Katanga is more than just mining!
In Lubumbashi, it is a Sunday like any other. The great and the good of the city meet up for brunch at Riverside, a new establishment that opened a year ago in the capital of Katanga. Lubumbashi is a capital city that, like the province, is changing profoundly. Reminiscent of a huge building site, with work at the airport, on new roads, and the building of factories, housing developments, shopping centres and industrial zones, those at the Riverside have much to discuss.
The province is known for its mining wealth, yet continues with its economic reforms. The global financial crisis is now becoming a distant memory. "2008 and 2009 were very difficult years for Katanga", recalls Yannick Mbiya, executive director of the Trust Merchant Bank, one of those rare Congolese banks headquartered in Lubumbashi.
"The economy was paralysed by the crisis, many smallscale mines disappeared; people were put out of work." Now alongside the boom in mining activity this year reaching record production, the entire local economy is feeling the benefit of a new energy. New banks are setting up, services are developing, and more and more investors are looking at exploring the region.
"This is where businesses are made and prosper. No less than 95% of our business comes from business tourism," says Laurent Ortega, the manager of the only 5-star hotel in the city. "You can quite clearly see the signs of an economic upswing. You see new shops, restaurants, bars, other trades and services. It's because this is where businesses are made and prosper."
But not everyone is feeling the benefit of Katanga's wealth. "We are in an immensely rich province, but its population is still poor," observes Therese Lukenge Kapwibwe, Provincial Minister for Sports, Leisure, Gender, Family, Culture and Art. "That is our key challenge. SME and SMI creation will solve a lot of problems. Agriculture is one way for young people to progress and prosper. We still need to attract them to it. Our challenge is to transform the rural population into a development actor of their space, where they are.
"I am a scientist by profession, I worked in mining, but we will never solve our problems through mining extraction."
The pull of private farms
The energy deficit has been identified as the one thing holding the province back. While waiting for the problem to be fixed by central and provincial government, energy bills are rising, and adding to the already high cost of living in a province where everything is imported.
As is often the case in mining regions, agriculture has been neglected. But more and more Katangans are returning to it by developing private farms. Some 55km away from Lubumbashi, on the Kasenga road, you find General John Numbi's farm, named Benjin, short for Benjamin, his son.
Established about a decade ago, this 7,000ha farm is among the largest in the region. The implementation of a strategy developed by Cesar Bisimwa, a qualified agronomist, begins this year. "We are in full modernisation mode. Everything you see here is handmade," he reminds us.
The story began in the 2000s. He arrived in 2006 to develop agri-industrial activity. "I was a poultry farmer in Kinshasa. I therefore steered activity towards industrial poultry farming. Of the eggs consumed in Lubumbashi, 98% are imported from Zambia, so the potential is huge. I began with 100,000 hens and 25,000 replacement pullets."
With the aim of producing 5,200 tonnes a year, poultry farming is central, as it has to finance other sectors including pig raising, fish farming, vegetable growing and industrial milk production.
"When I was at university, we were supplied by the Lubumbashi dairy cooperative, which has since disappeared. We also had milk bars! Today, we make yoghurt with powdered milk!" Bisimwa recalls.
But not for much longer. His farm sees 4,0001 of milk produced from 200 milking cows. Though the region has other private farms, including that of President Kabila, and also that of Governor Moise Katumbi, the market is big enough for everyone.
"With four million inhabitants, Katanga is under-producing compared to demand," Bisimwa says. "Our market covers the mining cities of Katanga and supermarkets. More and more private farms are developing in the region. That's the biggest difference with Kinshasa [province]--here it's a much more liberal approach and now everyone wants to invest in agriculture, even the miners!"
Rahim Dhrolia, the chief executive of Terra and African Milling Company Congo, is piloting one of Katanga's most ambitious projects. With over 1,500ha of arable land, he plans to triple his corn production area by 2017. The IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank, has given him a loan of $18m. "Soon, Katanga will no longer be an agricultural disgrace!" Dhrolia exhorts. "Agriculture has a much greater impact on the population than mining."
An international tourism exhibition in 2015
Tourism, too, is one of Katanga's potential growth drivers, though it is still largely under-exploited. But Lubumbashi will host the International Katangan Tourism Exhibition in September 2015.
It is the fruit of a decade of work to add value to the local tourism offering, passionately undertaken by Isaac Sumba Maly, chief executive of Palma Okapi Tours. "For 10 years, I told everyone that I believed in development through tourism and not through mines, and those 10 years have proven me right!" Maly claims.
A child of Lubumbashi, and graduate of sociology, Maly "fell into" tourism after studying in Belgium. "I visited Belgium so much I got frustrated by it: over here, we have so many things to help visitors discover. So I decided to come back."
In his suitcases there were neither clothes nor European products, only books! Guides, maps, manuals. "I self-taught before teaching my tour guides," he explains. In the meantime, he published a guide to the city of Lubumbashi before creating Palma Okapi Tours in 2005.
"The palm tree (palma) is a treasure here; everything is used from the roots to the leaves, and the okapi is a protected animal that you find only in the DR Congo." It is symbolism that sums up his approach: adding value to the tourism heritage of the region and, beyond that, the country. "Katanga has enormous potential, in culture as well as in nature. This includes Lofoi Falls, the second highest in the world. The provincial government has identified 402 sites, but we are doubling that number!"
But to promote this tourism potential, you need infrastructure, which is still lacking. "There are nearly 300 hotels in Lubumbashi and 200 restaurants. The problem is quality. We have only one [hotel] with 5 stars. We also need to develop sites and their accessibility, and to train the staff."
Hence the organisation of the first International Katangan Tourism Exhibition in Lubumbashi. The first? Not quite. "The first international conference on African tourism took place here in 1955. We want to show the world what the DR Congo, and Katanga in particular, can offer in terms of tourism. We have the goods, we now need to work on visibility. Tourism allows us to develop our region, our country, and create jobs, notably for young people."
It is a tourist sector in its infancy, but one in a country where everything is still to be developed in terms of promoting the sector.
"We progress step by step. We communicate, we are in the market and we are projecting a different idea of ourselves to the one the world has in its mind, an image of political strife, the M23, etc.," the manager of the Hotel Karavia says.
"Now we are working together with the government and economic actors to create a new synergy. Other hotel projects are planned in Lubumbashi and in Kinshasa in the DR Congo."
When the expected arrival of airlines such as Emirates and Air France is confirmed, there will be greater access to the country. "As long as we make it easier to get visas," says Laurent Ortega, "the arrival of the large hotel groups such as Accor and Kempinsky sends a very positive message internationally to future investors. It's a gauge of stability.
"Of course Katanga is attractive, we welcome delegations from China, Europe, America etc. every week ... but the political context, added to the energy problem, does not encourage them to set up here. It's true that you can earn a lot of money in Katanga, but you can also lose it all very quickly. And yet, nothing would persuade me to leave Lubumbashi!"
A cosmopolitan and calm city, with many charms, Lubumbashi is a contrast to Kinshasa. One is the capital of the country, the other its economic engine; one is noisy, energetic, in the style of large African cities, the other is just calm and delightful.
The capital remains under a francophone influence while the other, given its location, is resolutely turned towards the English-speaking world. But above all, one is home to Joseph Kabila and the central government, while the other is Moise Katumbi's base.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2015|
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