Once a site of fishing and trading villages, Kinshasa is now a megacity with an estimated population of more than 11 million. It faces Brazzaville, the capital of the neighbouring Republic of the Congo, which can be seen in the distance across the wide Congo River, making them the two closest capital cities on Earth after Rome and the Vatican City. The city of Kinshasa is also one of the DRC's 26 provinces. Because the administrative boundaries of the city-province cover a vast area, over 90 percent of the city-province's land is rural in nature, and the urban area occupies a small but expanding section on the western side.
Kinshasa is Africa's third-largest urban area after Cairo and Lagos. It is also the world's largest Francophone urban area (recently surpassing Paris in population), with French being the language of government, schools, newspapers, public services, and high-end commerce in the city, while Lingala is used as a lingua franca in the street. Kinshasa hosted the 14th Francophonie Summit in October 2012.
The city was founded as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881. It was named Léopoldville in honour of King Leopold II of Belgium, who controlled the vast territory that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not as a colony but as a 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. By 1923, the city was elevated to capital of the Belgian Congo, replacing the town of Boma in the Congo estuary. The town, nicknamed "Léo" or "Leopold", became a commercial centre and grew rapidly during the colonial period.
After gaining its independence on June 30, 1960, following riots in 1959, the Republic of the Congo elected its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba's determination to have full control over Congo's resources to improve the living conditions of his people was perceived as a threat to western interests. This being the height of the Cold War, it was inevitable that the U.S. and Belgium were not going 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. In 1965, with the help of the U.S. and Belgium, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu seized power in the Congo. He initiated a policy of "Africanizing" the names of people and places in the country. In 1966, Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, for a village named Kinchassa that once stood near the site, today Kinshasa (commune). The city 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 the 1990s, a rebel uprising began, which, by 1997, had brought down the regime of Mobutu. 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 centre for Central Africa, with a flourishing community of musicians and artists. It is also the country's major industrial centre, processing many of the natural products brought from the interior. The city has recently had to fend off rioting soldiers, who were protesting the government's failure to pay them.
Joseph Kabila, president of the Congo 2001–present, is not enormously popular in Kinshasa. 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 in December which involved barricades in the streets and left dozens of people dead. Schools and businesses were closed down.
Kinshasa is a city of sharp contrasts, with affluent residential and commercial areas and three universities alongside sprawling slums. It is located along the south bank of the Congo River, downstream on the Pool Malebo and directly opposite the city of Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo. 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 large river barges between Kinshasa and Kisangani, and 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.
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. 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.
Urban planning in post-independence Kinshasa has not been extensive. 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. Nevertheless spontaneously developed areas have in many cases extended the orthogonal streets from the original city.
Kinshasa is both a city (ville in French) and a province, one of the 26 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its status is thus similar to that of Paris which is both a city and one of the 101 departments of France. The ville-province of Kinshasa is divided into four districts which are further divided into 24 communes (municipalities), which in turn contain various quarters (332 in total). Maluku, the rural province to the east of the urban area, accounts for 79% of the 9.965 km2 total land area of the ville-province, with a population of 200,000–300,000.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Kinshasa has a Tropical wet and dry climate. 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 January. Kinshasa's dry season is slightly cooler than its wet season, though temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year.
An official census conducted in 1984 counted 2.6 million residents. Since then, all estimates are extrapolations. The estimates for 2005 fell in a range between 5.3 million and 7.3 million.
According to UN-Habitat, 390,000 people immigrate to Kinshasa annually, fleeing warfare and seeking economic opportunity. Many float on barges down the Congo River.
The head of Kinshasa ville-province has the title of Gouverneur. André Kimbuta has been governor since 2007. Each commune has its own Bourgmestre.
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. Kinshasa is also the primate city of the DRC with a population several times larger than the next-largest city, Lubumbashi.
The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUSCO (formerly MONUC) makes its headquarters in Kinshasa. In 2016 the UN placed more peacekeepers on active duty in Kinshasa in response to the recent unrest against Kabila. Critics, including recently the US ambassador to the UN, have accused the peacekeeping mission of supporting a corrupt government.
Other non-governmental organizations play significant roles in local governance. The Belgian development agency (Coopération technique belge; CTB) since 2006 sponsors 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.
Big manufacturing companies such as Marsavco S.A.R.L., All Pack Industries and Angel Cosmetics are located in the centre of town (Gombe) in Kinshasa.
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.
Although home to only 13% of the DRC’s population, Kinshasa accounts for 85% percent of the Congolese economy as measured by gross domestic product. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Since the Second Congo War, the city has been striving to recover from disorder, with many youth gangs hailing from Kinshasa's slums. 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.
Some sources say that Kinshasa is extremely dangerous, with one source giving a homicide rate of 112 per 100,000 people per year. Another source cites a homicide rate of 12.3 per 100,000. 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.
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.
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.
Street children or “Shegués”, often orphaned, are subject to abuse by the police and military. 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. Some have fled from physically abusive families, notably step-parents, others were expelled from their families as they were believed to be witches, and have become outcasts. Previously a significant number were civil war orphans.
Street children are mainly boys, but the percentage of girls is increasing according to UNICEF. Ndako ya Biso provides support for street children, including overnight accommodation for girls. There are also second generation street children.
These children have been the object of considerable outside study.
Kinshasa is home to several higher-level education institutes, covering a wide range of specialities, from civil engineering to nursing and journalism. The city is also home to three large universities and an arts school:Académie de Design (AD)
Institut Supérieur d'Architecture et Urbanisme
Université Panafricaine du Congo (UPC)
University of Kinshasa
Université Libre de Kinshasa
Université Catholique du Congo
Congo Protestant University
National Pedagogy University
National Institute of Arts
Institut Supérieur de Publicité et Médias
Prins van Luik School / Lycée Prince de Liège (primary and secondary education, Belgian curriculum)
Centre for Health Training (CEFA)
In 2005, 93% of children over six attended school and 70% of people over 15 were literate in French.
There are twenty hospitals in Kinshasa, plus various medical centres and polyclinics. In 1997, Dikembe Mutombo built a 300-bed hospital near his home town of Kinshasa.
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.
Kinshasa is the home to much of the Congo’s intelligentsia, including a political class which developed during the Mobutu era.
Kinshasa has a flourishing music scene which since the 1960s has operated under the patronage of the city's elite. The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, formed in 1994, began using improved musical instruments and has since grown in means and reputation.
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.
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 an early exemplar of the mikiliste style. La Sape, a linked cultural trend also described as dandyism, involves wearing of flamboyant clothing.
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.
Kinshasa is home to a large number of media outlets, including multiple radio and television stations that broadcast to nearly the entire country, including state-run Radio-Television 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, MONUC-backed Radio Okapi and Raga FM are based in Kinshasa, as well as numerous local stations. The BBC is also available in Kinshasa on 92.6 FM.
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.
Most of the media uses French and Lingala to a large extent; very few use the other national languages.
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 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.
Sports, especially football and martial arts are popular in Kinshasa. The Vita Club, now owned by General Gabriel Amisi Kumba frequently draws large crowds, enthusiastic and sometimes rowdy, to the Stade des Martyrs. Dojos are popular and their owners influential.
Kinshasa is home to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo including:the Palais de la Nation, home of the President, in Gombe;
the Palais du Peuple, meeting place of both houses of Parliament, Senate and National Assembly, in Lingwala;
the Cité de l’OUA, built for the Organization of African Unity in the 1970s and now serving government functions, in Ngaliema.
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 Kinshasa Museum; and the Kinshasa Fine Arts Academy. 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.
Kinshasa is home to the country's national stadium, the Stade des Martyrs (Stadium of the Martyrs).
The city's infrastructure for running water and electricity is generally in bad shape. The electrical network is in disrepair to the extent that prolonged and periodic blackouts are normal, and exposed lines sometimes electrify puddles of rainwater.
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). 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).
The city is estimated to produce 6,300 m3 of trash and 1,300 3 of industrial waste per day.
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. The high prices leave incoming refugees with few options for settlement besides illegal shantytowns such as Pakadjuma.
In 2005, 55% of households had televisions and 43% had mobile phones. 11% had refrigerators and 5% had cars.
The ville-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. The quality of roads has improved somewhat, developed in part with loans from China, since a nadir in year 2000.
Several private companies serve the city, among them the Urban Transport Company (STUC) and the Public City train (12 cars in 2002). The bus lines are:Gare centrale – Kingasani (municipality of Kimbanseke, reopened in September 2005);
Kingasani – Marché central
Matete – Royale (reopened in June 2006);
Matete – UPN (reopened in June 2006);
Rond-point Ngaba – UPN (reopened in June 2006).
Rond-point Victoire – clinique Ngliema (opened in March 2007)
Other companies also provide public transport: Urbaco, Tshatu Trans, Socogetra, Gesac and MB Sprl. The city buses carry up to 67,000 passengers per day. Several companies operate taxis and taxi-buses. Also available are fula-fula (trucks adapted to carry passengers). The majority (95.8 percent) of transport is provided by individuals.
The city has two airports: N'djili Airport (FIH) is the main airport with connections to other African countries as well as to Brussels, Paris and some other destinations. N'Dolo Airport, located close to the city centre, is used for domestic flights only with small turboprop aircraft. Several international airlines serve Ndjili Airport including Kenya Airways, Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Air France and Turkish Airlines. As of June 2016 DR Congo has two national airlines, Congo Airways, formed with the help of Air France, and Air Kasaï. Both offer scheduled flights from Kinshasa to a limited number of cities inside DR Congo.
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. As of April 2016, there was one passenger trip per week along the line, which travels the 350 kilometres (220 miles) between Kinshasa and Matadi every Saturday in about 7 hours; more frequent service was planned. Brazzaville in the neighbouring Republic of Congo is connected to its Atlantic port at Pointe-Noire via the Congo–Ocean Railway.
ONATRA operates three lines of urban railways linking the town centre, which goes to Bas-Congo.The main line linking the Central Station to the N'djili Airport has 9 stations: Central Station, Ndolo, Amicongo, Uzam, Masina / Petro-Congo, Masina wireless Masina / Mapela, Masina / Neighborhood III, Masina / Siforco Camp Badara and Ndjili airport.
The second line connects the Central Station in Kasangulu in Bas-Congo, through Matete, Riflart and Kimwenza.
The third line at the Central Station Kinsuka-pumping in the town of Ngaliema.
In 2007, Belgium assisted in a renovation of the country's internal rail network. This improved service to Kintambo, Ndolo, Limete, Lemba, Kasangulu, Gombe, Ndjili and Masina. During the early years of the 21st century, the city's planners considered creating a tramway in collaboration with public transport in Brussels (STIB), whose work would start in 2009. That work has not moved beyond the planning stage, partly due to lack of a sufficient electrical supply.
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.Nicolas-Patience Basabose, designer-architect and publisher of LeCongolais online news platform
Emmanuel Weyi, Congolese entrepreneur
Léopold Mutombo-Kalombo, Pastor, Apostle
Joseph Damien Tshatshi, colonel in the Armée Nationale Congolaise
Justin Marie Bomboko
David Norris, scholar and politician, 2011 election candidate for President of Ireland
D. J. Mbenga, professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers in the US National Basketball Association
Emmanuel Mudiay, professional basketball player of the Denver Nuggets in the US National Basketball Association
Christian Eyenga, professional basketball player and 2009 first round draft choice for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the US National Basketball Association
Dikembe Mutombo, retired professional basketball player
Christian M'Pumbu, professional mixed martial arts fighter and Bellator Fighting Championships World Champion
Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu, former Sheffield Wednesday football player
Jeremy Bokila, professional football player, son of Ndingi Bokila Mandjombolo
Claude Makélélé, professional football player and current manager
Steve Mandanda, professional footballer who plays for Crystal Palace and the France national football team
Ariza Makukula, naturalised Portuguese retired professional football player
José Bosingwa, naturalised Portuguese football player
Leroy Lita, professional football player
Fabrice Muamba, former professional footballer who played for Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League
Tim Biakabutuka, former professional American football player
Kazenga LuaLua, professional football player for Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Lomana LuaLua, professional football player for Al-Arabi in Qatar
Mwamba Kazadi, former professional football player who won the 1973 "African Footballer of the Year" award
Péguy Luyindula, professional football player for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1
Hérita Ilunga, professional football player
Gary Kikaya, retired Olympic 400 metre runner
Patrick Kabongo, professional football player for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League
Youssouf Mulumbu, professional footballer for Norwich City
Danny Mwanga, professional footballer for the Philadelphia Union
Blaise Nkufo, professional footballer for Switzerland
Gabriel Zakuani, professional football player for Peterborough United of The Football League in England
Steve Zakuani, professional football player for the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer in the United States
Occupé Bayenga, professional football player who currently plays in Universidad de Concepción, Chilean Primera División
Christian Benteke, professional football player for Crystal Palace F.C. of the Premier League and the Belgium national football team
Jody Lukoki, professional football player for Ludogorets Razgrad in the Bulgarian First League and the DR Congo national football team
Jimmy Omonga, singer-songwriter
JB Mpiana, singer-songwriter
Felix Wazekwa, singer-songwriter
Lokwa Kanza, singer-songwriter
Ya Kid K, hip-hop artist
Leki, R&B artist
Jessy Matador, singer
Odette Krempin, fashion designer
Kaysha, hip-hop artist
Merveille Lukeba, professional actor for the series Skins on E4
Mohombi, Pop, Hip Hop artist
Fally Ipupa, singer-songwriter
Koffi Olomide singer- songwriter
Kinshasa is twinned with:Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo)
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Ankara (Turkey) (2005)