Kinshasa (formerly French Léopoldville, and Dutch About this sound Leopoldstad (help·info)) is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The city is located on the Congo River.

Once a site of fishing villages, Kinshasa is now an urban area with a population of nearly 10 million inhabitants. It faces the capital of the neighbouring Republic of Congo, Brazzaville which can be seen in the distance across the wide Congo River. Because the administrative boundaries cover such a vast area, over 60% of the city's land is rural in nature, and the urban area only occupies a small section in the far western end of the province.

Kinshasa holds the status of the second largest city in Africa, after Cairo. Although it has no significant native French speaking population, it is the second largest officially francophone city in the world before Montreal, inasmuch as French is the language of government and commerce, and is used as a lingua franca.

Residents of Kinshasa are known as Kinois (in French and sometimes in English) or Kinshasans (English).


The city was founded as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881 and named Léopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium, who controlled the vast territory that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not as a colony but as a private property. The post flourished as the first navigable port on the Congo River above Livingstone Falls, a series of rapids over 300 kilometres (190 mi) below Leopoldville. At first, all goods arriving by sea or being sent by sea had to be carried by porters between Léopoldville and Matadi, the port below the rapids and 150 km (93 mi) from the coast. The completion of the Matadi-Kinshasa portage railway in 1898 provided a faster and more efficient alternative route around the rapids and sparked the rapid development of Léopoldville. By 1920, the city was elevated to capital of the Belgian Congo, replacing the town of Boma in the Congo estuary.

In 1965, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu seized power in the Congo in his second coup and initiated a policy of "Africanizing" the names of people and places in the country. In 1966, Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa for a village named Kinchassa that once stood near the site. The city grew rapidly under Mobutu, drawing people from across the country who came in search of their fortunes or to escape ethnic strife elsewhere. This inevitably brought about a change to the city's ethnic and linguistic composition as well. Although it is situated in territory that traditionally belongs to the Bateke and Bahumbu people, the lingua franca among African languages in Kinshasa today is Lingala.

In 1974, Kinshasa hosted 'The Rumble in the Jungle' boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, in which Ali defeated Foreman to regain the World Heavyweight title.

Kinshasa suffered greatly due to Mobutu's excesses, mass corruption, nepotism and the civil war that led to his downfall. Nevertheless, it is still a major cultural and intellectual center for Central Africa, with a flourishing community of musicians and artists. It is also the country's major industrial center, processing many of the natural products brought from the interior. The city has recently had to fend off rioting soldiers who were protesting the government's failure to pay them.


Kinshasa is both a city (ville in French) and a province (province in French), one of the 11 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its status is thus similar to Paris which is both a city and one of the 101 departments of France.

Administrative divisions

The ville-province (city-province) of Kinshasa is divided into four districts which are further divided into 24 communes (municipalities).[3] The commune of Kinshasa gave its name to the whole city, but the city's commercial and administrative heart is the commune of Gombe.

Funa district Lukunga district Mont Amba district Tshangu district
Bandalungwa Barumbu Kisenso (Kinsenso) Kimbanseke
Bumbu Gombe (La Gombe) Lemba Maluku
Kalamu Kinshasa Limete Masina
Kasa-Vubu Kintambo Matete Ndjili (N'Djili)
Makala Lingwala Ngaba Nsele (N'Sele)
Ngiri-Ngiri Mont Ngafula    
Selembao Ngaliema    


Under the Köppen climate classification, Kinshasa has a Tropical wet and dry climate. It features a lengthy rainy season which spans from October through May and a relatively short dry season which runs between June and September. Due to fact that Kinshasa lies south of the equator, its dry season begins around its "winter" solstice, which is in June. This is in contrast to African cities further north featuring this climate where the dry season typically begins around January. Kinshasa's dry season is slightly cooler than its wet season, though temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year.


Kinshasa is home to several higher-level education institutes, covering a wide range of specialities, from civil engineering to nursing and journalism. The city is also home to three large universities and an arts school:

  •     Prins van Luik School / Lycée Prince de Liège
  •     University of Kinshasa
  •     Congo Protestant University
  •     National Pedagogy University
  •     National Institute of Arts
  •     Allhadeff School
  •     Centre for Health Training (CEFA)


There are twenty hospitals in Kinshasa, plus various medical centres and polyclinics. In 1997, Dikembe Mutombo built a 300-bed hospital near his home town of Kinshasa. Since 1991, Monkole Hospital is working as a non-for profit health institution collaborating with the Health Department as district hospital in Kinshasa. Directed by Pr Léon Tshilolo, paediatrician and haematologist, Monkole Hospital is opening a new 150-bed building in 2012 with improved clinical services as laboratory, diagnostic radiology, intensive care, neonatal unit, family medicine, emergencies unit and a larger surgical area.


Several private companies whose Urban Transport Company (STUC) and the Public City train (12 cars in 2002[citation needed]) serves the city.

The bus lines are:

  •     Gare centrale – Kingasani (municipality of Kimbanseke, reopened in September 2005);
  •     Kingasani – Marché central
  •     Matete – Royale (reopened in June 2006);
  •     Matete – UPN (reopened in June 2006);
  •     Rond-point Ngaba – UPN (reopened in June 2006).
  •     Rond-point Victoire – clinique Ngliema (opened in March 2007)

Other companies also provide public transport: Urbaco, Tshatu Trans, Socogetra, Gesac and MB Sprl. The city bus carries a maximum of 67,000 passengers per day. Several companies operate taxis and taxi-buses. The majority (95.8%) of transport is provided by individuals.

The city is considering the creation of a tramway in collaboration with public transport in Brussels (STIB), whose work could start in 2009 and would be completed around 2012–2015. The issue of electricity remains suspended.


The ONATRA operates three lines of urban railways linking the town centre device, which goes to Bas-Congo.[26]

  • The main line linking the Central Station to the N'djili Airport has 9 stations: Central Station, Ndolo, Amicongo, Uzam, Masina / Petro-Congo, Masina wireless Masina / Mapela, Masina / Neighborhood III, Masina / Siforco Camp Badara and Ndjili airport.
  • The second line connects the Central Station in Kasangulu in Bas-Congo, through Matete, Riflart and Kimwenza.
  • The third line at the Central Station Kinsuka-pumping in the town of Ngaliema.

In 2007, the internal rail network is being renovated with the help of Belgium.[27] This would serve Kintambo, Ndolo, Limete, Lemba, Kasangulu, Gombe, Ndjili and Masina.

External transport

Kinshasa is the major river port of the Congo. The port, called 'Le Beach Ngobila' extends for about 7 km (4 mi) along the river, comprising scores of quays and jetties with hundreds of boats and barges tied up. Ferries cross the river to Brazzaville, a distance of about 4 km (2 mi). River transport also connects to dozens of ports upstream, such as Kisangani and Bangui.

There are road and rail links to Matadi, the sea port in the Congo estuary 150 km (93 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean.

There are no rail links from Kinshasa further inland, and road connections to much of the rest of the country are few and in poor condition.

The city has two airports: N'djili Airport is the main airport with connections to other African countries as well as to Brussels, Paris and some other destinations. N'Dolo Airport, located close to the city center, is used for domestic flights only with small turboprop aircraft.


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