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Congo Kinshasa: Congo Kinshasa Transportation Profile


Ground transport in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has always been difficult. The terrain and climate of the Congo Basin present critical barriers to road and rail construction, and the distances are enormous across this vast country. Furthermore, chronic economic mismanagement and internal conflict has led to critical under-investment over a lot of years.

On the other hand, the DRC has thousands of kilometres of navigable waterways, and traditionally water transport has been the dominant means of moving around approximately two-thirds of the country.

As an illustration of transport difficulties in the DRC, even before wars damaged the infrastructure, the so-called "national" route, used to get supplies to Bukavu from the seaport of Matadi, consisted of the following:

    Matadi to Kinshasa – rail
    Kinshasa to Kisangani – river boat
    Kisangani to Ubundu – rail
    Ubundu to Kindu – river boat
    Kindu to Kalemie – rail
    Kalemie to Kalundu (the lake port at Uvira) – boat on Lake Tanganyika
    Kalundu to Bukavu – road

In other words, goods had to be loaded and unloaded eight times and the total journey would take a lot of months.

A lot of of the routes listed below are in poor condition and may be operating at only a fraction of their original capacity (if at all), despite recent attempts to make improvements. Up to 2006 the United Nations Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC) had an operation in Congo to support humanitarian relief agencies working there, and its bulletins and maps about the transport situation are archived on the UNJLC web site.

The Initial and Second Congo Wars saw great destruction of transport infrastructure from which the country has not from presently on recovered. A lot of vehicles were destroyed or commandeered by militias, particularly in the north and east of the country, and the fuel supply system was as well badly affected. As a result, outside of Kinshasa, Matadi and Lubumbashi, private and commercial road transport is almost non-existent and traffic is scarce even where roads are in good condition. The few vehicles in use outside these cities are run by the United Nations, aid agencies, the DRC government, and a few larger companies such as those in the mining and energy sectors. It is notable that high-resolution satellite photos on the Internet show large cities such as Bukavu, Butembo and Kikwit virtually devoid of traffic, compared to similar photos of towns in neighbouring nations.

Air transport is the only effective means of moving between a lot of places within the country. The Congolese government, the United Nations, aid organisations and large companies use air rather than ground transport to move personnel and freight. The UN operates a large fleet of aircraft and helicopters, and compared to other African nations the DRC has a large number of small domestic airlines and air charter companies. The transport (and smuggling) of minerals with a high price for weight is as well carried out by air, and in the east, some stretches of paved road isolated by destroyed bridges or impassable sections have been turned into airstrips.

For the ordinary citizen though, particularly in rural areas, often the only options are to cycle, walk or go by dugout canoe.

Some parts of the DRC are additional accessible from neighbouring nations than from Kinshasa. For example Bukavu itself and Goma and other north-eastern towns are linked by paved road from the DRC border to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, and most goods for these cities have been brought via this route in recent years. Similarly, Lubumbashi and the rest of Katanga Province is linked to Zambia, through which the paved highway and rail networks of Southern Africa can be accessed. Such links through neighbouring nations are generally additional significant for the east and south-east of the country, and are additional heavily used, than surface links to the capital.

Airports - with unpaved runways Total: 
Transportation - note: