Governor Jacques Mbadu explains the socioeconomic revitalization of Kongo Central Province in recent years and the multimillion-dollar investments, both public and private, that have been pouring into the province, and details the significant opportunities for investors in its tourism, agriculture, industry, mining and energy sectors.
Kongo Central is one of the most dynamic provinces of DRC. Under your guidance, the province was economically and socially revitalized, capitalizing on the numerous opportunities the province presents. What can you tell us about your development strategy, and what is your assessment of the social advances achieved until now?
Everything is born from the will of the constituents, who wanted to put decentralization at the heart of the country’s political system. It is also necessary to add the will of the President of the Republic and that of the Prime Minister, committed to the improvement of the business climate to attract investments. These two elements are the basis of the advances that we were able to obtain.
Since I have been the head of the province of Kongo Central, the evolution of social affairs has been very positive.
Regarding education: of more than 1,000 schools under construction in the whole of the country, Kongo Central has already built over 70 schools using local materials. This had a direct social impact on the communities where schools were built. It brought growth and purchasing power to our population in rural areas.
Regarding health: the province’s 28 high-standard general hospitals were equipped with operating blocks and maternity delivery rooms.
The central government set up a program to equip 28 general hospitals, 31 Health Zones as well as 375 clinics in the province of Kongo Central. Three general hospitals are under construction, bringing the total to 31 general hospitals with one hospital for each Health Zone, with the aim of modernizing infrastructure and health equipment.
Recently, in the name of the President, I provided a contribution of six equipped ambulances to six hospitals in the province. Of the 28 general hospitals in the province, 22 hospitals had already received ambulances, and with this latest contribution, we were able to provide for the remaining six. Today, every hospital in the province of Kongo Central is equipped with a medical ambulance, which has a real and important social impact in the transfer and care of the sick.
Also, specialists provide medical care in most of these general hospitals.
Accordingly, we feel that important progress has been made regarding both education and health in the improvement of the quality of life of the inhabitants of the province.
Kongo Central takes advantage of its strategic geographic location to attract investors and improve the daily life of its population, with investments that are said to have reached over $1.5 billion since your arrival. Can you comment on this matter?
Both public and private investments, and those in the form of public-private partnerships, have reached over $1.5 billion during the last three years. To give you an idea, here some examples.
The two cement plants that are going to be inaugurated this year amount to investments of $300 million each, or $600 million for the two.
The dry port under construction in Matadi, located 500 meters downstream from the Marechal Bridge with a quay of 200 to 300 meters in length and a depth of 30 to 50 meters along the quay, cost $100 million, equipment included.
A chemical fertilizer plant is under construction in Boma, a factory intended to boost agriculture. It is going to take advantage of the phosphate deposits on the road to Muanda, in Fundu Nzobe, in the Territory of Tshela, and in Mvuangu, in the Territory of Lukula. It will give a certain added value to our raw materials and local mining fields. The cost of this investment amounts to $100 million.
The rehabilitation, asphalting and modernization of the Boma-Matadi road (120km), the Matadi-Kinshasa road, the Boma-Muanda (120km) road and the Boma (Manterne)-Tshela (100km) road will be financed by the tolls on the National Highway 1, as per the financial plan set up on the instruction of the President. The global cost of this investment is $302 million.
Let us also highlight the construction, modernization and asphalting of new access roads that will lead to the border posts of Lufu, Yema and Lindu in Angola. These roads will have a width of 17 m in sections: Songololo-Lufu (15km), Muanda-Yema (30km) and Banana-Lindu (25km) will be financed by a toll, for a global cost estimated at $200 million.
Within the framework of the Development Project of Growth Centers (PDPC), negotiated by the central government under the orders of the President, the World Bank finances the development of growth center, benefitting 50,000 households through 250 cooperatives of 200 members each over the whole province, i.e. from Tshela via Lukula, Boma, Kimpese, Mbanza-Ngungu, and Inkisi, for a global cost of $110 million.
Other projects were set up, like the Program to Support Production Centers of Kinshasa (PAPAKIN), to support agriculture, financed by IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) through the British Cooperation for a global cost of $30 million.
Certain investments were financed by the provincial government, including the Lumumba stadium in Matadi; the new provincial government building in Matadi, which will be inaugurated before the end of 2016; the urban public road networks of Boma and Matadi and other infrastructure in 10 territories of the province of Kongo Central, without forgetting the construction of two factories for coated and crushed aggregate, used for the asphalting of road. The combined cost of these projects is about $50 million.
As you can see, the socioeconomic impact of the strategic geographic location of the province of Kongo Central in the daily life of the population these last three years is visible and tangible, because not only does the province benefit from the attention of President Joseph Kabila Kabange and Prime Minister Matata Ponyo through the central government, but also from international partners and private investors, allowing for the direct creation about 20,000 jobs and the involvement of more than 50,000 households through the Growth Centers development project, without omitting the agro-industrial park that will be developed in Luozi in the valley of Nkundi in Mongo Luala.
What is your view of the current international perception of the DRC?
Before Kabila, we were Zaire. And it is necessary to recognize that Zaire had bad press especially during the last years of the Mobutu regime. But since 2001, with President Kabila in command of the DRC, more and more international delegations are coming to the country and change their perception when they see the development.
Important progress has been made, especially regarding infrastructure and macroeconomic stability.
A few years ago, the image of the country was very negative. But today, with the efforts made by the President, supported by Prime Minister Matata, the erroneous and obsolete image of country is changing positively.
Communication is fundamental, as well as business trips, investment forums, etc. Tourism also plays an important role; it is often a country’s window towards the outside. How does Kongo Central contribute to improving the negative perception of DRC with its enormous tourism potential?
I completely agree on the importance of the tourism and its influence on international perception. But tourists can come only if consumer trust and safety exist. Now that these exist, we strive to communicate to tourists how wealthy Kongo Central is through brochures on the modernization of the province, publications in big national and international magazines, and television programs on the new image of Kongo Central. The door is open for the development of a dynamic tourism sector, which is a big, expanding sector of growth; the potential of the province is exceptional. Indeed you can admire Inga's picturesque falls, the seaports of Matadi, Boma and Banana, oil exploitation platforms in Muanda, and the Maréchal Bridge in Matadi.
Aside from the Inga dam, the seaports of Matadi, Boma and Muanda, the Maréchal Bridge or the oil platforms, does your province offer other tourist attractions and historic places susceptible to attract tourists or investors?
Absolutely, in Muanda there is a mangrove forest that contributes to the protection of the planet’s ecosystem, the road that slaves took and even the pots that were used to prepare the slaves’ food before boarding ships bound for the Americas. These historic places make you want to discover the province.
In Boma, you have about 10 great and historic places of interest. You can find the first cathedral of Central Africa, the first residence and office of the first Governor of the Independent State of Congo, the first military camp, the first two cars driven in this country, which belonged to the German Fischer and his wife. You can also visit the fabulous Stanley's Baobab, inside which Henry Morton Stanley spent three nights, having crossed what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 999 days from Zanzibar to Boma. In a nutshell, that is why the inhabitants of Boma call themselves with a lot of pride, "BANA BOMA NOT TWO" because all the historic vestiges that you can find in Boma exist nowhere else in the world.
In Matadi, you can follow the road of caravans, which has great historic value, the massif of Palabala, the Belvedere lookout in Matadi, which offers an exceptional panoramic view of all the valley of Mpozo, and encompasses the history of the Matadi-Kinshasa railroad.
In Mbanza-Ngungu, you will find mythical caves that harbor blind fish in their waters.
If you continue until Kisantu, you will find the eponymous botanical garden, created in 1900 by Brother Justin Gillet. There, you will be amazed by the wealth of the local flora, and you will see thousands of species of plants and trees.
One of the big advantages of our province is that you can travel across it in a single day. You can leave Kinshasa at six o'clock in the morning and find yourself in Muanda before 6 pm.
All these sites are accessible from the capital in record time. This is important because if you come for a business trip with limited time, you can fit in leisure and get to know this wonderful country.
These important opportunities in the tourism sector need to be developed with the support, collaboration and investment of the private sector. What would you say to encourage investors to come to DRC?
We can only reassure them and send a message of hope and reliability.
An excellent first example is the telecommunications sector. 15 years ago, if somebody had said that the DRC would be totally opened up from the point of view of communications, he would have been considered a madman. Being able to call anywhere in the Republic through a cell phone! It was unthinkable. Today, it is a reality.
The mobile telephone companies turned to DRC from 2002-2004 following the liberalization of the sector in 2002. And 10 years later, the operators have more than 50 million subscribers.
The second example is the banking sector. A few years ago, banks had closed, but at present, more than ten new banks have joined those that already existed. The population is gradually becoming more open to banking. Banks would not come to DRC if their investments were not guaranteed and if money did not circulate on the markets.
The third example is the dry port under construction in Matadi. Discussing the matter with the Filipino investor who is financing its construction, we cited the same examples quoted above to reassure him.
Regarding the market, the DRC represents approximately 80 million inhabitants and consumers, who need goods and services. If in the past China managed to reverse the negative trend of its economy, it is thanks to its primary wealth, that is its domestic market, representing more than 1.4 billion inhabitants. And in DRC, we also have the advantage to have a very dynamic demographic, a large consumer population.
In this context, investors who want to come to DRC do not have to hesitate to invest in tourism and other sectors because there are market shares to be taken. DRC is the most important market of Central Africa, and has great potential.
After all that you said about the DRC, what message would you like to send to national and international investors about the province of Kongo Central?
The province of Kongo Central is a land of opportunities. Already in colonial times, the province of Kongo Central contributed more than 25% of the trade balance of the colony.
Several agro-industrial companies were installed along the road from Tshela to Lukula. This justified the construction of the port of Boma, as there were important products to export via this port. It also brought about the construction of the railroad up to Tshela, with the aim of transporting agricultural products.
Given the wealth of our land, the Prime Minister decided to develop, following the pilot project of Bukanga Lonzo, another agro-industrial park in Luozi in the valley between Luala and Nkundi, an area with very fertile soil, where you do not even need fertilizer.
Thus, it is necessary to capitalize on all this wealth. In the past, within the framework of international cooperation, the Italians had developed big projects in the same valley.
Currently, the project of Luala is making good progress. The feasibility studies financed by the World Bank are in progress. Kongo Central is going to have an agro-industrial park. We need it, as half of the agricultural products consumed in Kinshasa come from Kongo Central.
Apart from tourism, agriculture, agro-industry and industry, the province offers other significant opportunities such as mining resources, hydrocarbons - Kongo Central has almost a quarter of the potential and confirmed hydrocarbon resources of the country.
Regarding energy, we have enormous potential; the Inga Dam is in the province of Kongo Central. It is a national and international treasure. Once the various phases of the Inga project are completed, the Inga dam will produce 42,000 MW of electricity, almost half of the hydroelectric potential identified in the country.
The central government manages the Inga III dam project through the Agency for the Development and Promotion of Grand Inga. It also manages the deep-water port project at Banana. But since these sites are in Kongo Central, and have a direct impact on the province, we accompany the central government in their implementation by creating favorable conditions to attract the investors.
What are the competitive advantages of the province, and how have you used them to reach these enviable results that you are bringing about?
The advantages that made these results possible and the projects that are in progress since my arrival at the head of the province of Kongo Central are linked to seven elements, which are:
First of all, the human capital of Kongo Central. We have men and women who like to work and who want their province to develop. They demonstrated this throughout history: it is in Kongo Central, cradle of the Congolese nation, that the socioeconomic development of the Democratic Republic of Congo began.
Secondly, nature itself. The province is a replica of the well-known Katanga province in terms of mining resources. All the minerals found in Katanga are also found in Kongo Central, in addition to big deposits of phosphate that abound in Kongo Central, but not in Katanga.
Thirdly, the legal instruments set up by the government in 2006 for the self-governance of provinces through political regionalism; decentralization confers a certain autonomy to provinces.
Fourthly, the improvement of the business climate, driven by the Head of State and the Prime Minister, has had a very positive impact on investments. Under the leadership of the government, this policy consolidated the will to work, to meet existing challenges, not to be wistful people, but to have the will to innovate and to create. Where there are no resources, you have to go find them with other financing tools.
Fifthly, the financial resources that come to us from the central government, although not huge, are necessary to carry out the social projects that the province needs.
Sixthly, taking into account the scarceness of financial means from the central government, especially the absence of credit with which to investment, we must find financial resources from the private sector, and bilateral and multilateral partners to accompany us in the development of the province. It is necessary to add to BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) schemes as well, which is, in other words, the auto-financing of projects. This is the case with tolls, which are an excellent way to finance road rehabilitations. The users pay a fee that finances the investment. Next to these resources, we have the province’s own resources collected through our financial governance. All these contributions together represent practically 70% of investments in progress in the province.
Seventh, and last but not least, the good governance in the prioritization of needs, the channeling of resources and their wise use to avoid waste, which would bring nothing either to the population or to the economy. We have set up a strong leadership to apply the law where it must be applied, avoiding complacency because the State has to be respected. We apply the policy conceived by the central government, under the leadership of the President of the Republic, and under the coordination of the Prime Minister, discussed and endorsed by the provincial assembly; we are not to follow the whims of politicians.