Tales from the riverbank: how Kinshasa's once-mighty port on the Congo is dying


It was claimed – and hoped - that the River Congo would one day be the gateway to the country's prosperity. But with corruption rife, trade in decline and salaries going unpaid, the main port that serves the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital city Kinshasa is today slowly rusting and dying. Pierre Benetti visited this once-thriving commercial hub and met those now trying to make ends meet along the banks of one of the world's largest rivers.

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Widowed, and a mother of ten, Mama Zola sits behind her crate of “made in Angola” beer. She is the doyenne of the Kinshasa port street traders and has worked the same spot since 1989. In those days, she recalls, there would be ships arriving every day: merchandise coming from Angola, or even farther afield, via the ports of Matadi and Boma, then on by train before being loaded on to the boat for Brazzaville, on the opposite side of the river.