The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC or DR Congo) is Africa’s second largest country known for its vibrant miss-matched fashion, syncopating music and tantalising dance moves. Not to mention, one of the longest on-going civil unrests and one of the most horrific genocides known to mankind – so I’m guessing it’s not at the top of your bucket list of countries to visit before you’re 30, right? Me too! In recent news, the outbreak of Ebola reported in Congo has probably deterred you even more from visiting home anytime soon, right? Guess what? … Me too! This is of course on top of all the good (and bad) tales that you’ve heard from friends and relatives who have visited home in recent times.
My lifelong dream is to one day own my own chain of hotels in Congo
Well, if (like me) you have yet to venture back home to confirm the various rumours of ‘progressive change’ and an apparent Nandos or even just to visit a local bar/club to verify if Primus is still the favoured drink as advertised in many of the Théâtre - let’s explore whether we (Yes, WE!) can all one day become devout tourists in our home country.
I often wonder if Congo will ever be a front runner where tourism is concerned? Or even replicate the success garnered from tourism and boosts to the economy that other African nations have experienced. Whilst the North (Morocco has become the new Spain thanks to Groupon), East (Kenya I’m coming for you!), West (British-Ghanaians and Nigerians flock home in droves for the Christmas extravaganzas) and South of Africa (Thank you Mandela!) have carved out their own respective tourism niches, Congo is yet to catch up.
To my surprise (whilst doing my Googles) I have found that there are a number of awesome places to visit around the country but as always, there is stillroom for us to improve. Having studied International Tourism Management I do believe that Congo has the undoubted potential to be GREAT! The DRC is home to EIGHT national parks, five of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You know that if this was London, the government would already be asking for you to part ways with at least twenty pounds to enter.
Fun fact - did you know that in September 1974 Kinshasa hosted a three-day festival called Zaire 74?
My lifelong dream is to one day own my own chain of hotels in Congo and all over Africa, but before I get there I must first be a tourist and experience all the highs and lows of being a ‘foreigner’ by way of initiation into my own country.
Fun fact - did you know that in September 1974 Kinshasa hosted a three-day festival called Zaire 74? Neither did I! The festival was a leading promotional event to coincide with The Rumble in The Jungle heavyweight championship match between Mohammed Ali (This is what Ali Boma Ye! Was coined from - RIP) and George Foreman (Yes! – The creator of George Foreman Grill).
Although the fight ended up being delayed by six weeks due to Foreman being injured, the festival went on as scheduled and approximately EIGHTY THOUSAND visitors flocked to big old Congo to experience the music extravaganza. That’s more people than the capacity of the Olympic stadium. Can you imagine! If only the country had the capability and power to sustain such success. Who knows which other festivals we could have hosted.
“The DRC has enormous tourism potentialities” - John Muhaise Bikalemesa for Fortune of Africa
It is up to us, the ones that have been fortunate enough to make it to Poto (London), whether by the sheer determination of our parents seeking new pastures to hone their own successes or by being born in the ‘developed’ world.
Those of us who have completed degrees have the opportunity to change our lives for the better while many back home can only dream of having the access we have. We all know the negative connotations that Africa is repeatedly associated with and we are constantly being held behind by a number of exhausting issues:
Weak institutional framework
Poor road infrastructure
Tribal and regional conflicts
Weak education system
Limited access to health services
Sexual violence and discrimination against women
Low human development conditions
Sometimes it takes an ‘outsider’ to come in and shake the table for the greater good (or bad as history has taught us so far). Most of us on this forum are first/second generation Congolese immigrants or descendants Congolese. The time is here for all of us living in the first world to stop debating on what needs to be done and start doing. We are the ones that can travel back home to open the minds of the local people and share all the great gems that living in Poto has taught us.
Of course, change is of the essence and at times like patience it can feel like a prolonged virtue, it is very much in our hands so long as we all pull together as a collective and showcase our strengths.
So, ask yourself what are you doing to help aid change in your country?
Elizabeth Mutombo is an experienced Residence Coordinator who currently works at Liberty Living London
Venture back home
Awesome places to visit
Fortune of Africa