The life of the super-rich in Central Africa | DW Documentary

The life of the super-rich in Central Africa | DW Documentary

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Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a population of over 14 million, itís the largest French-speaking city in the world. The streets are bustling with activity. Many people take on multiple jobs to get by.

Among them are couriers, street-sweepers, maggot sellers, bread sellers, and jewelers. Each day they count their earnings, dreaming of becoming one of Congoís super-rich. Everyone in Congo dreams of getting rich. Thereís money if you know where to find it. But large parts of the population live below the poverty line.

Albert is a fisherman. He earns less than one euro seventy cents per day. Just opposite from his poor neighborhood live some of Congoís richest people. Thatís ìLa CitÈ du Fleuve.î The rich live there. They do business deals, we catch fish. The residential complex is for Congoís new upper class, including the countryís millionaires.

Uninvited guests arenít allowed in. Fally Ipupa has the kind of life most Congolese can only dream of. I never imagined Iíd have multiple cars. I just wanted to sing and make a name for myself in Kinshasa and in Africa.

Fally Ipupa is the DRCís biggest star, and heís known internationally. He is also a multi-millionaire. ant a photo? My God, I love you man! I love you too. Heís just invested more than 600,000 euros in a new home in ìLa CitÈ du Fleuve.î

Are the doors open? Go on, open them! I really like being here, especially on Sundays. I can relax here. Iíve always liked coming to the river with my family, so I decided to put down a few bricks. Those ìfew bricksî amount to a Californian style villa, which stands out here in the DRC, one of the worldís poorest countries in terms of GDP per capita. It doesnít have to be that way. With its abundance of mineral resources, the DRC could be one of the richest countries in Africa.

Mining is the countryís most important industry. Many of Fallyís neighbors have made a fortune selling raw materials to a resource- hungry world. Fally likes to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. The Congo River is one of the longest in the world. For the local

fishermen, itís also vital to their livelihood. They recognize the singer immediately. They say theyíre my brothers. Iíll give them something. Fifty bucks. Fally gets one of the marina workers to hand out a few notes. This is a lot! We called out to him, and he gave us fifty bucks to share amongst ourselves.

Each fisherman just got the equivalent of about seven euros, the amount theyíd earn in a whole week. These people have different problems than we do. They even work on Sundays. I often give them a little something, even if itís

just so they can take home a treat for their children. Iím happy to do it. Fally Ipupa is one of about 600 millionaires in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC is the largest country in Central Africa, about six times the size of Germany. Itís home to nearly 100 million people. Its

history is one of conflict and exploitation. The ongoing violence has resulted in six million deaths in the past couple decades. In 1965, Mobutu Sese Seko came to power. Nicknamed the ìLeopard of Zaire,î he ruled for nearly 32 years, embezzling the equivalent of more than four billion euros during his reign. In 1996 civil war broke out. Militias, supported by neighboring countries, enlisted thousands of child soldiers as they attempted to seize the countryís wealth. Mobutu died a year later in exile.

2001 saw Joseph Kabila step into the political spotlight. During his 18 years in power, he amassed an estimated fortune of more than 13 billion euros. Because of its instability, the DRC is today regarded as a failed state.

Weíre traveling across the Democratic Republic of Congo to understand why some are getting richer and richer, while others are struggling to survive. In Kinshasa, the roads are unpaved and difficult to navigate. Amid this chaos, a young woman named Moukembi is trying to build a future. Tell me what to do! The officers are supposed to direct traffic but one of them says go to the left; the other one says go to the right. What am I supposed to do? Moukembi is in the middle of a test. In the back seat, Arnaud is

evaluating how well she navigates the traffic. Sheís clearly feeling the pressure. Youíll have to turn soon. You can tell you donít know your way around here. Follow this car. Moukembi has applied to be a driver at a taxi start-up. The company was founded by a Congolese businesswoman who wants to lift women out of poverty.

The pink cars are the serviceís trademark. Previously, Moukembi worked as a nurse. If she passes the test, sheíll triple her salary, earning around 250 euros per month.

I canít wait to start the job. Letís hope I pass the test. Okay, back to the office. Moukembi plays the part of a professional chauffeur until the very end, but it will be a few days before she finds out if sheís landed the job. The cab companyís customers are middle and upper class. To make the time spent in Kinshasaís traffic jams more enjoyable, passengers are offered drinks, snacks, and even WiFi. Weíre the first to offer this.

Patricia Nzolantima wants to give women better employment opportunities. After completing her studies, she returned to Congo and started this cab service with the help of investors. Today, she pays it forward and supports other female entrepreneurs. We want to have more millionaires. Congo has more than 80 million residents, and weíre rich in natural resources. Itís time for Congolese women to get a piece of that wealth.

Despite the instability in the country? Give me two of those. ?Patricia believes the economy will take off. You canít reduce Congo to rape and wars. There are young people, especially young women, who are trying to make real change. So itís

wrong to reduce the country to just the things that donít work. This new generation will move the country forward. Like Patricia and her friends, more and more Congolese people are returning from abroad to work and invest in their homeland. These so- called ìrepatsî live in secure areas that offer a Western standard of living. Back at La CitÈ du Fleuve, the high-end residential complex sitting on a couple hundred hectares, two new residents are moving in. Olivier and Naomie have just relocated from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Most important for us was the washing machine. And the bed. The couple works in finance. New job prospects convinced them to return to their home country. This will be the living room. The carpet can go here. There ? the table, the TV.

This will be the bedroom. The apartment also offers a great view of the Congo River. Olivier and Naomie are newlyweds and want to start a family here. The couple earns about 3,500 euros per month. Thatís more than 100 times the average salary. A third of it will go toward rent ? the steep

price of security. You know, I want a place where my kids can play in the street and they donít have to worry about 100 other people on the street, and they donít have to worry about air pollution, noise pollution. They can do their homework in peace. Itís also very much about

the environment, but also yes, it is a whole lot safer than the inner city. A brand-new apartment, brand new furnishings. The next thing we need is a brand-new baby! The couple has found their safe haven. Beginning of a new life for us. -Yes. Thereís growing demand to live in this new residential complex.

Eventually, la CitÈ du Fleuve will have more than two thousand homes? including singer Fally Ipupaís. We meet him at an estate he rented to film his new music video. The dancers are dressed as Congolese warriors.

The shoot is going well, until suddenly the music stops. Thereís been a power outage in the area. Thereís no electricity. Weíre trying to work it out. Fally and his team are stuck. Finally, a technician tracks down an emergency generator? ?but that quickly breaks too. Fally is frustrated, even though heís used to these sorts of challenges.

You see this tattoo? It means Iím Congolese. Iím not going to leave my country just because of a few power outages. Eventually, Fally Ipupaís assistant Manon tries using the carís sound system.

We make do with what we have. Iíll connect my phone to the car for now. It works, and the video shoot can continue. In his twenty-year music career thus far, Fally has joined the club of multi-millionaires. And the number of members is increasing. The country is rich in minerals, including coltan, from which tantalum is extracted. The metal is used in the manufacture of mobile phones.

The mines are in the Great Lakes region, in the eastern part of the country, near the Rwandan border. Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, has been shaken by bloody conflicts for more than two decades. Armed groups fight each other for control of the mineral resources. The UN has stationed 16,000 peacekeepers here, to shore up a fragile peace. The residents in this region are poor and traumatized by violence. Those who have made their fortune live along the shore of Lake Kivu. Including one of the regionís most influential businessmen.

His villa is guarded around the clock by police. Itís like a fortress. Robert Seninga is a multi-millionaire. Hi, how are you? His wealth comes from coltan mining. He was once a rebel leader. In 2006, he was elected to parliament in the Masisi district. Even when youíre a politician, you can still do business.

Robert Seninga freely admits that political clout has helped him. He runs the mining cooperative Cooperamma, which extracts coltan. His bodyguards never leave his side. I ask him where we are.

This is Cooperammaís headquarters. The heart of the mineral trade. The simple building belies the millions that Cooperamma turns over each year. Robert Seninga looks at the production figures of the last few days.

On the 6th, it was four tons and 668 kilos. The numbers are looking pretty good. Itís 40 tons in total.

I ask how much thatís worth. A kilo is about 42 to 45 dollars. You can do the math. In the last few days, the mines have brought in close to two million euros. With three thousand mine workers, Cooperamma is the regionís biggest employer. I ask if any children work in his mines. No, thatís illegal. There are officers who make sure they donít.

Children should be in school, not the mines. Helmets, boots and masks are mandatory in the mines to ensure the workersí safety. According to Seninga, the mines are seen as a model for the region. Theyíre situated about 60 kilometers from Goma, in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa.

But itís also among the most dangerous regions. Conflict has raged on here for more than 20 years. In 1994, one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century took place in neighboring Rwanda: a genocide that killed almost one million people. Hundreds of thousands of people fled to the Democratic

Republic of Congo, including many of the perpetrators. Since then, survivors and perpetrators have lived side by side in this volatile region. Meanwhile, armed rebel groups clash over Congoís valuable resources.

We head to the mines with Landry, Robert Seningaís chief engineer. Seninga has saved the Masisi community. Thanks to him, life can go on as normal.

But little seems to have changed in the region in recent years. The roads are disastrous. Each day, people risk their lives getting to work. Several times on our journey, our vehicle nearly veers off the road into the ravine. That was close. A bit further and weíd have ended up in the river.

Nearly there. After five hours on the road, we reach Rubaya, home to the biggest coltan mine in the country. About 100,000 people live here. Among them are Gilles, his wife and their three children.

The family lives in this 15 square-meter home. Everything has its designated spot. The house is very small. We hang the shoes on the wall. The childrenís things are here. The adjacent room has the kitchen and the familyís bed. The bed is very narrow. We sleep there and my wife cooks here.

The couple moved here 5 years ago, hoping to get wealthy from the mines. I hope God will help me, so one day I can buy a car like this one. For now, Gilles earns the equivalent of 5 euros per day. His work is many kilometers away from the center of Rubaya. It takes

him an hour and a half to get there. There are hundreds of coltan mines in the area. The one Gilles works in is called Bamfou. The ore is extracted from the sludge by hand. Itís easier by hand. That way we can separate the coltan from the sand.

Once processed, itís an important part of manufacturing micro- electronic components. This is coltan. Itís mainly used for mobile phones. Gilles has to climb into the mine to dig. The way down is slippery. Wait. Stop? If you know how to do it, itís pretty easy. Thereís nothing to hold onto for the 15-meter descent. At the bottom, itís difficult to breathe.

The shafts and tunnels are not adequately supported. Theyíre at risk of collapsing. Gilles gets to work with a pickaxe. Thereís a lot of sand here. Itís endless. Extraction is the priority, not safety.

Serious accidents often occur in these mines. I ask if itís dangerous. Sometimes rocks fall. Landry sees no problems with the safety standards. Itís normal for there to be deaths in mines, because of landslides for example. Not just in Rubaya but everywhere. If this shaft collapsed now, weíd probably all suffocate.

There are no official figures, but fatal accidents while coltan mining are commonplace, not the exception. We notice that some of the miners look very young. Landry seems uncomfortable with our questions. How old are you? I'm twenty Heís twenty years old. He may seem younger because heís so

small. But he manages well. Of Gillesí 30 or so colleagues, half look younger than 18 years old. In this region and others, we regularly encounter children who hide when they see our cameras. According to UNICEF, more than 40,000 children work in the DRCís mines. While this mineral makes some people rich, it robs others of their childhood and sometimes even their life.

Everyone tries to profit from coltan mining, which is why the black market is flourishing. A considerable portion of this valuable commodity is sold under the table to avoid paying taxes to the Congolese government. This illegal trade takes place with the help of Congolese soldiers, who let the convoys pass through. The soldier makes good money through the black-market trade. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the 20 most corrupt countries in the world. Illegal trade means the Congolese state misses out on several billion euros in revenue every year.

Nevertheless, the mining sector drove Congoís economy to almost 6-percent growth in 2018. That economic success is especially showcased on the ìBoulevard of June 30th" in DRCís capital, Kinshasa. The street is named after the DRCís Independence Day.

Being an entrepreneur is something many young Congolese dream of? the job is demanding, but the financial independence more than makes up for it. One such entrepreneur is celebrating a lucrative new contract. Eric Monga not only runs a business, heís also the head of a trade association. Hereís to the future of the business? Good luck with your project! They toast with expensive champagne, because Eric has good news. He just returned from Florida in the United States, where he met with investors. He has convinced them to fund his ambitious project,

which will cost more than 400-million euros. A contract was signed?but thatís all I can tell you. Weíre drinking to celebrate how well our friend negotiated it. Eric wants to construct a hydroelectric power plant. Fewer than 1 in 5 people in Congo have access to electricity. He wants to change that.

In every problem, thereís also a business opportunity. People need food, they need clothes. And now we want to ensure they have electricity. He plans to improve living conditions for at least some of the nearly 100-million people in the DRC.

Eric Monga is from Lubumbashi, in the southern part of the country. He made his fortune with a company specializing in the chemical analysis of minerals. Heís about to show us the location of his future dam.

The area is remote and sparsely populated. The project will mean bringing workers in from far away. But the challenge is worth it. The power plant will bring in almost 1 million dollars per month. A lot of money.

Oops. Welcome to the bush! Eric has set up a small camp in the middle of the wilderness. It hosts a team of engineers. Hello, howís it going? About a dozen employees have been living here for a year. They have a water tank, a generator, and some small sheds.

Right now weíre standing at about 735 meters. The top of the dam will be at 830 meters. The water will go up to that level there, where the sun is. This will be an enormous lake. At a height of 90 meters, the dam will be one of the largest in the DRC.

It will have a capacity of 150 megawatts, providing half a million residents with power. And building it will create about 3,000 jobs. Weíre making something that will really benefit the region. Itís especially important for farmers. They need electricity to modernize agriculture.

Several investors, especially Americans, have shown interest in the project. Eric hopes to wrap up construction within three years. He believes people can be successful when they have the courage to leap into the unknown. Many people have found success here. Why not me? If you work hard, you can make a lot of money here in a short time. Eric is not alone in this belief. More and more Congolese are becoming entrepreneurs, throwing themselves into the business world in the hope of escaping poverty.

Back to Kinshasa. In the early morning, bread-sellers come from all parts of the city to stock up from this wholesaler. Many women make a living this way. Marie comes here every day at 6 a.m. Two boxes.

Marie was widowed six months ago. Now she must provide for her family alone. Hold this for me, please. No, itís not too heavy. Iím used to it, itís part of the job. Marie is balancing more than fifteen kilos. Every day she sets up

her stand on a busy street corner. How much is the cake? 300 francs. I'll take one. Iíll give you two. Youíve gotten so thin.

Oh, thanks! I often come here and buy bread from Marie. I like her stand, itís clean. Marie gets lots of customers, with her friendly disposition. Itís going well today! She typically earns about 60 euros a day selling bread. She dreams of opening more stalls, and even getting rich.

If you know how to manage a business, you can become a millionaire. You just have to be smart, plan properly and run your business well. She still has a long way to go. Her net profit at the end of the day is

only 18 euros. Marie goes to church three times per week, to pray and thank God. God is very important to me. I owe everything to him. Evangelical churches thrive in Congo. And some make their money from capitalizing on other peopleís faith. On this Sunday morning in Kinshasa, the cityís usually bustling streets are nearly deserted. Since dawn, tens of thousands of people have

been streaming into the countryís national stadium. Theyíre not here for a soccer match or a concert. The 80,000 attendees have come to see a man they believe performs miracles. We believe in the prophet Khondeís miracles. I was dying, but then I drank a glass of his miracle juice and my pain disappeared immediately. Iím living proof. Heís a prophet.

There are camera crews, photographers, cheerleaders, and lots of police. Itís one of the biggest events of the year. Itís even being broadcast live on television. Dominique Khonde is the man everyone is waiting for. The self- proclaimed prophet has several million followers. When he enters the stadium, the crowd erupts.

Before he goes on stage, he greets former Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala. The wife of former President Joseph Kabila is also in the audience. After a few prayers and songs, he begins to preach. They donít want you to succeed or live in abundance, prosperity and wealth. But even in poverty, even when you are hungry or ill?youíll have everything as long as you realize the truth. Amen. Fear not. Amen. Dominique Khondeís business model involves a supposed miracle cure that he peddles across the country. But not here, out in the

open. Instead, he sells it discretely in small rural communities. The business has already earned him several million euros. A few days later, we accompany Khonde to Matete, a Kinshasa suburb. Outside the church, more than a hundred of his followers are waiting.

The prophet told me to stop spending money on doctors. He told me to drink the juice and pray. At 11 oíclock, Dominique Khonde arrives in his luxury car.

His followers have all come for some of his supposed miracle cure. But first the prophet wants a donation. Khonde receives the sick as though they were on a conveyer belt. This woman had a brain hemorrhage one year ago. I came to the prophet because I am very ill. When I heard about the prophetís miracle cure, I asked to be brought to him.

I canít walk anymore. She should be massaged with the juice. I think that will help her. I have faith that he will heal me. Consultations usually only last seconds. You need to take the juice.

The prescription is always the same. Are you taking the juice? Yes. -Good, keep taking it. After speaking to the prophet, the sick people are sent next door, to the pharmacy.

This is where they get the famous juice. No one here doubts its healing powers. It cures AIDS, stomach pain, liver cancer, cirrhosis, all kinds of diseases... I had AIDS and lost a lot of weight. Now I weigh 52 kilos, thanks to the

juice from the prophet Dominique Khonde. He healed me. Thereís no science behind the juice, but many people blindly trust it. A half-liter costs the equivalent of 14 euros, about a third of the average monthly salary. Three of us pooled our money and weíre going to share a bottle.

Thereís a strong smell of gasoline in the room. Thereís lemon juice in it, gasoline and some other ingredients. Right now the juice is bottled on-site, but demand is so high that soon Khonde will begin producing it in a factory.

Hereís the new packaging. According to the packaging, the juice cures epilepsy, cancer and even AIDS. The active ingredient? Divine enlightenment. This product treats illnesses with different causes, such as epilepsy, cancer and so on. It says it cures AIDS, but he didnít read that. No, we havenít tried it with AIDS much.

More than half a million Congolese are HIV-positive. Another supposed benefit of the miracle cure: it can bring children back from the dead. Some people have applied the juice to their still-born babies, and theyíve woken up again. A juice that can cure AIDS and bring the dead back to life. Congolese authorities donít stop him from selling tens of thousands of bottles of his gasoline-lemon mixture every year.

While his assistants count the day's earnings, most Congolese people continue their daily struggle against poverty. The road to becoming a millionaire legitimately is long and hard. Thatís why some take shortcuts.

2021-04-08 03:10

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