China’s Road-building Investment in Congo

In developed nations, access to major roadways is taken for granted. We have six-lane dual carriageways, networks of precisely paved arteries cutting in and out of big cities, and transcontinental highways stretching for thousands of miles. Even those shady side streets and pot-holed back alleys are there when you need them–in my case, when I’m lost (regularly) and need to make a K-turn.

But a recent article in The Washington Post details the lack of highway infrastructure in a growing, but largely undeveloped country, Congo (formerly Zaire). However, a mutually (though perhaps not equally) beneficial road-building deal between the Congolese government and China will bring new transportation opportunities to mining cities in the north and south of Congo, connecting them to western ports. The Chinese, in return, will create its own lucrative inroad into the African nation’s rich mining industry.

While this business agreement may seem a world away to economic developers who can proudly tout and sell their extensive and upgraded transportation routes, the anecdotal information in the Post’s article is also eye-opening. It details how the grading and smoothening of one, 30-mile dirt road leading to the village of Kilongo has brought beer, electronics, and prostitutes, to name a few, um, “goods” to the once-isolated community.

Check out the full story for a good read. Here’s one fascinating stat: “Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, with vast natural resources, has less than 3,000 miles of paved road. Virginia, by comparison, has about 70,000 miles.”