The great Chinese infrastructure parade rolled right under my window and I jumped on the extremely rare opportunity to take some pictures of the operation. This is quite exceptional in the DR Congo as it is both culturally and legally not permitted to take peoples’ pictures without their permission. Add to this that Chinese work crews are equally camera shy, you can now understand my utter joy this morning snapping away at the road paving team that came right past my apartment early Sunday morning.
The Chinese have completely ripped up Kinshasa’s main road “Boulevard 30 Juin.” Ironically, this was essentially the city’s only functioning road so why the Congolese and Chinese governments thought it would be necessary to re-do this particular street remains a mystery to everyone.
Before they decided to “improve” 30 Juin, it was a truly wonderful boulevard. Today, it’s a barren, dust filled desert whereas until 2007 it had huge trees that lined both sides of the road and there was a center divider that did an excellent job of slowing traffic and giving pedestrians sufficient guidance as to where to cross. Now the situation couldn’t be more different. The whole city center along the boulevard is not considerably hotter than it was before due to the tree removal. Sadly, several different locals have told me that due to the Chinese “renovation” there are now one to two deaths per day on this street. Notice how they have not laid down a single drop of paint on the road for either cars or pedestrians. It’s a very dangerous road for everyone. We are all hoping that the Chinese are eventually going to make this boulevard safer by adding traffic lanes and crosswalks. No one is too optimistic though.
In this particular instance, a small number of Chinese foremen and construction engineers are overseeing local Congolese crews. The Chinese have also imported tens of thousands of their laborers to work on projects like this so it is not unusual to see construction teams that are almost entirely Chinese doing the exact same work. It should also be noted that the temperature at 10:30 in the morning when these pictures were taken was somewhere in the low-90s already. This is back-breaking work under very difficult conditions.
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