Living in the Democratic Republic of Congo

What’s it like to live and work in the DRC?

Um. It’s okay I guess. For you, it will different. I can only talk about my experience.

I grew up here. It’s a little different. My parents raised me here until I was 10 years old. Then I left. I came back when I was 26 (2014) years old. I am now 34. So 8 years in the DRC. Most people come here for 1 or 2 years. So when I tell them I have been here 18 years in total, they are shocked.

The DRC is not most people’s dream destination. It attracts people who are adventurous, who are in humanitarian work, who are in mining, who have some sort of link with Congo’s past or who fled worst places.

I find that most people who come here have a screw loose somewhere or needed a change from their past lives.

I’ve also met people who have fallen in love with the DRC and would be devastated if they left it. My grandfather could never leave the DRC, neither can my father (I think). They have been through hell here but they kept fighting and stayed even after losing everything twice! In 74 with the nationalisation and in 91 with the military looting. In 97 when Mobutu was overthrown, we fled to South Africa. My father kept coming back to rebuild the business.

Anyways, what’s it like?

It’s okay I guess. I said that before, I know. I can’t really explain it. It’s alright. Somedays are horrible. Some days are great.

I work with my father. He built his business with his father but mostly on his own. It has done well and now I am learning and helping it grow to some extent. My mother also works in the business. So we are three in charge of a medium sized business. It is a challenge to work here, to say the least.

It is great to be independent, to know that this is your father’s, that he built it. There is an inherent pride in being part of something that three generations have built.

My parents have been here since the 80s after leaving Canada after their studies. The business climate has become much more competitive now. The quality of life has also worsened tremendously with the smog, the dirt, the crowded slums, the insecurity, the lack of running water or electricity. There wasn’t as much traffic back then. The roads were better I think. Life wasn’t as expensive. There wasn’t a COVID curfew (lol).

Maybe the madness is tough, the people you work with are harder to relate to than in Canada or elsewhere. The education level is very poor compared to other countries. Corruption is widespread and permeates all aspects of life. It even corrupts your view on corruption – that it is a way of “helping”. That it is normal.

Your mindset changes to the mainstream view of short term gains rather than long term building, because here, most people try to live today, not tomorrow. Today is the only day that they have. There is no saving for retirement or insurance. Kids are the insurance. Have as many kids as you can. They trust in God. That is the approach I find in most people I meet on the streets or who have simple lives and who work bloody hard.

This place teaches you things about being human. About hardship. About wars. About suffering. About poverty. It is no wonder there are so many people that come here for one thing but end up staying to help the Congolese. They want to help. They want to do “good”. Maybe that’s why we stay. Maybe that’s why I stay.

To be continued… 🙂

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