Kinshasa set to begin the construction of an ambitious project along two islands on River Congo that will include luxury condos, villas, malls and restaurants, promoters believe will change the image of the war torn, mineral rich central African nation.
KINSHASA, DRC (REUTERS) -An ambitious urban project on two of River Congo's islands is starting to take shape.
Known as "La cite du Fleuve" or "Congo River City", the development is being billed by promoters as an entirely new district in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
Financed by a group of international private investors, the Congo River City is expected to include thousands of luxury apartments, hotels, villas, shopping centers as well as office buildings.
"It's a project which sets out to find alternative housing and create more space, because here in Kinshasa we have problems of land disputes, so we wanted to create space for more housing and avoid land conflicts. But as we progressed with the project, we realised that we needed to build houses for those who wanted to buy property or own apartments," said Serge Mougueni, coordinator of the River City project.
Luxurious houses and apartment complexes, lined with beautiful gardens with a view of the Congo River and equipped with modern amenities are some of the real estate features that potential buyers will be offered.
Most of the eight million people in Kinshasa live on less than a dollar a day, but the project is not geared towards them, marketing has already began targeting Congo's elite and a large expatriate community.
A three bedroom apartment will cost 200,000 US dollars.
Mougueni says the new real estate development will not only give a face lift to the usually chaotic, crowded and underdeveloped image of Kinshasa, but is also a project of expansion for the overpopulated city.
"It will bring a new aspect to the city and to the town. It will be cleaner here as well as in the rest of Kinshasa, it will give a new image to the capital, and secondly, in the long run, population growth will increase in 2030, 2050. Kinshasa will no longer have the same size population that it has today, so it will also go towards resolving housing problems in the city," he said.
The project however, has not been without controversy. Built in the slum of Kingabwa that overlooks the river, thousands of slum dwellers say they have been forced to vacate their land and their homes have been demolished without compensation.
Cecile Bamalona is amongst the thousands who have left their homes. She says she has lost everything.
"They said that our houses looked ugly and unkempt, because they are built from wood. All they have to do is give us money, cement and bricks so that we can build more sustainable houses like they are doing. We are poor, we live with our children, and they want us to leave our homes, but where should we go?" she said.
Developers deny the accusations and say they have government approval and compensated legitimate community members.
"All those who have land at the River City will be compensated for leaving their land. The state has given us the land, and we need to validate it and make it more hospitable. Usually we would make them leave, but to compensate them, we will give them something to allow them to go live somewhere else," said Mougueni.
As the project makes headway, some critics are doubtful that the enormous project will ever be finished in a country plagued by conflict and corruption.