127 1,739
Source 1: Climate-Data.org (temperature)[66] Weatherbase (extremes)[67]
Source 2: Danish Meteorological Institute (precipitation, sun, and humidity)[68]

Parks and gardens edit

Kinshasa is home to a diverse range of parks and gardens:

 
Nsele Valley Park, Kinshasa, October 2021

Demographics edit

An official census conducted in 1984 counted 2.6 million residents.[73] Since then, all estimates are extrapolations. The estimates for 2005 fell in a range between 5.3 million and 7.3 million.[62] In 2017, the most recent population estimate for the city, it has a population of 11,855,000.[74]

According to UN-Habitat, 390,000 people immigrate to Kinshasa annually, fleeing warfare and seeking economic opportunity.[75]

According to a projection (2016) the population of metropolitan Kinshasa will increase significantly, to 35 million by 2050, 58 million by 2075 and 83 million by 2100,[76] making it one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.

Language edit

The official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which Kinshasa is the capital, is French (See: Kinshasa French vocabulary). Kinshasa is the largest officially Francophone city in the world, albeit that the vast majority of people either cannot speak French, or struggle in speaking it.[77][78][79] Although Lingala is widely used as a spoken language, French is the language of street signs, posters, newspapers, government documents, schools; it dominates plays, television, and the press, and it is used in vertical relationships among people of different social classes. People of the same class, however, speak the Congolese languages (Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba or Swahili) among themselves.[80] Kinshasa hosted the 14th Francophonie Summit in October 2012.[81]

Government and politics edit

 
Statue of Lumumba, and behind it the Limete Tower

The head of Kinshasa ville-province has the title of Gouverneur. Gentiny Ngobila Mbaka [fr] has been governor since 2019.[82] Each commune has its own Bourgmestre.[62]

Although political power in the DRC is fragmented, Kinshasa as the national capital represents the official center of sovereignty, and thus of access to international organizations and financing, and of political powers such as the right to issue passports.[49] Kinshasa is also the primate city of the DRC with a population several times larger than the next-largest city, Lubumbashi.[83][64]

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUSCO (formerly MONUC) has its headquarters in Kinshasa. In 2016, the UN placed more peacekeepers on active duty in Kinshasa in response to the unrest directed against Kabila, at that time.[84] Critics, including recently[when?] the US ambassador to the UN,[85] have accused the peacekeeping mission of supporting a corrupt government.[86][87]

Other non-governmental organizations play significant roles in local governance.[88] Since 2016, the Belgian development agency (Coopération technique belge; CTB) has sponsored the Programme d’Appui aux Initiatives de Développement Communautaire (Paideco), a 6-million-euro program aimed at economic development. It began work in Kimbanseke, a hill commune with population verging on one million.[89]

Economy edit

 
Marsavco

Mining sector and export growth edit

In 2022, Kinshasa's GDP exceeded initial expectations by expanding 8.5%, as reported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The mining industry in the DRC has been instrumental in maintaining a positive economic outlook, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Raw material exports, particularly cobalt and copper, have experienced historically high prices, resulting in substantial investment in the industry. Parenthetically, production has increased, and Covid-related restrictions have eased, leading to sustained economic growth.[90][91]

Fiscal performance and debt sustainability edit

Despite facing external challenges, including the repercussions of the Russo-Ukrainian War, the DRC has shown fiscal stability. In 2022, tax performance exceeded projections, showcasing improved revenue generation. However, increased expenditures related to security concerns and internal arrears resulted in a deterioration of the overall budget balance. Nevertheless, the DRC's debt risk remains moderate, with public debt at 24.7% of GDP. The approval of the 3rd review of the IMF program reflects the satisfactory performance of the country's reform efforts.[92][91]

Companies, foreign exchange reserves, international support edit

Big manufacturing companies such as Marsavco S.A., All Pack Industries and Angel Cosmetics are located in the center of town (Gombe) in Kinshasa.

 
In front of Government Hall located on Boulevard du 30 Juin in Kinshasa, August 2018

There are many other industries, such as Trust Merchant Bank, located in the heart of the city. Food processing is a major industry, and construction and other service industries also play a significant role in the economy.[93]

Although home to only 13% of the DRC's population, Kinshasa accounts for 85% of the Congolese economy as measured by gross domestic product.[64] A 2004 investigation found 70% of inhabitants employed informally, 17% in the public sector, 9% in the formal private sector, and 3% other, of a total 976,000 workers. Most new jobs are classified as informal.[62]

By the end of 2022, Kinshasa's foreign exchange reserves had seen a significant improvement, soaring past $4.5 billion. The DRC benefits from support and partnerships with several global organizations and financial institutions, including the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, European Union, China and France.[92]

The People's Republic of China has been heavily involved in the Congo since the 1970s, when they financed the construction of the Palais du Peuple and backed the government against rebels in the Shaba war. In 2007–2008 China and Congo signed an agreement for an $8.5 billion loan for infrastructure development.[94] Chinese entrepreneurs are gaining an increasing share of local marketplaces in Kinshasa, displacing in the process formerly successful Congolese, West African, Indian, and Lebanese merchants.[95]

Mean household spending in 2005 was the equivalent of US$2,150, amounting to $1 per day per person. The median household spending was $1,555, 66 cents per person per day. Among the poor, more than half of this spending goes to food, especially bread and cereal.[62]

Education edit

 
Park of the University of Kinshasa, below, the Administrative Building

Kinshasa is home to several higher-level education institutes, covering a wide range of disciplines, including civil engineering, nursing, and journalism. The city is also home to three large universities and an arts school:

Primary and secondary schools:

In 2020, 93% of children over six attended school and 70% of people over 15 were literate in French.[99]

Health and medicine edit

 
Monkole Hospital, Kinshasa

There are twenty hospitals in Kinshasa, plus various medical centers and polyclinics.[100]

Since 1991, Monkole Hospital is operating as a non-profit health institution collaborating with the Health Department as district hospital in Kinshasa. Directed by Pr Léon Tshilolo, paediatrician and haematologist, Monkole Hospital opened a 150-bed building in 2012 with improved clinical services as laboratory, diagnostic radiology, intensive care, neonatal unit, family medicine, emergencies unit and a larger surgical area.

Culture edit

 
National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa

Located in Kinshasa are the National Museum and the Kinshasa Fine Arts Academy.[101]

Kinshasa has a flourishing music scene which, since the 1960s, has operated under the patronage of the city's elite.[49] The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, formed in 1994, began using improved musical instruments and has since grown in means and reputation.[102]

A pop culture ideal type in Kinshasa is the mikiliste, a fashionable person with money who has traveled to Europe. Adrien Mombele, a.k.a. Stervos Niarcos, and musician Papa Wemba were early exemplars of the mikiliste style.[49] La Sape, a linked cultural trend also described as dandyism, involves wearing flamboyant clothing.[103]

Many Kinois have a negative view of the city, expressing nostalgia for the rural way of life, and a stronger association with the Congolese nation than with Kinshasa.[104]

Places of worship edit

Among the places of worship, which are predominantly Christian churches and temples: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kinshasa (Catholic Church), Kimbanguist Church, Baptist Community of Congo (Baptist World Alliance), Baptist Community of the Congo River (Baptist World Alliance), The Salvation Army, Assemblies of God, Province of the Anglican Church of the Congo (Anglican Communion), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which has a temple and over 100 congregations in Kinshasa, Presbyterian Community in Congo (World Communion of Reformed Churches).[105] There are also Muslim mosques. A Baha'i House of Worship is construction.[106]

Media edit

 
Office of the Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP)

Press freedom is very low in the DRC, especially in Kinshasa. State run channels report little political news. Journalism is strictly controlled, with DRC scoring only 48.55% on the Press Freedom Index, in 2023.[107] Nevertheless, Kinshasa is home to several media outlets, including radio and television stations, including state-run Radio-Télévision nationale congolaise (RTNC) and privately run Digital Congo and Raga TV. The private channel RTGA is also based in Kinshasa.

Several national radio stations, including La Voix du Congo, which is operated by RTNC, UN-backed Radio Okapi are based in Kinshasa, as well as numerous local stations. The BBC is also available in Kinshasa on 92.6 FM.[108]

The state-controlled Agence Congolaise de Presse news agency is based in Kinshasa, as well as several daily and weekly newspapers and news websites, including L'Avenir (daily), La Conscience, LeCongolais (online),L'Observateur (daily), Le Phare, Le Potentiel, and Le Soft.[109]

Most of the media use French and Lingala to a large extent; very few use the other national languages.

Sports edit

Sports, especially football and martial arts are popular in Kinshasa. The city is home to the country's national stadium, the Stade des Martyrs (Stadium of the Martyrs). The Vita Club, Daring Club Motema Pembe and AS Dragons frequently draws large crowds, enthusiastic and sometimes rowdy, to the Stade des Martyrs. Dojos are popular and their owners influential.[49]

In 1974, Kinshasa hosted The Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, in which Ali defeated Foreman, to regain the World Heavyweight title.

Buildings and institutions edit

Kinshasa is home to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo including:

 
The People's Palace, seat of the Congolese parliament

The Central Bank of the Congo has its headquarters on Boulevard Colonel Tshatshi, across the street from the Mausoleum of Laurent Kabila and the presidential palace.

The quartier Matonge is known regionally for its nightlife.

Notable features of the city include the Gecamines Commercial Building (formerly SOZACOM) and Hotel Memling skyscrapers; L'ONATRA, the impressive building of the Ministry of Transport; the central market; the Limete Tower. The face of Kinshasa is changing as new buildings are being built on the Boulevard du 30 Juin: Crown Tower (on Batetela) and Congofutur Tower.

Infrastructure and housing edit

 
Road of Kinshasa City

The city's infrastructure for running water and electricity is generally in bad shape.[110] The electrical network is in disrepair to the extent that prolonged and periodic blackouts are normal, and exposed lines sometimes electrify pools of rainwater.[49][62]

Regideso, the national public company with primary responsibility for water supply in the Congo, serves Kinshasa only incompletely, and not with uniformly perfect quality. Other areas are served by decentralized Associations des Usagers des Réseau d’Eau Potable (ASUREPs).[73] Gombe uses water at a high rate (306 liters per day per inhabitant) compared to other communes (from 71 L/d/i in Kintambo down to 2 L/d/i in Kimbanseke).[62]

The city is estimated to produce 6,300 m3 of trash and 1,300 m3 of industrial waste per day, with little to no capacity for disposal.[62]

The housing market has seen rising prices and rents since the 1980s. Houses and apartments in the central area are expensive, with houses selling for a million dollars and apartments going for $5000 per month. High prices have spread outward from the central area as owners and renters move out of the most expensive part of the city. Gated communities and shopping malls, built with foreign capital and technical expertise, began to appear in 2006. Urban renewal projects have led in some cases to violent conflict and displacement.[49][111] The high prices leave incoming refugees with few options for settlement besides illegal shantytowns such as Pakadjuma.[75]

In 2005, 55% of households had televisions and 43% had mobile phones. 11% had refrigerators and 5% had cars.[62]

Transport edit

 
The Boulevard du 30 Juin provides an artery to the business district in Gombe, Kinshasa.

The city-province has 5000 km of roadways, 10% of which are paved. The Boulevard du 30 Juin (Boulevard of 30 June) links the main areas of the central district of the city. Other roads also converge on Gombe. The east–west road network linking the more distant neighborhoods is weak and thus transit through much of the city is difficult.[62] The quality of roads has improved somewhat, developed in part with loans from China, since 2000.[49]

The public bus company for Kinshasa, created in 2003, is Transco (Transport au Congo).[112]

Several companies operate registered taxis and taxi-buses, identifiable by their yellow color. In addition, an Uber-style, mobile phone, app-based, taxi hailing service was introduced in 2023.[113]

Air edit

The city has two airports: N'djili Airport (FIH) is the main airport with connections to other African countries as well as to Istanbul, Brussels, Paris and some other destinations. N'Dolo Airport, located close to downtown, is used for domestic flights only with small turboprop aircraft. Several international airlines serve Ndjili Airport including Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Air France and Turkish Airlines. An average of ten international flights depart each day from N'djili Airport.[114] A small number of airlines provide domestic service from Kinshasa, for example Congo Airways and CAA. Both offer scheduled flights from Kinshasa to a limited number of cities inside DR Congo.[115]

Rail edit

 
A memorial at Kinshasa train station remembering those who died during the construction of the railroad

The Matadi–Kinshasa Railway connects Kinshasa with Matadi, Congo's Atlantic port. The line reopened in September 2015 after around a decade without regular service. There is an intermittent service, with a poor safety record.

According to the Société Commerciale des Transports et des Ports (SCTP), the Matadi-Kinshasa Railway (CFMK) has the highest transport of goods in import, 8 746 tonnes in January, 11,318 tonnes in February 10,032 tonnes in March, 7,244 tonnes in April, 5,024 tonnes in March and 7,745 tonnes in June. The monthly tonnage of exported goods reached only 1,000 tonnes in the month of March 2018. In January some 284 tonnes of goods were exported from the ports of Boma and Matadi, via the railway, and 711 tonnes in February, then 1,058 tonnes in March, 684 tonnes in April, 818 tonnes in May and 853 tonnes in June.

The monthly statistics for passenger traffic are as follows: 2,294 persons in January, 1,836 in February, 2065 in March, 2,660 in April, 1,952 in May and 2,660 in June.

The line connecting the port of Matadi to Kinshasa is 366 km long. Its distance has been since 3111 of 3112 feet or 42 inches (lane capped 1,067 meter): This railway belongs, in fact, to the National Railway Company of the Congo (Société nationale des chemins de fer du Congo; SNCC). It is only exploited by the SCTP, formerly ONATRA, according to an agreement signed by the two companies.

This line lost large shares of the market, following its lamentable state, insecurity on the rails (some trains are attacked), and the rehabilitation of the road along the rails in 2000. According to Congolese sources, an agreement with a Chinese construction company was signed in 2006, according to which this Chinese company will finance the renovation of the track, the rolling stock, the communication channels for the signaling, and the electrical power source. The ex-ONATRA has, in fact, opted for an aggressive commercial policy to revive the rails.

On June 30, 2018, the SCTP received two locomotives and 50 wagons from the African firm ARSS (African-Rolling Stock Solution).

In 2017, some 2.2 million tonnes of cement were produced by the two new start-up companies, PPC Barnet and Kongo Cement Factory (CIMKO). The SCTP did indeed transport part of this production to Kinshasa but the exact quantity was not communicated by the railway department of the company, the former DG Kimbembe Mazunga had communicated an agreed protocol of agreements with the cement manufacturers of Kongo-Central for the transport of their productions.

External transport edit

Kinshasa is the major river port of the Congo. The port, called 'Le Beach Ngobila' extends for about 7 km (4 mi) along the river, comprising scores of quays and jetties with hundreds of boats and barges tied up. Ferries cross the river to Brazzaville, a distance of about 4 km (2 mi). River transport also connects to dozens of ports upstream, such as Kisangani and Bangui.

There are road and rail links to Matadi, the sea port in the Congo estuary 150 km (93 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean.

There are no rail links from Kinshasa further inland, and road connections to much of the rest of the country are few and in poor condition. Although there has been a road built to the city of Kikwit (around 500km away) that has been in operation since 2015 or so. It was recently extended to the small city of Tshikapa.

Social issues edit

Crime and punishment edit

Since the Second Congo War, the city has been striving to recover from disorder, with many youth gangs hailing from Kinshasa's slums.[116] The U.S. State Department in 2010 informed travelers that Kinshasa and other major Congolese cities are generally safe for daytime travel, but to beware of robbers, especially in traffic jams and in areas near hotels and stores.[117]

Some sources say that Kinshasa is extremely dangerous, with one source giving a homicide rate of 112 per 100,000 people per year.[118] Another source cites a homicide rate of 12.3 per 100,000.[119] By some accounts, crime in Kinshasa is not so rampant, due to relatively good relations among residents and perhaps to the severity with which even petty crime is punished.[49]

While the military and National Police operate their own jails in Kinshasa, the main detention facility under the jurisdiction of the local courts is the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Re-education center in Malaka. This prison houses more than double its nominal capacity of 1,000 inmates. The Congolese military intelligence organization, Détection Militaire des Activités Anti-Patrie (DEMIAP) operates the Ouagadougou prison in Kintambo commune with notorious cruelty.[119][120]

By 2017 the population of Malaka prison was reported at 7,000–8,000. Of these, 3,600–4,600 escaped in a jailbreak in May 2017.[121][122]

Street children edit

In the 2010s, street children or "Shegués", often orphaned, are subject to abuse by the police and military.[123] Of the estimated 20,000 children living on Kinshasa's streets, almost a quarter are beggars, some are street vendors and about a third have some kind of employment.[124] Some have fled from physically abusive families, notably step-parents, others were expelled from their families as they were believed to be witches,[125] and have become outcasts.[126][127][128] Previously a significant number were civil war orphans.

Street children are mainly boys,[129] but the percentage of girls is increasing according to UNICEF. Ndako ya Biso provides support for street children, including overnight accommodation for girls.[130] There are also second generation street children.[131]

These children have been the object of considerable outside study.[132]

 
Downtown Kinshasa at night

Notable people edit

International relations edit

Kinshasa is twinned with:

In popular culture edit

With its mix of culture, history, and lively atmosphere, Kinshasa has become a focus for filmmakers, musicians, writers, and artists.[135]

Cinematic and TV representations edit

 
Foreman trying to punch Ali, October 1974

Kinshasa has been represented in various films, most notably in the film When We Were Kings (1996). This documentary chronicles the historic Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, held in Kinshasa in 1974. The film showcases the electrifying atmosphere of the city during the momentous event.[136][137][138]

In Viva Riva! (2010), directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, the film offers a gritty portrayal of the city's underworld, showing the tension between corruption, ambition, and survival.[139]

Kinshasa's social complexities are explored in Félicité (2017), directed by Alain Gomis. The film explores themes of pliability, community, and the power of music in the face of adversity. The film portrayed the essence of Kinshasa, depicting its vivacious music scene and the struggles faced by its inhabitants with sensitivity and authenticity.[140]

In 2019, The Widow (TV series) was released on Amazon Prime and the UK's ITV network. The mini-series tells the story of a woman searching for her husband in Kinshasa, after believing he'd been killed in a plane crash. [141]

Literary depictions edit

Throughout history, authors have depicted the essence of Kinshasa in their writing, delving into its diverse cultural fabric, storied past, and the personal narratives of its residents. Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 depicts the city's nightlife while exploring themes of postcolonial identity and the struggle for social and economic progress.[142] Meanwhile, In Koli Jean Bofane's novel Congo Inc.: Bismarck's Testament the city serves as a microcosm of post-colonial Congo, exploring themes of globalization, political corruption, and environmental degradation.[143]

Music and dance edit

 
Congolese band Zaïko Langa Langa performing in Kinshasa, in 1971

The music scene of Kinshasa has also made a significant impact on popular culture. Congolese rumba, a genre born in the city during the 1930s, continues to resonate globally. Artists like Franco Luambo Makiadi, Syran Mbenza, Le Grand Kallé, Nico Kasanda, Tabu Ley Rochereau, M’bilia Bel, Madilu System, Papa Noel Nedule, Vicky Longomba, Awilo Longomba, Pépé Kallé, Kanda Bongo Man, Nyboma Mwan'dido, General Defao, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide, Werrason, Abeti Masikini, Lokua Kanza, Fally Ipupa, and Ferré Gola have played a key role in popularizing Congolese music on the international stage, infusing their compositions with Kinshasa's pulsating rhythms and infectious energy. The infectious beats of Congolese music have influenced artists across continents, shaping genres like soukous and influencing international musicians such as Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend.[144][145][146][147]

Visual arts and fashion edit

Kinshasa's street art scene has gained recognition globally, with talented artists using their creations to express social and political messages. Murals and graffiti, adorned with colorful imagery, can be found throughout the city.[148][149][150]

La Sape edit

 
A traditional sapeur dressed in an outfit made from pearls in kinshasa, February 2015

The La Sape subculture, characterized by extravagant and dapper fashion choices, has become an emblem of style, self-expression, and identity for the sapeurs of Kinshasa. It has gained international recognition through the lens of well-known photographers such as Daniele Tamagni. Tamagni's book Gentlemen of Bacongo (2009) showcases the impeccable style and distinct personalities of Kinshasa's sapeurs, accentuating their taste in tailored suits, bold hues, and eye-catching accessories.[151][152] The city serves as the epicenter of La Sape, with various neighborhoods, communes and districts hosting events like le concours or la fête where sapeurs can display their style. La Sape has also inspired popular music and cultural expressions in Kinshasa, with sapeurs often featured in Congolese music videos as symbols of refinement and sophistication. Musicians such as Papa Wemba have embraced La Sape as an essential part of their artistic identity.[151][153][154]

Martial arts edit

WWE wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura uses a running knee strike, called the Kinshasa, as his finisher, a reference to the eponymous city. The move was previously named as Bomaye (which translated to "kill him") during his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling but was renamed in 2016 when he was signed with the WWE for trademark reasons.[155] Both Bomaye and Kinshasa are homages to Nakamura's mentor, Antonio Inoki, who received Bomaye as a nickname from Muhammad Ali when Inoki and Ali fought in 1976, with Ali first hearing Bomaye in Kinshasa during the Rumble In The Jungle.[156]

See also edit

Films about Kinshasa edit

References edit

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Bibliography edit

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