The people of Kinshasa cannot believe the speed at 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 major Chinese projects than to these new builders of the African continent.
“It’s changed suddenly,” notes a street vendor with a laugh, who has been forced for a little over a year to move his goods as the perimeter of the construction site changes. “They work day and night, even faster than the Chinese,” adds a security agent, somewhat admiringly.
In February 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official visit to the DRC, his umpteenth trip to Africa. Under his leadership, Ankara has invested a lot in the continent over the past two decades, to develop diplomatic but also 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 in particular security, defense and the construction of infrastructure, including the "Finance Center" whose work was quickly launched, in a concession located near the Turkish school, in the business commune of Gombe.
There was at this place, between the courthouse and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a roundabout pompously called Place de l'Independance, decorated with a sort of faded cement platform carried by stairs leading to no monument.
Visitors sometimes walked there, between the rows of plants in small bags bought by the occupants of the villas with gardens built in the area during the time of the Belgian settlers. Then the palisades and construction bungalows appeared, quickly dominated by half a dozen concrete towers gradually covered with glass panels.
Two of them, around twenty floors high, will house the Ministries of Finance and Budget. The complex, which includes nine buildings in total, will also house a convention center, offices, a large hotel, etc.
The prime contractor is the company Milvest, a subsidiary of the Turkish holding company Miller. According to its CEO Turhan Mildon, who gave a press briefing on the site in mid-September, this project will have employed some 3,000 people - 1,800 Congolese and 1,200 Turks.
The cost of the work is estimated at $290 million, pre-financed by the company, which is also investing $60 million in the hotel which it will manage for 49 years. The finance center is scheduled to be inaugurated on 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 very close to the new Chinese embassy seems almost to be stalling, 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 "People's Palace" , the seat of Parliament, and the Martyrs Stadium, an immense enclosure with 80,000 seats.
Under Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), under the terms of a mega-contract "mines for infrastructure", they rebuilt and enlarged large avenues, including the boulevard du 30 Juin, which looks like a highway in the middle of the city. Under Félix Tshisekedi, they continue to build, among other things, a gigantic cultural complex currently nearing completion.
But against them, Turkey is advancing its pawns. In addition to the financial center, the Milvest company is in the running for the renovation and extension of Kinshasa airport, a project initially awarded to a Chinese company but not completed.
The construction of an urban cable car is also planned in an outlying, hilly, and congested area of Kinshasa, for which Milvest is in contract with the French company Poma, a cable transport specialist.
This project, still in its administrative phase, particularly intrigues the inhabitants of Kinshasa, a chaotic city of 15 million souls where electricity and running water are rare commodities in certain neighborhoods.