The Life of the Super Rich in Central Africa

The Life of the Super Rich in Central Africa: Between Luxury and Misery

DW (2021)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the 600 millionaires in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The majority of DRC residents on less than two euros a day. Even miners (including 40,000 children) who work in the lucrative coltan mines earn only 5 euros a day.

The film profiles three specific multimillionaires: a rock star, the former rebel leader who currently owns the largest coltan* mine (and serves as a member of parliament) and a prophet who cures people with miracle juice made from gasoline and lemon juice.

The main reason so many DRC residents live in abject poverty is extreme corruption. Mobuto Sese Seko, brutal dictator between 1965 and 1997 (when DRC was called Zaire), embezzled four billion euros from the government prior to being ousted by rebel forces. Joseph Kabila, president of DRC between 2001 and 2019, embezzled three million euros. In 2021, DRC is number one on the list of the 20 most corrupt countries.

Tax evasion also continues to be a major problem, leaving the current government starved for funding to improve infrastructure. Most rural roads are unpaved, electrical outages are common and less than one-fifth of the population have access to electricity.

Owing to the fragile September 2020 ceasefire (enforced by 16,000 UN peacekeepers), many former DRC expatriates have returned to take the country’s limited middle class jobs. The filmmakers profile a couple who earn a total of $3,500 a month (100 times the country’s average salary) working as bankers. One third of their income goes to pay rent in a luxurious Western-style high security enclave.


*Coltan is refined to produce tantalum, a rare metal essential in cellphone technology.

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