Turkish builders of Kinshasa, “even faster than the Chinese”
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Turkish builders of Kinshasa, “even faster than the Chinese”

Kinshasa (AFP) – The people of Kinshasa cannot believe the speed with which a Turkish company has built an imposing financial complex in the heart of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, more accustomed to large Chinese projects than to these new builders of the African continent.

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“Suddenly it has changed,” laughs the street vendor, who for a little over a year was forced to move his goods as the perimeter of the construction site changed. “They work day and night, even faster than the Chinese,” adds the security agent, somewhat in awe.

In February 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to the DRC, which was his eleventh trip to Africa.

Under his leadership, Ankara has invested a lot in the continent in the past two decades, in order to develop diplomatic as well as economic ties. Turkish companies have, for example, built a mosque in Ghana, stadiums in Rwanda or Senegal, and airports in several countries.

In Kinshasa, he concluded cooperation agreements concerning especially security, defense and infrastructure construction, including a “Financial Center” whose work was quickly launched, in a concession located near a Turkish school, in the business commune of Gombe.

At this point, between the courthouse and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there was a roundabout pompously named Independence Square, decorated with a kind of faded cement platform carried by the steps leading up to the monument.

Visitors sometimes walked there, between the rows of plants in small bags bought by the tenants of the villas with gardens that were built in the area during the time of the Belgian settlers.

Aerial view of the construction site of the financial complex in Kinshasa on October 5, 2023 in DRC
Aerial view of the construction site of the financial complex in Kinshasa on October 5, 2023 in DRC © Arsene Mpiana / AFP

Then palisades and construction bungalows appeared, which were quickly dominated by half a dozen concrete towers gradually covered with glass panels.

Two of them, about twenty stories high, will house the ministries of finance and budget. The complex, which includes a total of nine buildings, will house a congress center, offices, a large hotel, etc.

Cable car

The main contractor is Milvest, a subsidiary of the Turkish holding company Miller.

According to CEO Turhan Mildon, who held a press briefing at the site in mid-September, this project will employ around 3,000 people – 1,800 Congolese and 1,200 Turks.

Construction site of a financial complex in Kinshasa, October 5, 2023 in DRC
Construction site of a financial complex in Kinshasa, October 5, 2023 in DRC © Arsene Mpiana / AFP

The cost of the works was estimated at 290 million dollars, and was pre-financed by the company, which also invests 60 million dollars in the hotel, which it will manage for 49 years.

The inauguration of the financial center is scheduled for December 2. Before the elections scheduled for the 20th of the same month, in which the current president Félix Tshisekedi is a candidate for a second term.

With its dusty scaffolding, the construction site in the immediate vicinity of the new Chinese embassy seems to be almost at a standstill, and the Chinese workers no longer have the attraction of novelty among the Congolese.

Very present in the country since the time of Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-97), they built the “palace of the people”, the seat of parliament and the stadium of the martyrs, a huge walled courtyard with 80,000 seats.

Under Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), under the terms of a mega contract of “infrastructure mines”, they rebuilt and widened the main avenues, including the freeway-like Boulevard du 30 Juin in the center of the city. Under Félix Tshisekedi, they continue to build, among other things, a gigantic cultural complex that is currently nearing completion.

But in the face of them, Turkey advances its pawns. In addition to the financial center, Milvest is in the running to renovate and expand Kinshasa Airport, a project originally awarded to a Chinese company but not completed.

The construction of a city cable car in the remote, hilly and congested area of ​​Kinshasa is also planned, for which Milvest has a contract with the French company Poma, a cable car specialist.

Aerial view of the construction site of the financial complex in Kinshasa on October 5, 2023 in DRC
Aerial view of the construction site of the financial complex in Kinshasa on October 5, 2023 in DRC © Arsene Mpiana / AFP

The project, which is still in the administrative phase, is particularly intriguing to the residents of Kinshasa, a chaotic city of 15 million souls where electricity and running water are rare commodities in certain neighborhoods.

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