What have you heard about the Democratic Republic of Congo? Maybe you know that it’s one of the places where the Spirit in Action Small Business Fund gives families the opportunity to expand their livelihood. Or maybe you’ve heard about the many women there who are raped in the ongoing conflict over minerals. Did you read that actor Ben Affleck is calling for a US envoy to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? Perhaps you know the country as Zaire, as it was called 1971-1997.
Rather than falling into the trap of lumping all of “Africa” together in my mind or only relying on stories of violence and hopelessness in the news, this week I set out to find out more about DRC.
Searching Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook, I found that DRC spans the equator in the heart of the sub-Sahara and is about 1/4th the size of the US. It’s the 12th largest country in the world by size and the fourth most populous country in Africa. French is the official language but there are 242 other languages that people speak in DRC, including Swahili. About 90% of the population is Christian.
Those are just some quick facts, what about stories of the people? “From Congo with Love” is a beautiful photo slideshow, put together by photographer Rankin and Oxfam, of ordinary people in DRC. (Click here to for 2-minute slideshow.)
In addition to taking his own photos, Rankin also gave out disposable cameras and taught them how to take photos. Through their photos of what they love – families, people working, women walking – you can really see people from DRC through the eyes of their loved-ones.
The Spirit in Action partners that coordinate the SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) in DRC live in the eastern part of DRC, near the city of Bukavu and the border with Rwanda. Francois Hamuli, a SIA SBF Coordinator, lives on an island in Lake Kivu in the “Great Lakes” region. They have their mail sent to Rwanda because that is more reliable than the DRC international mail.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is so much more to learn about DRC and the rest of the countries where SIA works!
Stay tuned, I’ll do another country profile soon!
Some interesting facts about politics in DRC and Rwanda. Rachel Strohm blogs about Central Africa: http://rachelstrohm.com/2011/03/14/gerard-prunier-on-recent-news-in-the-congo-and-rwanda/
Small Business Fund Coordinators in the DRC. L to R: Jacob Lipandasi, Benoit Malenge, Francois Hamuli