We’ve relished the fond memories of rumble in the jungle long enough. Remember that 1974 heavyweight boxing fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, which Mobutu Sese Seko used to bring Kinshasa on the international scene. Kinshasa, the host city, was then the capital of Mobutu’s Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though it’s been over four decades since the magnificent Kinshasa last got that kind of global attention, we should not forget the improved picture of this incredible city. In this piece, we shall consider seven things that have kept Kinshasa on the global scene since then.
How many people live in Kinshasa—11 or 12 million? Well, nobody is certain. A bill to ensure that a census was conducted before the next election (in 2017 as it now seems) failed at the senate. Anyway, the consensus seem to be that Kinshasa is home to over 10 million people most of who speak French alongside Lingala. The statistics is quite staggering, but it well places the city ahead of many cities (and countries) using French as official language, and this was the credential that allowed it host the Summit of La Francophonie in 2012.
What is Kinshasa’s biggest export? Oops! Not oil or diamond, but music! It is why Koffi Olomide, Papa Wemba and Werrason pull as much crowd as Justine Bieber. The local genres of music are Congolese Rumba, Soukou and Ndombole and they are completed with stunning dance steps. To encourage the popularity of these genre of music, the DRC government once banned the playing of foreign music (except classical tunes) on local radio stations.
La SAPE, an abbreviation of Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (The Society of Ambiance-Makers—or atmosphere-setters—and Elegant People) is a popular feature in Kinshasa. Members (sapeur) dress flamboyantly, displaying swagger that challenges that status quo and epitomises their freedom of expression. La SAPE is a showmanship culture, with members living in stark contrast with their environment.
You can almost scream: “How is the weather over there?” from Kinshasa to someone in Brazzaville and hope they hear you. Well, I am not sure they will but what I know is that you can stay in Kinshasa and be looking at Brazzaville across the Congo River. That is how close these two capital cities are. Kinshasa is the capital of DRC while Brazzaville is Republic of Congo’s capital. The distance between them is a few kilometres of water, but there are stark differences though residents speak the same language. Well, it’s up to you to guess who the noisy party is and which is the tranquil city.
In Kinshasa, you eat meat, fish, fried plantain, manioc and salad, in fact, just about everything with huge blobs of mayonnaise. Locals often flavour it with local chilli pepper sauce (piripiri). Even the best restaurants in town have mayonnaise on the standby for every meal.
You don’t want to experience Kinshasa hectic traffic on a bad day. To check the traffic hell, Industrial Engineer Thérèse Inza came up with the idea of Robotcop that function as traffic regulating officer and traffic light. These Robotcop are real humanoid, eight-foot-tall robots stationed at traffic intersections in the capital to controls and monitors traffic flow.
With nine countries sharing borders with DRC, this country is no doubt Africa’s crossroads. DRC is equally the continent’s second-largest country in area behind Algeria while its capital, Kinshasa, is Africa third largest city by population.
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