Economic crisis: Sour Christmas for Congolese after mines close
Written by Miriam Mannak
LUBUMBASHI / DRC - It is busy at the gates of the Bralima brewery in Lubumbashi, the second largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). One day before Christmas, about fifty to sixty men are leaning in silence aainst the walls, hoping for the blue gates to open and someone to offer them a day job as cleaner, loader or construction worker.
"It is busier when compared to a few of months ago. Since the mines closed, many people are left unemployed," driver Tumba says.
As in many parts of the world, the DRC has taken a severe blow by the economic crisis. The Katanga province, situated in the south of the country and the epicenter of the copper and cobalt industry, in particular is taking strain. Over the past weeks, many mines have closed their doors as a result of economic meltdown. The reason for this are the strongly decreased prices of commodities of copper and cobalt.
With the closing of variousmines, about 300.000 people in the Katanga province have lost their jobs. And more are expected to follow. In a country where the annual income per capita lies between $200 and $300, this is a tremendous problem.
“The mines that are in operation still, have cut staff,” says Marc, a Belgian who was born in Lubumbashi. His wife runs a take away restaurant in town. “Many Chinese firms have closed down as well. Some mines are still in operation, those owned by the governor of Katanga for instance, but were forced to retrench staff.”
“We notice the change as a result of the crisis,” Lydia tells me, wile serving clients. “We have fewer customers than usual. People – especially those who have found themselves unemployed – are very careful with their money.”
Another symptom of the crisis and its impact on the DRC is the increased number of street children. Compared to a few months ago, more minors are roaming the streets. “Parents are forced to send their children away, either to earn money to help to make ends meet or permanently,” says Mama Annie, who works at Bakanja Centre – a home for street children ran by a Belgian Salesian NGO.
“We see more and more children on the streets we do not know. The crisis has hit everyone, from the rich CEOs in Europe to the street children here. It is sad, very sad."