Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, mid-March, 2020. A market in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital. Congolese authorities closed schools and shut down major commercial activities to enforce social distancing. Many people weren’t taking precautions and didn’t believe the virus was a threat to them during the early days of the pandemic. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac

Kinshasa in confinement

Kinshasa, April 29, 2020
Reading time: 7 min

In early March, many African countries were implementing precautionary measures to protect their populations against the Coronavirus. Kinshasa, one of Africa’s largest cities, is home to more than 12 million people, many of them living in cramped conditions. The central business district of Gombe — Kinshasa’s financial and administrative hub where many foreigners and Congolese elite live and work — is the epicenter of DRC’s coronavirus outbreak.

On March 19, schools were closed, major commercial activities halted, and Gombe was put under lockdown, with access roads blocked off and passes required for entry. Police patrolled Gombe’s streets and people were screened at the entrances to buildings and at the few essential shops that remained operational. Five days later, President Tshisekedi declared a national state of emergency, closed the country’s borders, and isolated Kinshasa from other provinces to stem the spread from the capital to the other regions.

While Gombe’s streets fell quiet, scenes in the surrounding neighbourhoods were very different. As I walked through Mont Ngafula, a southern commune of Kinshasa, I found many people who were not yet respecting social distancing measures and other precautions suggested by the World Health Organization. Even now, many people continue business as usual without protection. Many don’t believe the virus is a real threat to them.

As of today, April 29, Congo has reported 491 COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths.

Kinshasa, early April, 2020. A busy street in the financial and administrative district of Gombe in the capital. Even though the area had been put on lockdown on March 19, streets were often still crowded. People continue to make a living; much of the population survives on less than $2 per day. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, early April, 2020. A busy street in the financial and administrative district of Gombe in the capital. Even though the area had been put on lockdown on March 19, streets were often still crowded. People continue to make a living; much of the population survives on less than $2 per day. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, March 19, 2020. A busy street in the Mont Ngafula district of the capital. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, March 19, 2020. A busy street in the Mont Ngafula district of the capital. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, mi-mars 2020. Scène de rue dans la capitale. Les autorités ont fermé les écoles et interrompu les principales activités commerciales pour imposer la distanciation sociale aux Congolais, dont beaucoup ne prenaient aucune précaution et ne croyaient pas à la menace du virus aux premiers jours de la pandémie. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, mid-March, 2020. A street scene in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital. Congolese authorities closed schools and shut down major commercial activities to enforce social distancing. Many people weren’t taking precautions and didn’t believe the virus was a threat to them during the early days of the pandemic. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, début avril 2020. Un panneau d’information sur les mesures sanitaires visant à contenir la propagation du coronavirus devant la mairie de Kinshasa, dans le quartier de Gombe. Une grande partie des étrangers et de l’élite congolaise vit et travaille dans ce centre financier et administratif de la capitale, l’épicentre de l’épidémie de coronavirus en RDC. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, early April, 2020. A billboard promoting health measures aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus in front of Kinshasa’s City Hall in the financial and administrative district of Gombe. Gombe — the city’s financial and administrative hub where many foreigners and Congolese elite live and work — is the epicenter of Congo’s Coronavirus outbreak. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, début avril 2020. Un député provincial harangue une foule exaspérée par les démarches nécessaires pour obtenir un laisser-passer à Gombe, centre commercial de la capitale. Les autorités ont fermé les écoles, interrompu les principales activités commerciales et fermé l’accès à ce quartier prospère pour imposer la distanciation sociale. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, early April, 2020. A provincial deputy addresses a crowd of people frustrated with a process required to obtain access badges to Gombe, the central commercial district of Kinshasa. Congolese authorities closed schools, shut down major commercial activities, and closed off access to the wealthy Gombe district to enforce social distancing. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, 19 mars 2020. Sœur Élysee, directrice d’une école de Mont Ngafula, une commune de la capitale du Congo, dans sa cour. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, March 19, 2020. Sister Élysee, who runs a school in the Mont Ngafula area of Congo’s capital, stands in a courtyard. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, mi-mars 2020. Une salle de classe vide dans la capitale. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Kinshasa, mid-March, 2020. An empty classroom in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac
Gombe, Kinshasa, dimanche 5 avril, 21 h 05. Le centre administratif et économique de la capitale, considéré comme l’épicentre de la pandémie du Covid-19 en RDC, se prépare à un confinement de deux semaines. Épiceries et boutiques sont déjà fermées et les foules d’habitués ont disparu. Ce quartier résidentiel concentre 70 % des cas officiellement répertoriés dans le pays. © Justin Makangara pour la Fondation Carmignac
Gombe, Kinshasa, Sunday, April 05, 9:05 pm. Gombe is preparing for its 14-day lockdown. The grocery stores and shops are already closed and this part of the busy city is empty of its regulars. Gombe is the administrative centre of Kinshasa and considered the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting Democratic Republic of Congo. To date, records show that Gombe has more than 70 percent of cases in the national territory. © Justin Makangara for Fondation Carmignac

Les reportages