Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leopoldville 1950s -- Hotel des Allies

Hotels des Allies on Ave. Cambier
Another small hotel in Leopoldville in the 1950s (See Mar. 30, 2011) was the Hotel des Alliés, located a block south of the Memling (See Mar. 29, 2011) at the corner of Aves. Moulaert and Cambier (Tchad & Ebeya).  The property of a M. Duchesne, the earliest reference I have found was in a tourist guidebook from 1948.  What was far more interesting for a young boy in primary school was that Duchesne’s building also housed a toy store, Maison du Jouet, on the side facing Ave. Cambier.  An advert in 1958 announced “Jeux-Jouets-Articles Pour Bébés” (curiously translated into English as “Children’s games and fruit and slot machines”).  The shop was a treasure-trove of model cars and airplanes.  Other shops included, Kermesse des Jouets on Ave Hanssens, down a side street from the Memling towards the Boulevard (where Buromeca - Canon's photocopy shop is today) and Maison du Tennis on Ave. du Port.

Hotel des Allies from Ave. Cambier - Intersection with Ave. Moulaert  (Hotel Memling 1 block to the right)
Hotels des Allies & Maison du Jouet (R)

The building now is subdivided into several shops, including an LG electronics and appliance dealer.
The former Hotel des Allies et Maison du Jouet -- note the arcades at street level have been closed in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Leopoldville 1919 - Founding of Plantations et Elevages de Kitobola (PEK)

The Belgian Minister of the Colonies announced in 1918 that the government was planning to sell the agricultural research station at Kitobola in Bas-Congo near Thysville (Mbanza Ngungu).  The following year, Jean Buzon, a former agent of the Congo Free State who became the first President of the Chamber of Commerce in Boma in 1905, put together a deal which secured the concession for his Compagnie Coloniale Belge and its subsidiary, the Plantations et Elevages de Kitobola (PEK).  The farm had been established during the Congo Free State period, piloting experimental rice cultivation and cattle ranching.  Kitobola is located at the base of the Bangu plateau near the Protestant Kimpese and Tumba Catholic mission stations, respectively.
The rice fields at Kitobola

The Compagnie Coloniale Belge used PEK as its brand, most likely because the larger Compagnie du Congo Belge (CCB) of the Société Générale shared the same acronym. PEK established an office in Kinshasa, with its headquarters in Brussels.  Initially, the company built a two-story building at the end of Avenue Van Gèle on the road to Leopoldville.
The PEK office on Ave. Van Gele
The PEK building (L) viewed from north side of current Supreme Court. Monunment du Souvenir Congolais at right.
King Albert 1er leaving the store -- July 1928

Notwithstanding its agricultural base located mid-way between Leopoldville and Matadi, PEK became one of the principal retailers serving the European community in Leopoldville.  The main store with its Flemish facade, which opened on the prestigious Ave. Beernaert (Ave. Equateur) in 1928, was visited by King Albert during his trip to the colony in July.  Earlier that year, the Buzon created another holding company, Mutuelle Belgo Congolaise, with PEK as the majority shareholder.
The PEK store shortly after completion -- 1928
The interior of the PEK store -- cashier's desk between the stairs
The PEK store interior
The PEK store mezzanine -- pith helmets, lingerie and shoes
The PEK store -- another view of the stairs and mezzanine
The PEK store -- late 1930s
In the 1940s, the original PEK building on Ave. Van Gele became La Rotonde, a popular restaurant and hotel.  However, during the building boom of the 1950s, the property became too valuable for such land use. 
La Rotonde on Ave. Van Gele -- 1940s
The Mutuelle created the Cie. Immobilière Van Gèle and contracted with architect Claude Laurens (See Aug. 15, 2011) in 1954 to design a commercial-residential building on the site, the “Residence Van Gèle”.  At the same time, Laurens also designed the refurbishment of the PEK department store on Ave. Beernaert.  The high-rise was completed in 1956.  The Colibri bistro, which opened in the building in 1956, is reputed to be the oldest bar in Kinshasa.
"Residence Van Gele" on Ave. Lukusa -- looking west (Cohydro building in background)
Interior of the Hewa Bora Airways office (note octagonal skylight)
I grew up knowing about PEK, but we never shopped there.  The SEDEC store on Ave. Bousin (Isiro) was more to our pocketbook.  When I returned to Kinshasa in 2001, the PEK building was the main office of Hewa Bora Airways, one of the more reliable domestic airlines (reliable is always relative in the land of “Air Peut Etre”).  When I returned to Kinshasa in June 2011, Hewa Bora had moved its offices to Blvd. 30 Juin and the venerable PEK building was now Bingo Royale Casino.

The Hewa Bora Airways building -- 2004
The PEK/Compagnie Coloniale Belge building as Bingo Royale Casino - 2009

Monday, October 31, 2011

Leopoldville 1931 - Unatra obtains a shipping monopoly

On June 20, 1931, as the economic impact of the Depression came to be felt in the Belgian Congo, the Ministry of the Colonies in Brussels established shipping rates designed to benefit the quasi-governmental shipping firm, the Union National des Transports Fluviaux (Unatra).  Unatra had an interesting pedigree.  It was created in March 1925 out of the merger of the state river transport firm Sonatra (Sociéte National des Transports Fluviaux au Congo) and CITAS (Cie. Industrielle et de Transports au Stanley Pool), a private company founded in 1899 (See Mar. 13, 2011).  Sonatra itself was the successor to the Congo Free State’s Marine du Haut-Congo, which launched the first steamer, the “En Avant” on Ngaliema Bay on December 3, 1881, coincident with the founding of Leopoldville (See Mar. 5, 2011).
The "En Avant" (L), "A.I.A." (C) and "Roi des Belges" (R) -- Leopoldville 1889

The Leopoldville Chamber of Commerce wrote an urgent letter to the Governor General on June 27th, expressing concern about the government’s approach to shipping rates.  Only the month before, the Chamber had called for a moderation in rates, given the declining value of export commodity prices, but the measures favoring Unatra were the opposite of what they expected.  None of this had a more adverse impact than on local businessman Oscar Chinn.
The Unatra naval yards in former CITAS port
Chinn, a British subject, had immigrated to South Africa in his youth, then moved to Stanleyville (Kisangani) in 1925, where he started an engineering firm.  In 1927, he took over management of the African and Eastern Corporation shipyard in Leopoldville.  In 1928, he sold the shipyard on the owners’ behalf and after a brief holiday in Britain, returned to Congo in February 1929 to set up his own shipyard and shipping firm in Leopoldville.  At the time of the Ministry of Colonies edict, Chinn owned 6 ships and 8 barges and operated another six steamers on behalf of private owners.  While other firms, such as Lever Brothers’ Huileries du Congo Belge had larger fleets than Chinn’s, these companies were transporting their own produce and merchandise.  Chinn was the only private shipping operator and as such was in direct competition with Unatra. While Chinn had continued to operate after the Crash, Unatra had been forced to lay up some of its fleet and Chinn was actually negotiating the purchase of two Unatra vessels at the time of the Ministry’s edict.
Unatra port in Leopoldville -- late 1920s
The new measures took effect July 1, 1931.  Unatra reduced its shipping rates, but was allowed to incur deficits which the Colony committed to reimburse.  The result of this subsidy was to grant Unatra a monopoly, as no other shipper could compete at market rates.  Since the subsidy was to be paid by colonial taxes, Chinn as a substantial entrepreneur and tax-payer, found himself in the situation of subsiding his competition.  Unatra, for its part, stepped up its campaign to conclude long-term “fidelity contracts” which committed the large trading and plantation firms to ship their goods on Unatra boats.
The "Yser" at the Unatra naval yards
SOCCA share
 At a meeting of the Conseil du Gouvernement in Leopoldville in October, the principle of extending the subsidy to all river transporters was approved, but the Ministry of Colonies declined.  To add insult to injury, the Ministry issued a decree that more than doubled taxes on river boats.  Chinn’s tax bill in 1932 increased to Frs.13,891 over 5,784 the previous year.  On March 18, 1932, Chinn and four other private transporters (Socca, Socotra, Nogueira and Socoume) sued the Colony in the Court of First Instance in Leopoldville claiming damages from the monopoly allotted to Unatra.  The suit cited the Treaty of Saint-Germain, to which Congo was a party, which guaranteed equality of treatment.  The suit was eventually dismissed on the technicality that the rates had not been set by the Colony, but rather the Colonial Ministry of the Belgian Government.

Some of the Unatra fleet in port
Colonial Minister Tschoffen visited the colony in August, and the shipping rates were among the issues on his agenda.  A meeting on August 4th between the Minister and the Chamber of Commerce, and attended by the Governor General, the British Consul, Chinn and Valckenaere of Socca. Tschoffen declared that he was personally opposed to monopolies, was prevented from creating them by international treaty and therefore proposed that henceforth the subsidies be allocated to all river shippers.  He was not willing to consider claims of damages nor considered the “fidelity” contracts to be a concern of the Ministry.  The measure was of little benefit to Chinn, since nine of his clients representing 70% of his business were now bound by “fidelity” contracts to Unatra. Further, the now solvent Unatra was buying up the fleets of the small shippers.  In any event, Chinn was effectively bankrupt and returned to Europe in October 1932.  The British Ambassador to Belgium met with the Belgian Foreign Minister in December, but no action was taken as the damage suit was still making its way through the appeals process in Leopoldville.
Unatra port at Leopoldville
A Unatra steamer at the Chanic ship yards in Leopoldville-Ouest
The British Government continued to press the issue and in February 1934 served notice of its intent to pursue the matter at the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague.  The hearings began in April before an 11 judge panel.  The Belgian Government case was largely based on the insignificance of Chinn’s operation and certain technical irregularities in the registration of his ships.  On December 12, 1934 the judges issued their decision, split 6 to 5 in favor of Belgium, declaring that the measures taken in June 1931 were not, “in conflict with the international obligations of the Belgian Government towards the Government of the United Kingdom”.
Unatra Bureau -- Ave. Rubbens
Nonetheless, the Belgian Government issued an Arrêté Royale on January 20, 1935 that restructured Unatra under a new entity called the Office des Transports Coloniaux (OTRACO).  The Matadi-Leopoldville railway, as well as the stevedoring firm, Manucongo, were also incorporated into the new parastatal. After Independence in 1960, the name was adjusted to Office des Transports du Congo (See Mar. 19, 2011).  In 1971, under Mobutu’s authenticité campaign, OTRACO became the Office National des Transports, ONATRA.  The Kabila government recently restructured ONATRA as the Société Commercial des Transports et des Ports (SCTP), which re-launched the urban railway (Chemin de fer Inter-Urbain) in June this year (See Oct. 24, 2011).
Unatra port in Leopoldville -- 1930s
·        Permanent Court of International Justice, 1934. “The Oscar Chinn Case, Judgment of December 12th, 1934”, Leyden: A.W. Sijthoff Company.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Leopoldville 1954 – Transports en Commun de Leopoldville hits the streets

When Leopoldville was established in 1881 -- and Kinshasa two years later -- the usual mode of transport was on foot.  Indeed, Stanley’s Caravan Road from Matadi was a pedestrian path and all cargo was transported on the backs of gangs of porters – typically in 60 pound loads.  The scale of the two original communities lent itself to walking and a 7 kilometer path roughly following Aves. Mondjiba, Justice and Lukusa connected the Leopoldville to Kinshasa.  The other option for travel between the two communities was by canoe across Ngaliema Bay, though one of Stanley’s officers, Kalina, drowned when his canoe overturned December 23, 1882, becoming the first European to die in Kinshasa.  During the colonial period, the area of the current Commune de la Gombe was known as Kalina.

The Leopoldville-Kinshasa road -- 1920s

March 15, 1898, the first train from Matadi arrived at Ndolo on the newly completed Chemin de Fer du Congo railway.  On May 1st, when the line began provisional operation, the rails were extended to Leopoldville.  In 1900, the train between Leopoldville and Kinshasa only operated every other day.  Things did not change much for the next decade.  When ornithologist James Chapin transited the city for the American Museum of Natural History Congo Expedition in July 1909, he walked from Leopoldville (he was staying ABFMS/CBCO station) to Kinshasa.
The train to Leopoldville (upper left) passing the Kinshasa market

But circumstances were changing.  The first Ford appeared on the city streets in 1914, causing a “sensation”.  Another form of transport was the “pousse-pousse”, a rickshaw-like unicycle with handles front and rear for the pushers. When Colonial Magistrate Henri Segaert passed through Kinshasa in March 1918, “pousse-pousse” taxis awaited the passengers to whisk them in minutes from the port to the Hotel A.B.C. (the March 27, 2011 post shows a “pousse-pousse” in front of the Hotel). Though “pousse-pousse” were eventually banned, they were restored during World War II as a fuel-saving measure, but never really came back in the boom years of the post-war period.
A "pousse-pousse" taxi

The Comité Urbain considered a proposal by entrepreneurs Promontorio and Morelle in June 1924 to operate a public transport service linking the railway stations at Kinshasa and Kalina with Hotel A.B.C.  In February 1928, the Compagnie Industries et Transports Automobiles au Congo (ITAC) (See June 9, 2014) was created by the SOCOMA company to provide the first bus service in the city.  Three buses connected the port and railway station with the Hotel A.B.C. (See Jan. 6, 2011, Mar. 27, 2011). 

Bicycles were becoming an attractive mode of transport, accessible even to Congolese.  In 1929, Cycles Orban was founded and in 1932, Orban opened the first bicycle assembly plant in Kinshasa.  Four years later, A. Faniel opened another bicycle plant in Leopoldville.  In that same year, Orban began to market his bicycles under the Nabro brand.  In 1937 another competitor, Jacques Kaiser, launched his firm on the Leopoldville market.  Bicycle ownership among Congolese was growing exponentially. In 1944, Leopoldville had 5,300 registered bicycles – by 1956, these numbered 50,000.
Bicycles and Fula Fula buses on a Leopoldville street -- 1951

The first taxis, provided by Pires, began circulating in 1940.  In 1948, Constantine Pipinis, a Greek entrepreneur, launched the first public transport for Congolese.  Called "Fula Fulas", these were converted trucks with bench seats along the sides.  This was also made more feasible by the city government paving several of the main streets in the cité, including Ave. Baudouin and Kasai.  Kinois were pleased with the speed with which they could cover distances, but were crammed together like sardines. In the same year, the Ministry of Colonies sent a consultant to Leopoldville to assess the transportation problems of the city.
"Fula Fulas" parked on a Leopoldville street
The corporate sector was also concerned about the transportation situation.  In 1951, Martin Thèves of the Cominiére holding company visited the capital and commented on the productivity implications associated with the lack of public transport; Congolese who came to work on foot were too tired to work. A study in 1952 recommended placing 100 wheeled vehicles on the streets. The issue was resolved in mid-1954 following an accord between the Comité Urbain and Cominière’s Colectric to establish the Transports en Commun de Leopoldville (TCL). Colectric (now SNEL) was established in 1923 to provide electric power to the city and later the distribution of electricity from the Sanga and Zongo dams in Bas-Congo.  The state held 54% of the shares and transport companies OTRACO and Cominiere’s Vicicongo railway were involved, but the choice of the electricity company was explained by the proposed transport solution – electric buses.  TCL ordered 12 “gyrobuses” from the Swiss Oerlikon company, a new technology that had only been introduced in the Swiss town of Yverdon in 1953. 
A TCL Gyrobus charging at a bus stop
A Gyrobus power pole on Ave. Kasavubu
Electric power was generated from a fly-wheel mechanism en route, but required recharging every 5 kilometers from an overhead 3-phase pole.  When the 20 kilometer gyrobus network was inaugurated by Colonial Minister Buisseret in July 1955, it was the largest in the world (See Jan. 9, 2011 -- gyrobus fleet at the Gare Central).  TCL also acquired 37 diesel buses, of which 27 were equipped with articulated trailers and by 1956 carried 10 million passengers.  The “gyrobuses” proved challenging to operate.  Recharging took several minutes and drivers tended to deviate from established routes on rough roads, increasing wear and tear.  The “gyrobuses” were phased out in 1959.  At Independence in 1960 TCL operated 200 buses (mostly Belgian-made Van Hool models) and carried 100 million passengers on 18 lines.

A TCL diesel bus at the Gare Centrale  -- 1950s
A Fula Fula at the Marche Centrale
The first taxi-buses, now the mainstay of Kinshasa’s urban transport system, first appeared on city streets in 1958. For a number of years VW Combis were the preferred model. After Independence, a new taxi company began operating blue Peugeot 403 sedans with a yellow stripe along the side.  Orban and Unilever’s retail arm SEDEC created the Cyclor bicycle factory in the industrial suburb of Limete in 1965.  The plant was expanded in 1967, but bicycles had become an endangered species and virtually disappeared as a mode of transport on Kinshasa’s streets by the end of the decade.

VW Combi Taxibuses on a Kinshasa Street -- 1960s
Like most parastatals in Congo, TCL suffered from poor management and lack of capital and spare parts after Independence.  At the same time, the bus company shared the same problems of overcrowding and wear and tear that affected public transit operators worldwide.  In May 1967, 15 new buses were purchased by the State.  The following year, when the Leyland assembly plant was opened, the bus company ordered 75 buses.  But there was also competition.  The Société de Transports de Kinshasa (STK) was created in September by one of Mobutu’s cronies, Poto Galo, the local representative of Mercedes Benz.  The thirty Mercedes buses that took to the streets in 1969 were slightly more expensive than TCK, charging 5 makuta per trip. In the early 1970s, the company began to decline such that it only operated two lines in 1979 and completely folded in 1982.
Pickup truck taxi-buses known as “kimalu-malu” were introduced in 1973, typically linking the rural zones with the inner city taxi-buses.  At the same time, TCK was restructured as the Office des Transports en Commun au Zaire (OTCZ), in line with the Zairianization of the economy Mobutu ordered at the end of the year. By 1978, the Bureau d’Etudes d’Amenagements Urbains (supported by French development assistance) estimated that Kinshasa would require 1600 buses by 1990. In May of the following year, the Société des Transports Zaïrois (SOTRAZ) was created with investment from the Zairian government, the mining conglomerate SOZACOM and French automaker Renault.  This was followed by City-Cars (with Belgian private investment) and City-Train (public -- see photo Feb. 20, 2011) and the ephemeral Société des Transports Zairo-Marocains (mixed capital) established in 1989.
A Kimalu-malu taxi in 2001
None of these initiatives was able to meet either the demand or maintain its fleet over the long term. By the time the Kabila and the AFDL ousted Mobutu in 1997, public transport remained the province of small, private taxi-bus operators, typically running used vehicles imported from Europe, often still sporting corporate logos of their earlier life. Other companies employed yellow school buses from America.  The new authorities attempted to revive the public transport system, supporting City-Train’s acquisition of Volvo buses.  In December 2002, a new authority was proposed to combine road and rail services under the Régie Autonome des Transports Urbains de Kinshasa (RATUK).  This would take over Onatra’s derelict rail service and the City-Train bus lines.
ONATRA's Train Urbain
A taxibus on Ave. Liberation in blue and yellow livery
For its part, City-Train was trying to recover outstanding debts from creditors and get its fleet back on the road.  In September 2003, the company received credits to purchase Pegaso buses in Europe.  The following month, Kinshasa Governor Nku met with bus investors. In March 2004, the Société de Transport Urbain du Congo (STUC) was created, with an expected start-up fleet of 60 reconditioned Belgian and Spanish buses.  Transport Minister Olengakhoy received 4 Belgian Van Hool buses in May 2004.  In September 2005 STUC was operating 10 buses on the Gare-Kingasani line.  City Hall mandated a uniform blue and yellow color scheme for all buses and taxis in October 2007, in an attempt to bring some consistency to the ragtag fleet of used, imported vehicles. 
A city bus stops at Place Braconnier on Blvd. 30e Juin
Long-suffering Kinois put up with regular taxi-bus strikes (when Police became too exigent) and grappling with how to choose approaching vehicles which did not display the route they were plying.  Both parties developed a sign language; a flat hand extended up means down the Boulevard, a flat hand down means Ave. Liberation (24 Novembre), a thumb jerked over the shoulder means a perpendicular street (as in Liberation from the Boulevard), the index finger revolved in a downward circle indicating Rond Point Victoire (or other nearby roundabout) as the desired destination.
Kinois awaiting public transport at Place Braconnier
Meanwhile, Onatra was struggling with the urban rail service, having closed the Kintambo Magasins-Kinsuka line in early 2002.  The rolling stock was ancient, typically overloaded and less than 25% of passengers paid their fares.   Onatra service was on again off again.  In June 2011 a new Chemin de Fer Inter-Urbain was launched running from the Gare Centrale through Matete and Kisenso to Kasangulu.  Belgian Cooperation donated 4 locomotives and 30 cars to the Société Commercial des Transports et des Ports (SCTP), a new parastatal which replaced ONATRA.  Residents of the isolated Communes on the eastern side of the city were enthusiastic.  A well-run urban rail system could help alleviate Kinshasa’s chaotic traffic patterns.
The new Chemin de Fer Inter-Urbain
·        Bolle, Jacques.  1961. Cominière 1910-1960.
·        Kiniali Kamanda, (n.d.) “Quel Avenir pour les Entreprises de Transport en Commun Kinois?”
·        Kolonga Molei, 1978, Kinshasa, ce village d’hier, Sodimca.
·        Lumenganeso, Antoine. 2005, “Transports urbains à Léopoldville: l'expérience du gyrobus”, in Vellut, Jean-Luc, 2005.  La memoire du Congo: Le temps colonial, Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale.
·        Mbumba Ngimbi, 1981, Kinshasa 1881-1981, 100 ans après Stanley, Kinshasa: Centre de Recherches Pedagogiques.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Leopoldville 1952 – Office des Cités Africains

A substantial village existed at Kintambo when Henry Stanley established Leopoldville on a nearby hill in 1881 (See Mar. 5, 2011).  But the economic activity stimulated by the outpost attracted African workers and soon a large informal settlement developed near the European town. In 1911, District Commissioner Moulaert created the first Cité Indigène, known popularly as Belge. The Cité was laid out in a grid pattern of 1 hectare squares and subdivided into 32 lots which could be assigned to any regular worker if they were registered with the Territorial Administrator, had a clean bill of health, could prove employment and paid their taxes.  As the commercial district of Kinshasa began to grow upstream, an adjacent Cité, comprising the future Quartiers of Kinshasa, Barumbu and St. Jean (Lingwala), developed there as well (See Mar. 13, 2011).
The Cite in 1925
Housing plans for Chanic workers

A Colonial Decree in March 16, 1922 required large companies to provide housing for their workers within 5 kilometers of the worksite, so when the Texaf textile mill and Chanic shipyards were established in 1928, the firms built housing camps in Kintambo for their employees.  The shipping firm Unatra (Otraco after 1935) and Lever Brothers’ Huileries du Congo Belge did the same in Kinshasa.

Worker Housing Camp in Leopoldville -- 1920s.  Communal water tap in foreground
In 1927, the plans for a grand capital at Kalina brought the deplorable conditions in the Cité into focus for Constant Wauters, the Urbain District Commissioner.  Wauters, who would complete his career as Governor of Kasai Province, was concerned about the proximity of the African township to the European town and the concomitant spread of disease. Four related interventions were proposed; establishment of a “neutral zone”, sanitation measures in both existing and future Cités, development of compact rather than fragmented townships and application of standard construction practice, either by construction firms or the residents themselves.  On the latter point, Wauters favored awarding a concession for the work to a major financial institution or engaging local construction firms. In April 1928, Chief Engineer Gustave Itten proposed constructing the houses with a metal framework, which could be dismantled and moved if the main city needed to expand. This direct involvement of the government in the production of housing ran counter to Wauters’ plan.
A view of the Cite 1925 -- note proximity to the European section
In January 1929, Assistant Commissioner Fernand deBock submitted an initial plan for housing the Congolese residents of the city, though it was essentially a segregation measure.  40,000 households were to be relocated at a cost of 20 million francs, in order to create a neutral zone of 250 meters separating the two communities.  This exceeded the financial means of the colony and the following year, now District Commissioner de Bock, proposed a “New Formula” which would create a 300 meter park, which could be expanded to 800 meters over time.  De Bock obtained Fr.1,000,000 from the Colony for housing loans for African applicants.  This plan was implemented in the 1930s, with Parc de Bock and the Zoo becoming one of the central elements of the plan (See Feb. 6, 2011)
The entrance to Parc de Bock -- 1930s
In 1932, at the time the Scheut mission was building the first Catholic Church in the Cité, St. Pierre, the mission also provided loans and technical assistance to enable a few parishioners to build houses of permanent materials (these included Jean Bolikango, who would become the doyen of Congolese politicians by Independence in 1960).  By 1934, some 15 houses had been built under this initiative. Housing for Africans remained a problem, however, such that when the Comité Urbain attempted to create the Neutral Zone between the European and African districts in 1933, the effort foundered in part because there was no housing for the affected Congolese to move to (See July 31, 2011).
Otraco workers camp in the Cite of Kinshasa
The hard economic times of the Depression further limited options and the advent of World War II diverted attention to the war effort.  The war attracted many Congolese to the capital to work in the transport sector, light industry and expanded government services.  By 1945, the Congolese population had increased to 96,000, more than double the number of residents in 1940.  The colonial government decided to create a “Nouvelle Cité” south of the original cité and stretching east to the Funa River from Quartier Dendale (now Commune Kasavubu) including Kalamu and Ngiri-Ngiri. Public Works architects developed standard house plans for colonial agents.  On April 5, calls for proposals to develop housing in two projects were released.  The location of Ndolo Airport in this area was problematic as the runway needed to be extended to accommodate larger post-war passenger planes such as the DC-4 and DC-6. Ndolo airport was part of the second Neutral Zone the colonial authorities attempted to establish between the two races and also included the popular Funa Club opened in 1938.
The old Cite (top) separated from the "Nouvelle Cite" by Ndolo Airport
Two million francs was made available in 1946 for housing loans in Leopoldville. The following year, a home mortgage facility for Congolese, the “Fonds d’Avance”, was created along the lines of the Catholic Mission’s 1932 initiative. The Congolese who had received lots in the new Cité lined up to apply for Fonds d’Avance loans.  As part of the Ten Year Plan for the colony launched by Minister of the Colonies Pierre Wigny in 1949, an “Office des Cités Indigènes” was created in June 1949 with individual offices in the main cities, including Leopoldville.  In November 1950, the first buildings were started, for which there were 11,000 applicants. New Quartiers were developed in Renkin (now Matonge in Commune Kasavubu), Christ-Roi (C.Kasavubu), Yolo, Foncobel, Bandalungwa, Lemba and Matete.  In the first year, 1,000 of 6,500 planned dwelling units were completed.
An example of Fonds d'Avance housing in the Cite
A section of one of the new planned Cites
As noted earlier (See July 31, 2011), urban development took a new departure in 1951 when Maurice Heymans succeeded Georges Ricquier as chief urban planner for the capital.  Heymans put less emphasis on the Neutral Zone, focusing instead on creating new, completely serviced satellite communities to the east of the city. This process was reinforced in March 1952, when the Office des Cités Africaines was created, bringing together all the municipal “Office des Cites Indigenes” under one comprehensive planning and construction agency.  The idea was to move away from workers camps and to produce completely integrated cities comprising residential, commercial, educational, recreational, local government and religious facilities linked to employment centers via public transport. 
One of the new OCA Cites (possibly Matete) looking towards downtown and the Congo River
Architect's plan for the municipal section of an OCA Cite
The young architects who worked on the projects were influenced by the work in the 1930s of German architect Ernst May and Le Corbusier.  They were conscious of engaging in social engineering, not only in the spirit of the Bauhaus in the use of new technologies and materials, but also, given the new living arrangements, in changing Congolese preference for a single-family dwelling in the center of a small plot and orienting food preparation and cooking inside the dwelling. The initiative also sought to encourage the values of thrift and home ownership, even though the buyer could not own the plot.  In addition, the concept of social segregation was introduced; Matete, adjacent the industrial district of Limete, was designed for workers, while Bandalungwa, closer to the governmental district of Kalina was planned for white collar workers.
Photo of a Congolese family in modern housing -- 1953
OCA housing block in Bandalungwa
In 1954, the first lay schools opened in OCA housing and the primary school in Kauka (Quartier Nicolas Cito) was built as well as St. Alphonse Catholic Church, designed by OCA architects in the Cite Pierre Wigny, named for the author of the Ten Year Plan.  The Fonds d’Avances” process was streamlined in 1954, but a new mortgage instrument, the “Fonds du Roi” was introduced in November 1955 during the visit to the colony of the new Belgian King, Baudouin. Though managed by the Ministry of Colonies, the new fund benefited from the cachet and enthusiasm for the new sovereign. Baudouin inaugurated the first two-story building in Bandalungwa on December 8.  By this time, OCA was constructing 16 dwelling units per day in Matete and had completed nearly 20,000 houses, more than half in Leopoldville.
The Commercial district of Matete
Newly completed OCA housing units in Bandalungwa -- 1958
Workers inspect damage to the Matete Administrative offices after the January 1959 riots
With the recession which hit Congo in 1956-57, the rhythm of production in the OCA sites declined.  Significantly, the riots which rocked the city in January 1959 targeted the new infrastructure, viewed as evidence of the colonial power.  In February, police patrols scoured the cités, looking for undocumented workers with the intent of sending them back to their home communities.  Shiny Leo was only to be for employed workers.  At Independence in 1960, OCA had built 32,224 DU, of which 19,689 were in Leopoldville.

A view of an OCA Cite -- 1959
The urbanization and housing initiative collapsed after Independence, victim to both the departure of technical staff and budget considerations and more critical survivalist priorities of the Congolese state.  No new housing was built, though streets were paved in Lemba Commune in 1964 with European Community funds. OCA staff went on strike in April 1965.  June 9, 1965, OCA was replaced by the Office National du Logement (ONL). In June 1966, the Government considered merging the “Fonds d’Avances” with ONL.  A new financing mechanism, the Caisse Nationale d'Epargne et de Crédit Immobilier (CNECI) was created in 1971 with funding from USAID and resulted in the construction of 800 dwelling units in Cité Salongo in Lemba Commune.
Aerial view of Cite Salongo in Lemba

Kinshasa’s communes have now expanded significantly beyond this original initiative.  There was almost no urban planning and the greatest challenge for the municipality was to provide a minimum of water and electrical service – which are minimal and irregular in many quartiers.  Nearly all housing is owner built. The homogeneity of the original OCA Cités has blended into the “look” of Kinshasa’s low and middle income neighborhoods, but traces can still be discerned, as the following photos from Bandalungwa, taken on Ave. Kasavubu, demonstrate.

·        Lusamba Kibayu, Michel. 2008. “La Typologie des quartiers dans l’histoire du développement de Léopoldville-Kinshasa en République Démocratique du Congo
·        Robert, Yves. 2010. “L’Oeuvre moderniste remarquable de l’Office des Cités Africaines au Congo”, in Les Nouvelles de la Patrimoine, pp. 35-39.