Route Nationale 1 connects the capital Kinshasa with Lubumbashi, passing through Mbuji Mayi, a city of about 3 million inhabitants. This commercial route should connect the country’s rich resources with international markets. However, its reality is different. The journey to Kinshasa takes a week at the best of times, much longer when the rainy season turns it into mud. Lorries frequently slide off the track, ending up in the deep ravines alongside.
As the Pastor of Tshibombo explains, “Without a proper road it is very difficult to get our products to market. And, as most of the people in this area are farmers, this creates big difficulties. It prevents our development and keeps us poor.”
Women pass, carrying huge sacks of charcoal on their heads. With each heavily laden step, they sink into the sand. “Look at these women,” the Pastor adds. “They will carry these sacks to Mbuji Mayi, where they will sell the contents.
“It is a distance of 22 km. It is extremely difficult for them. It is even worse in the rainy season, when the road turns to deep mud. A lot of people fall and get injured.”
Tshi Bwa Bwa, a 35 year old mother of 10, says the consequences can be a matter of life and death. “Our only source of water here comes from a 2 hour walk down the mountain. It is not good. A lot of people fall ill from the worms which live in it. My younger brother got very ill from it. His belly swelled and he was very ill.
“However, there is no way an ambulance can get here. We have to carry the ill 22 km to hospital in Mbuji Mayi. I had to rent a bicycle to take my brother to hospital. It cost 5,000 francs. For me, that is extremely expensive. I had to sell clothing and plates in order to raise the money. It took time.
“We finally got him to hospital but it was too late and he died. He has left 7 children and a wife with no way to support themselves. If we had a road here and transport, he would have lived.”
Facts and stats
DFID has begun a major programme of road rehabilitation and maintenance with the Ministry of Public Works and the World Bank called Pro-Routes.
DFID funding will help rehabilitate 1800 km of roads driving economic growth and improving access to services.
DFID will contribute £76 million over 5 years from 2008 to the Pro-Routes project.
Pro-Routes will help re-establish a land connection between the provinces of Sud Kivu and Katanga, and within the Province Orientale.
Pro-Routes will also help to develop the road construction industry
DR Congo’s average per capita income is just $281.