Kinshasa fact of the day

by on May 10, 2017 at 12:20 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

This is Africa’s third biggest city. At 12 million, its population is bigger than London’s. Yet it has almost no connections to the outside world. On normal days, there are only 11 international flights out of Kinshasa per day. At Heathrow, the figure is around 1,400. Apart from the airport, the only other way into this vast megacity is the rickety ferry from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville. If you were extremely brave, you could try the road to the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s about it. Kinshasa can burn and most of the world doesn’t notice, because Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

And yet somehow it is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Kinshasa is a particularly extreme example of how Africa is urbanising without globalising. Sixty years ago the whole of sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with a population of more than a million people. Now it has dozens.

But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century, or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises. Africa’s urbanisation is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing. Two thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums.

That is from Daniel Knowles, via Tom Murphy.

1 Gerber Baby May 10, 2017 at 12:36 am

“Manufacturing is all but absent: the power and logistics are simply not good enough for factories. But neither are the service sector businesses that have boomed in Indian cities taking off, despite educated populations who speak English and French.”

The African quality of education isn’t that great:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/27/all-candidates-fail-liberia-university-test

“The trouble is that the cost is simply too high. According to one survey, of the 10 most expensive cities in the world, three are in Africa. ”

I’m not buying it.

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2 Nicholas Marsh May 10, 2017 at 12:56 am

Having visited Kinshasa …

It’s not expensive to live in a slum.

But if the survey is of what elsewhere would be a middle class lifestyle then aspects of life in Kinshasa are expensive. Basically any manufactured product has to be imported and the logistical problems mean that they are much more expensive than in, say, much better connected Cape Town or Johannesburg. A consumer is paying through the nose for everything from toothpaste through to processed food.

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3 Deek May 10, 2017 at 5:19 am

It’s much the same story in Albania, which for obvious reasons has been slow to globalise. A tin of tuna is more expensive than buying a trout from a fishmonger who then kills, descales and guts it for you. It’s far cheaper to buy a pair of jeans in Primark than it is in an Albanian shop, even the market in shoplifted EU goods only slighly undercuts Primark.

Regarding costs in Africa, a friend of mine has visited every country in the world and said the top three for costs were Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Papua New Guinea. The cost of backpacking somewhere like Ghana, which offers tourists a fair choice of accommodation and good public transport, isn’t much cheaper than that of the Balkans.

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4 Ricardo May 10, 2017 at 1:59 pm

“Basically any manufactured product has to be imported and the logistical problems mean that they are much more expensive than in, say, much better connected Cape Town or Johannesburg.”

That is exactly what the Mercer survey I found (which is probably the most famous of these cost of living indices) says. These cities are among the “cheapest” cities and that is probably because living like a [non-elite] local in a South African city is possible without any serious hardship. Not so in, say, Liberia.

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5 Ricardo May 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm

These cost of living indices are typically designed with HR departments of international companies in mind to tell them what the cost of living will be for expats assigned to that location. They bear little relation to the cost of a consumption basket typically consumed by locals. For instance, Mercer lists three African cities among their top 10 most expensive locations but they are upfront in noting their purpose is to capture the costs associated with “international assignments.”

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6 Thanatos Savehn May 10, 2017 at 12:38 am

“Somehow”?

The Twitter mob has its pixelated pitchforks and torches but none are more real than their projections on the great screen. In fact they are less so; mere shadows of a primordial and visceral hate they cannot comprehend.

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7 Jonathan S May 10, 2017 at 12:38 am

“Africa’s urbanisation is not driven by economic growth.”

What is the evidence that African urban growth is not driven by economic growth?

I’m under the assumption that most people would migrate to slums (usually from rural areas) only if there was a significant economic benefit. Plenty of lower and middle class urban dwellers around the world live in slums (at least as the term is defined by organizations like the UN), but they tend to be much better off economically than if they stuck around rural areas.

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8 yo May 10, 2017 at 2:43 am

In the Congo, Kinsasa’s size has much to do with the second Congo war and its refugees.

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9 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 6:33 am

There is no point being in the countryside. Western food aid makes that a dead end. Also in Africa, the agricultural sector is heavily female. Men won’t do it. So for young men it may make sense to move to the cities on the off chance of hitting it big.

There will also be a large informal economy in most of Africa. So those cities are probably producing more than people think.

But basically I expect they are all living off international aid in one form or another.

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10 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 11:32 am

Africa is a continent, not a country.

The situation in cotton-producing Northern Nigeria as compared to Lagos, and that of rural Congo as compared to Kinshasha, are much different.

I highly doubt more than a very tiny fraction of the population is receiving any assistance for survival from Western aid. It’s more about long-term institution building. Things like police training to promote enforcement which penalizes rape and other severe abuses of authority.

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11 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Talking in cliches you have read somewhere is a waste of bandwidth. If there is a single Bantu-majority country where agriculture is not women’s work please let me know. I am impressed by being lectured about Africa by a Canadian grad student who does not seem to have ever set foot there.

Western aid makes up a significant amount of the state budgets of quite a few African countries. So pretty much everyone who works for the government is getting paid one way or the other. “Police training” is, of course, a great example. It produces nothing of worth but it keeps a lot of people in paid work.

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12 Artimus May 10, 2017 at 10:01 pm

@Subtle. Out of curiousity have you ever set foot in Africa?

13 prior_test2 May 10, 2017 at 12:48 am

Makes one wonder just how many international flights are leaving Aleppo these days.

Or whether using a city in this nation is a representative example of anything but the cost of ongoing wars to control vast mineral resources – ‘By the early 1990s, Mobutu’s regime began to weaken. The Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996, brought about the end of Mobutu’s 32-year reign and devastated the country. These wars ultimately involved nine African nations, multiple groups of UN peacekeepers and twenty armed groups, resulting in the deaths of 5.4 million people.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is extremely rich in natural resources, but is politically unstable, has a lack of infrastructure, deep rooted corruption, and centuries of both commercial and colonial extraction and exploitation with little holistic development. Besides the capital, Kinshasa, the other major cities, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi, are both mining communities. DR Congo’s largest export is raw minerals, with China accepting over 50% of DRC’s exports in 2012.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo

After all, this is the sort of place it is, where the government does not seem to care whether video evidence used to proclaim its innocence of murder shows something different – ‘When a video showing the murders of two UN workers was aired last month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government justified the move as necessary to prove local militia were behind the deaths.

The grim footage, which was shown to reporters in Kinshasa, shows the final moments before the shooting of American Michael Sharp and his Swedish colleague Zaida Catalán, who was then beheaded.

The pair had been working in the Kasai region of the country, where they were investigating the activities of the Kamwina Nsapu rebel group, which the government claimed was responsible for the killings.

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“The local militia, Kamwina Nsapu, speak Tshiluba but the orders are given in French and Lingala, the trademark language of the national army,” the expert explained.

“Michael has been shot and Zaida is getting up and running – it’s a high-stakes moment in which you would use the language that comes most naturally.”

The source, whose identity is being protected for safety reasons, said the film also proved the pair had not been kidnapped, as initially claimed by the government when they first went missing on 12 March this year along with their interpreter, Betu Tshintela. The bodies of Sharp and Catalán were discovered two weeks later.’ https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/08/congo-government-un-investigator-murders-scrutiny

But no worries – the minerals continue to flow, and the Trump Administration plans to unleash the power of the American free market capitalism to help out – ‘The Trump administration has prepared a new executive order that would extinguish regulatory controls designed to prevent US companies profiting from and encouraging the spread of “conflict minerals” that are inflaming violence in Congo.

A draft executive order, composed last week and obtained by the Guardian, proposes a two-year suspension of a portion of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms that requires US firms to carry out due diligence to ensure that the products they sell include no minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or neighbouring countries. The regulation was widely applauded as a mainstay of attempts to cut the umbilical chord between big business and violent warlords who have spread unrest throughout the Congo and caused the deaths of more than five million people since the 1990s.’ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/08/trump-administration-order-conflict-mineral-regulations

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14 The Other Jim May 10, 2017 at 8:21 am

I bet Trump would enjoy knowing he lives rent-free in your head.

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15 FG May 10, 2017 at 10:11 am

Who does spite help?

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16 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 11:37 am

People who like to normalize victimization, in order to condition a love of causing harm, and in so doing construct a compliant yet pliable slave puppet army in neurowarfare.

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17 Careless May 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

I’m shocked there’s room after all the space Tyler takes up

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18 The Anti-Gnostic May 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

+1

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19 Horhe May 10, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Why did they decapitate the poor woman after killing her? Was it one of those things were they use body parts for magic? Muti?

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20 Cooper May 10, 2017 at 1:15 am

Food isn’t free and it usually isn’t grown inside a slum itself.

These countries don’t have welfare states so poor people must work to eat.

How are the slum dwellers surviving if they aren’t producing anything? There must be a lot of uncounted economic activity going on inside the slums that keeps everyone alive.

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21 Some Guy May 10, 2017 at 1:48 am

It’s also now bigger than Paris, making it the largest French speaking city in the world.

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22 Some Guy May 10, 2017 at 2:00 am

Only 77 million people live in the entire country, so Kinshasa is home to 15%+ of the population. It is the 11th largest country in the world.

The entire country’s annual GDP was $35 billion in 2015. Costco, in contrast, had $116 billion in revenue.

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23 Ali Choudhury May 10, 2017 at 3:54 am

Surely net profit (ie value added) is the appropriate metric to compare GDP to.

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24 Miguel Madeira May 10, 2017 at 5:22 am

More profit+wages+taxes paid

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25 Careless May 10, 2017 at 10:16 am

Why on Earth would that be appropriate? Total global profits are smaller than the US economy.

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26 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 11:40 am

GDP is basically the same as total value added.

So if you import a billion dollars worth of goods, then export them at a value of $1.2 billion, then GDP is 200 million, whereas Costco would report 1.2 billion in revenues.

Not really that relevant for a country with such a tiny share of trade in GDP though.

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27 Some Guy May 10, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Revenue is a more comparable measure than profit. GDP is the total value of all goods produced or all goods and services produced in a period.

The most famous method to calculate GDP is the expenditure method: GDP = C + I + G + (X-M). You’ve just described the net exports portion of the equation (X-M), which is the only component that’s netted out.

GDP is also calculated using the income method, where gross profit is a component of the formula:

GDP = Profit + Wages + Rent + Depreciation + Interest + Taxes

The bulk of those components are going into COGS and SG&A. Profit + Interest + Taxes + SG&A + COGS = Revenue.

28 prior_test2 May 10, 2017 at 7:25 am

‘The entire country’s annual GDP was $35 billion in 2015.’

There is absolutely no reason to trust that figure – much of the DRC’s output is in metals, often without the DRC getting any revenue at all – ‘The DRC’s wealth has been plundered by elites in Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and other neighboring countries, and elsewhere, including by those who directly and indirectly support the commission of mass atrocities. Perpetrators of violence directly control and influence various illicit networks in the country, but they are assisted by a series of facilitators spread across the country and region who provide their local networks logistics and access to the international systems of global finance, trade, and transportation. All these actors operate within a system of violent kleptocracy that sanctions the use of state authority at the highest levels in Congo and the region to privately appropriate the country’s wealth, ensuring a constant feedback loop between corruption and armed conflict.

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The mining sector is particularly susceptible to corruption given its close association with conflict financing, with armed commanders controlling mines, taxing miners and traders, and participating in international trafficking networks. Artisanal gold (i.e. gold mined by individual miners) is the most prevalent conflict resource. A 2014 survey of 1,088 mining sites in the country’s insecure eastern region, estimated about 221,500 artisanal miners digging various resources, with 176,000, or 80% currently working in the gold sector. A very significant proportion of this gold is smuggled out of the country illegally, without any benefit to the Congolese Treasury. The World Bank estimates that artisanal gold production in the eastern DRC is roughly 12 tons per year, but official gold exports in 2013 amounted to only 200 kilograms. A UN Group of Experts estimates 98% of artisanal gold is smuggled out of the country, and therefore is unaccounted for.’ https://thesentry.org/reports/drc/

That represents a non-state controlled sector. Here is some analysis concerning what the state itself owns – ‘Despite years of international attention, the Congolese state currently resembles a kleptocracy, with elites capturing, controlling, and personally profiting from any revenue streams into which they are able to crowd. Resource trafficking constitutes only one such revenue stream. Government parastatals are major targets for elite enrichment, while contracts in mining, infrastructure, procurement, and external trade are regularly alleged to be plagued with corruption and political nepotism. A study of production, revenue, and payment figures between 2011 and 2013 found discrepancies amounting to US$380 million that were not transferred from the government’s state-owned mining company to the public treasury, an example which illustrates only one segment of the entire mining economy. Overall, the study estimated about US$4 billion in annual losses to the state from revenue leakages due to corruption and fraud.’

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29 Horhe May 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Alternate history question – would the place be better now had Rwanda merged with the country rather than installing Kabila when the Tutsi invaded? Have Kagame running the place as well as a Tutsi supremacist state?

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30 msgkings May 10, 2017 at 2:07 am

I gotta say it’s pretty scary how some of Africa is, full stop. How can a place like that ever catch up?

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31 Ali Choudhury May 10, 2017 at 3:56 am

It won’t. Between African overpopulation and Asia running out of water, the mid to late 21st century will be eventful.

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32 Adam May 10, 2017 at 4:02 am

Africa isn’t that overpopulated. Total population is 1.2 billion, India or China alone has more people.

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33 Ali Choudhury May 10, 2017 at 7:31 am

On course to double by 2050. In a continent that really only has resource extraction going for it.

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34 The Other Jim May 10, 2017 at 8:23 am

I love projections.

Ten years ago, the North Pole was “on course” to be melted by now.

Please tell me more about the 2050s, though.

35 Careless May 10, 2017 at 10:17 am

Jim, African population projections have been increasing over the years.

36 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 11:44 am

Considering that there’s 30 or 50 years in between the two, rather disturbing to hear it described as “eventful” as opposed to mitigation of potential risk factors.

You sound almost pleased at the notion of black and yellow people dying, in bad circumstances. (Insert Trumpian one-worder here.)

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37 Ali Choudhury May 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Why would I welcome global calamities? I am bèmused more than anything on how little attention overpopulation and the water crisis (which will encompass the Middle East, China, SE Asia and the Indian subcontinent i.e. close to 4 billion people and three nuclear powers) get in the media/blogosphere compared to climate change, Japan’s depopulation etc.

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38 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 4:49 pm

“Troublesome” perhaps?

39 Horhe May 10, 2017 at 8:56 pm

It has become racist to notice that Africa’s population growth outstripping its economic growth is a recipe for disaster, rather than a tremendous opportunity for aging Europe and for a demographic dividend. It’s a shame, really. Some Chinese style population control would do wonders for it. Then again, if they could implement that, they wouldn’t have so many governance problems, because they’d already have the norms and mechanisms for collective improvement.

40 Mark Thorson May 10, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Asia isn’t running out of water. China has a water crisis, but that’s entirely due to their method of distribution. They are essentially following the California system, in which existing stakeholders rule and the incentive is to use up your entire allocation lest it be reduced. Allocation is to large entities like villages, who then often distribute it without any quantitative regulation. Waste is occurring on a collosal scale. The central government is reluctant to make much-needed reforms because of fear of blowback from the rural population and provincial governments. Sooner or later, though, China probably will do a massive reorganization of their use of water resources and the problem will be solved. What’s the advantage of having a communist government if you can’t do stuff like that? That’s the problem in California — under representative democracy, the farmers in the Central Valley have too much sway on government policy, and they want to keep the present system which was largely designed for them. Woe unto China if they move to multiparty democracy before solving the water crisis.

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41 Ali Choudhury May 10, 2017 at 6:02 pm

China owns Tibet, the source of the bulk of Asia’s rivers. They will likely attempt to solve their water crisis by diverting as much water as they can to arid regions, in particular by diverting the flow of the Brahmaputra river. That will screw India in particular since its a critical water resource for hundreds of millions and Bangladesh too as it gets 90% of its water flow via India. There are plenty of folk in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who are already facing acute water stress.

The water crisis is partially due to mismanagement but also a tripling of Asia’s population from 1.5 billion in the 40s to over 4 billion today, massive industrial growth and urbanisation and highly water-intensive middle class lifestyles.

https://qz.com/931878/india-is-facing-its-worst-water-crisis-in-generations/

https://www.marketplace.org/2016/04/21/world/warning-parched-china-city-runs-out-water

http://theconversation.com/china-and-indias-race-to-dam-the-brahmaputra-river-puts-the-himalayas-at-risk-65496

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42 Mark Thorson May 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I’ll have to investigate whether it’s physically possible to divert serious water from India/Pakistan to China, and if so how much that is. I haven’t given serious consideration to conflict along the India-China axis, but that’s exactly what could cause it. We have an old saying in California, attributed to Mark Twain . . .

43 Axa May 10, 2017 at 6:34 am

It looks ugly…..but China, India or Latin America are examples of the demographic transition. China, India, Mexico or Brazil had fertility rates between 6-7 children per woman until the 1960 and by the 1990s. Fertility rates are declining in Nigeria, Congo or Kenya. In 15-20 years population will be more stable and they may catch up, middle income?

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44 Horhe May 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm

I wouldn’t bet on it. Large families are a source of social status and security there. The culture revolves around it. Also, the UN keeps revising its estimates upward (which still predict a fall in fertility, just not too large) because the countries there have problems estimating the current population. I really do not know what it would take to make them into actual middle income countries, other than some sort of paternalistic neocolonialist project. At the very least, they either need a permanent guardian to enforce peace (like the British presence in Rhodesia kept the local tribes from killing each other) or to be left a few decades while they do all the rough stuff people did to each other in Europe over centuries to make more homogenous states.

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45 Gary Leff May 10, 2017 at 6:47 am

There are 11 international destinations and 10 domestic destinations you can fly to from Kinshasa. One of the destinations is Conga-Brazzaville (the second shortest international flight in the world), which you can fly or take the ferry across to and gives you 4 more international destinations. Air service includes Brussels (6x weekly), Paris (3x weekly), Casablanca (3x weekly) and daily service to Nairobi, Addis Ababa plus 6x weekly to Johannesburg.

International destinations would be limited (though perhaps more extensive) even with greater development because Conga-Brazzaville isn’t likely to develop as an airline hub. Airlines hubbing elsewhere will fly to FIH.

The relevant metric is lack of service from British Airways (LHR), Lufthansa (FRA, MUC… but Brussels Airlines means service from Lufthansa Group), Amsterdam (but while KLM doesn’t service, the Air France side of the house does)… and that there’s not service from the big Gulf carriers.

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46 Axa May 10, 2017 at 6:55 am

This part is interesting: “But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century, or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises. Africa’s urbanisation is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities…….. ”

Mr. Knowles implies Manchester and Liverpool slums never existed and Chinese migrants went straight from rural poverty and hunger to an 8 hour workday and well designed apartments.

It’s good to assess the chaotic life of Kinshasa in the context of “The Conditions of the Working Class in England” by Mr. Engels. Of course, the youthful approach of Mr. Engels to economy should be ignored, but the description of poverty, sickness and lack of sanitation was faithful to real conditions. Mr. Engels stayed alive enough time to see how conditions improved in England. We may be alive to see some improvement in Congo or Nigeria.

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47 Borjigid May 10, 2017 at 8:44 am

Mr. Knowles’ point is not about standard of living, its about occupation and connections. The rural migrants in Manchester, Shenzhen, etc were probably just as poor as the ones in Kinshasa, but they worked in factories connected to the rest of the world. Kinshasa’s poor seem to be getting by on whatever wealth trickles down from the DRC’s natural resources rents.

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48 rayward May 10, 2017 at 7:00 am

Kinshasa was originally named Leopoldville in honor of Leopold II of Belgium, who controlled the area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Oh, yes, one of the vestiges of colonization: you can’t get there from here. The object of the European colonizers was getting natural resources out and finished goods in, not moving people around. Kinasha is a city like many in former colonies: it was designed to consume not produce. Yesterday Cowen blogged about the growth of cities in America and the concentration of the creative class in them; today he blogs about the growth of cities in Africa and the concentration of the uncreative class in them. Bizarro World.

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49 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 7:11 am

I wish people would get their trite claims about colonialism straight. Yes, the object of the European colonizers was getting natural resources out and finished goods in. Which means also moving people around. You cannot build a railway that moves copper and not people. The Belgians built railways. The Congolese left them to decay. The US is now paying the Chinese to repair them.

Kinasha, of course, was designed to produce, not consume. That is the whole point of colonies. The export things. Maybe even make a profit.

Yesterday Cowen blogged about the growth of cities in America and the concentration of the creative class in them; today he blogs about the growth of cities in Africa and the concentration of the uncreative class in them. Bizarro World.

It is almost as if the population of Africa was in some way not quite the same as the population of America. Must be the magic dirt. Go figure.

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50 Axa May 10, 2017 at 7:42 am

Railways can be built to move X resource and not people.

Imagine Paris were only connected by rail to Le Havre (Matadi-Kinshasa) and not Lyon, Reims or Bruxelles. That would have happened if France and Belgium were developed under a similar plan by different empires.

Of course, the 1st thing these countries should have done since independence is trade with each other. It’s entirely their fault still believe that the neighbors are not interesting or enemies as they were instructed by colonizers.

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51 Joe In Morgantown May 10, 2017 at 9:47 am

Irony alert: the trains in France almost all go to the Imperial Capital.

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52 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 6:46 pm

Can be but invariably aren’t.

And so you are now changing the subject. The colonial powers might build a railway to link profit centers to the world economy. Sensible ones would. Rather than the stupid prestige projects most independent countries like. But that doesn’t mean that they did not build railways or that those railways carried people.

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53 Kris May 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

@So Much:

Railways are useful for moving people if they connect population centers to each other. If they were built for connecting resource extraction sources to trading ports, they are going to go to waste once the resources (or the trade) decline.

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54 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Africa had no, or few, population centers before European colonialism. The population centers tended to grow where the Europeans improved communications or in ports linked to the Western economies.

But yes, if post-independence African governments massively screw up their economy to the point they are no longer growing cocoa or whatever, those railways will become useless. Still not a good idea to sell them for scrap.

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55 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

Don’t be surprised if railways decay when left to a political system that had leadership capacity and structures removed at many levels of society over consecutive generations.

Also, if the technology that was build was not taught to the people who were ruled, this should not be considered as cause for negative judgment on their efforts.

It would be like giving someone a smartphone, and then holding them personally responsible for their productive failures if they are unable to personally fix it.

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56 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2017 at 6:57 pm

You make it sound like African politicians had no agency in all of this. When African politicians say they have read Marx and studied in Moscow so they can give smartphones to everyone once they have kicked the White people out of the country, only to find that in fact they cannot maintain the small number of pre-independence phones they have, then they are liable for the consequences of their actions. They believed something stupid. They have been shown to be wrong.

Yet you continue to defend them.

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57 rayward May 10, 2017 at 7:56 am

The compare and contrast thing can be confusing. Cowen, being the professor that he is, doesn’t do it for us. I’m rethinking the compare and contrast between American and African cities. Are they different? Or only different in kind? Kinshasa is described in Wikipedia as a place where people go to be entertained and to consume, not to produce. Do the bankers and the boy wonders concentrate in the cities to produce or to be entertained and to consume? It’s true that bankers and boy wonders attract money like feces attracts flies, but do they produce commensurate with the money?

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58 Careless May 10, 2017 at 10:26 am

Ray stealing Prior’s schtick of combining looking up things in wikipedia with gross ignorance in general.

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59 dearieme May 10, 2017 at 7:27 am

“resulting in the deaths of 5.4 million people”: dear God, that a holocaust’s worth.

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60 FG May 10, 2017 at 10:16 am

The death tolls from the Congo, both in the recent civil wars and during Leopold’s time a century earlier, are staggering but don’t appear to be widely known. Maybe because there’s been no great Congolese diaspora to talk about it (as far as I know).

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61 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 12:01 pm

The sum of a million hostile acts, not an extermination campaign.

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62 Vl May 10, 2017 at 3:29 pm

You would have made a great cadre. Disgusting.

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63 Troll Me May 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Are you saying that in support of a million hostile acts? In support of an extermination campaign?

Or, do I somehow misunderstand the origin of your misplaced disgust repsonse?

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64 Thomas May 10, 2017 at 5:34 pm

He’s talking about your brown/communist-committed-genocide apologetics.

65 Cooper May 10, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Surely you agree that there’s a difference between an organized genocide and the violence of chaotic tribal anarchy.

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66 Thomas May 10, 2017 at 5:36 pm

tribal anarchy? Tribes have leaders. Even brown people know “chopping em down” with machetes is bad. Troll me might not know, but brown people do.

67 Art Deco May 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm

I wouldn’t trust the accounting. I think it adds up body counts to excess deaths from malnutrition and disease computed contra baselines which were themselves soft data. Then you get the meme effect, where one seeming authority pulls a number out of his ass which is then recycled through the footnotes. One thing that might be a project for some librarians is to trace the genealogy of the reported death tolls during the period of the Congo Free State. I’m betting it ends at a dead end.

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68 Kris May 10, 2017 at 11:13 am

Until a new international airport was built in Calcutta (Kolkata) a few years ago, it seemed to me the old international airport only served a handful of flights a day (I’d bet fewer than 10.) From what I recall, it had one terminal with two gates, so it physically wasn’t capable of supporting a large volume of flights. Yet Calcutta didn’t seem to be that disconnected from the world somehow.

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69 Abe May 10, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Sounds like just the ticket to reinvigorate the Japanese economy — imagine all the demographic dynamism!

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70 Edgar May 10, 2017 at 7:15 pm

“Two thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums.”

And you would think it would be much worse in Kinshasa given all of the colleges and universities with which the poor place is afflicted:

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
Allhadeff School
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)

Yet despite all these institutions, when I google around looking for books and photo essays about the place, I find plenty of evidence of bright, creative people, flourishing arts, freethinking novelists, and voluntaristic social organization. See for example:
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/kinshasa-congo/maitre-photography#/01-boys-perform-initiation-rite-670.jpg
In many regards Kinshasa cultural life is much richer, and undoubtedly more satisfying to its participants, than that in what passes for a culture on the US east coast today.

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71 Jorod May 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

The fruits of socialism.

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72 Massimo Heitor May 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

It seems like this city and similar cities have problems beyond simple political ideology.

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73 Massimo Heitor May 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm

“miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing”

Normally, cities live or die based on exports. Cities have to import all their food and most manufactured goods, they need competitive goods to export to remain viable.

“Kinshasa is a particularly extreme example of how Africa is urbanising without globalising”

Globalising seems the wrong word here. It doesn’t sound like there is any opposition to globalization or free trade. It sounds like a more fundamental lack of economic development.

Fascinating story. I hope this story takes a happier turn.

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74 BildWiss May 12, 2017 at 4:32 pm

But if you draw any inferences of the wrong kind from observing sub-Saharan Africa, and the behavior of sub-Saharan Africans inside and outside of Africa… You are a very, very, very bad person. So don’t do it.

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