Brazzaville (French pronunciation: [bʁazavil], Kongo: Kintamo, Nkuna, Kintambo, Mavula; Teke: Mfwa, Mfoa, M’fa) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo (Congo Republic). Constituting the financial and administrative centre of the country, it is located on the north side of the Congo River, opposite Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).
The population of the capital is estimated to exceed 1.8 million residents, comprising more than a third of the national populace. Some 40% are employed in non-agricultural professions. During World War II, Brazzaville was also the capital of Free France between 1940 and 1942.
In 2013, Brazzaville was designated a City of Music by UNESCO; since then it has also been a member of the Creative Cities Network.
Brazzaville, the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo, was founded on September 10, 1880. The city was on the site of Nkuna, a Bateke village and was named after its part-African founder, explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. Makoko of the Téké, the local political leader, negotiated a treaty with de Brazza in which he granted the French control over his nation in exchange for protection from neighboring rivals. The city was developed on the north bank of the Congo River in order to compete with the Belgian city of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) which was established on the opposite bank. From October 1880 to May 1882, Brazzaville was guarded from the Belgians by the troops of Melamine Camara, a Senegalese Sergeant in the French colonial army.
In 1884, the Berlin Conference made the area an official French territory. Brazzaville, in turn, was declared the capital of a number of French colonial possessions including the French Congo, French Equatorial Africa, Gabon, Ubangi-Shari (now the Central African Republic), and Chad. In 1924, Brazzaville became linked with Pointe-Noire Port on the Atlantic Ocean through the Congo Ocean Railway.
When Nazi Germany overran and occupied northern France early in World War II, while establishing the puppet state of Vichy France in the south of the country, French colonial forces in the African colonies remained loyal to the Free French government in exile under General Charles De Gaulle. Because of the colonies’s support of the Free French government, De Gaulle met in Brazzaville in 1944 with leaders of the African colonies. The meeting resulted in the Brazzaville Declaration where France promised reforms in the colonies including granting their residents the status of French citizens.
Prior to 1960 Brazzaville was divided into African and European sections. The Europeans controlled the city center while the Africans had three areas: Poto-Poto, Bacongo, and Makélékélé. By 1980, twenty years after the French Congo became the independent nation of Congo-Brazzaville, the city was divided into seven sections, Makélékélé, Bacongo, Poto-poto, Moungali, Ouenzé, Talangaï, and Mfilou.
Since 1990 Brazzaville has felt the ravages of war. The city has seen conflicts between government forces and various rebel groups. During the civil wars in the 1990s thousands of civilians were killed and over 100,000 refugees left the city. It has also been impacted by multi-decade civil wars in neighboring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Angola.
Presently, Brazzaville has a population of about 1,100,000 (with another 400,000 in the surrounding suburbs). Industries include machine shops, textiles, tanning, and manufacturing. The city’s port along the Congo River exports rubber, wood, and agricultural products to the rest of the world.
The city is home to Maya-Maya Airport, which lies in the centre of the city and which has regular flights to Pointe-Noire as well as international destinations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. A flight operates twice weekly between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, but the flight time is only five minutes.
A Railroad in Brazzaville
The Congo-Ocean Railway has a station in the city and in 2014 was operating the La Gazelle train service every other day to Pointe-Noire and intermediate destinations.
The city is an important river port, with ferries sailing to Kinshasa and to Bangui via Impfondo. Ferries and fast private boats serve as the primary means of connection between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. The Livingstone Falls lie on the outskirts of the city, where the Djoué River meets the Congo, rendering river transport to the coast impossible, qualifying the railway as a portage railway.
Although there is no organised public transport system, privately owned buses are available in the capital.
Taxis are available on every street and are easily recognized, being painted with a green body and white top, and the fare for a short trip is CF700. About twenty percent of the vehicles in Brazzaville are taxis. There are also collective taxis that drive certain routes and charge CF150.
A road-rail bridge is proposed to connect Brazzaville with Kinshasa. The rail gauge on both sides is the same at 1067mm.
The city is divided into nine arrondissements (boroughs):
- Gaitana, Ukrainian singer who lived in Brazzaville for five years.
- Serge Ibaka, professional basketball player born in Brazzaville.
- Cyril Kongo, a French painter and graffiti artist, lived in Brazzaville in the 80s.
- Verone Mankou, a congolese entrepreneur who launched the first ever African tab smartphone