In dust and smoke

Emy Miantezila

Emy Miantezila

Immediately after breakfast, we left for Lukala and the cement factory CILU. Nganga has worked 40 years at this facility and Thérèse has worked there for 35 years. He used to be the the transport manager, and she was the company nurse. Our host and hostess are now retired, but they are very active. Nganga arranged our study visit at the cement factory. At the gate, we were equipped with helmets, visitor’s vests and a guide, Odi Oscar, who is the manager of service and security. First, he showed us the enormous pit where the factory have been extracting limestone for the last 65 years. Above the limestone, there is a thick layer of clay which is also used in the production of cement. Oscar told us that the limestone deposit reaches 100 meters below the bottom of the pit, and furthermore, there are other hills of limestone that are still unexploited. The availability of raw materials is assured for a long time ahead. This is but one example of the immense availability of raw materials in Congo.

Large mining trucks shuttled back and forth to the factory crusher. In an impressive drum the lime is burnt and mixed with clay, and then 3% gypsum is added. This mixture becomes cement from CILU in Lukala. Their capacity is 1500 tons of cement per day. The Belgians have built the factory, but Germans bought it 2 years ago. 450 people are employed at the factory. From the beginning to the end of our visit we walked in thinner or thicker dust and smoke. Many workers wore respirators and as a nurse at the factory, Therese could confirm that many workers have problems with the bronchi and the lungs. We were dusty from head to toes when the tour was over, but we had been on a different kind of visit, and we had seen an impressive facility. Before we left the factory, we had to use airless spray to get the dust out of our shoes, sandals and clothes. Afterwards, we asked Nganga how it was to work at the factory, he had only praise for the collaboration with the Belgians. He also told us that the Chinese are allowed to import cement without paying any import duties. This makes the Chinese cement cheaper than the domestic product. This is only one among many examples of how imports hurt domestic production. Other examples of harmful imports are those of used and new clothing, or food. The food import has knocked out parts of the existing domestic production, and created increases in unemployment.

Afterwards, we crossed the thoroughfare and went to a very beautiful park-like area with many striking houses , schools, hospitals, a large swimmingpool and sports centers. On one side of the area, there was an airport, a chicken farm, a duck farm and exemplary vegetable gardens. This area is exclusively for the company management and officials of the CILU factory. Nganga and Thérèse used to live here. At a nice café we quenched our thirst with soft drinks.

Then we went to Nganga’s hotel building site. He is completing the construction of two planes with painting and tiling. A lot has happened since February and in six months the two planes are going to be finished. The third plane will have to wait. He must get the business going to get the bank to lend him money for the third plane.

At 3 p.m., the entrepreneurial course was initiated with prayer. We usually start and close our gatherings with prayers. It’s a very natural element for a Congolese. Most of the participants had finished their homework, a production estimate that we collected. David presented his estimate about chickens. His calculations showed that the cost of breeding one chicken to the age when it starts laying eggs is almost 18 USD. Philoméne, who will start a bakery presented her estimate for 150 baguettes.

Today, we had to extend the class til 6.30 p.m. Darkness came, and the usual power failures arrived. But as we are getting used to Congo, we were prepared with solar cell lamps that Yapeco quickly put up. This gave Yapeco an opportunity to market his product, and he got a number of potential customers on the spot. No cloud without a silver lining. The next homework, the presentation of their business ideas, will be handed in to Emy, MSG representative in Kimpese, before October 24 when we will be passing Kimpese on our way to Kinshasa. The education will then continue later on, with more preparations and instructions to prepare them for handling a business loan. To get a loan without knowing how to handle it can be disasterous, for the borrower as well as for the lender.