African American In Africa: Dewey In Kinshasa, DRC
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Dewey Boyd first moved to the African continent through an agricultural trade mission to Ghana in 2001. Yet it would turn into a lifelong African relocation, further south to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He shares how he fell in love with the central African nation and so much more below.
ON YOUR MOVE TO DRC
How did you first end up moving to the African continent?
I ended up moving to Africa as part of my tenure as a senior aide to U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr.
Part of my work portfolio was to address the plight of African American farmers against the United States Department of Agriculture discrimination. An opportunity arose when the Congressman assigned me to a USDA agricultural trade mission to Ghana. I was assigned to explore trade opportunities, the transfer of technical skills and expertise for Black farmers to Africa, and to assess the impact HIV/AIDS had on food security in Africa around 2001.
It was after that initial fact-finding mission I decided that I would leave America and move to Africa at some point.
How did you end up moving to DRC and where do you live there?
We live principally in Kinshasa in the community of Ngaliema.
I ended up moving to DRC after having had a discussion with my now wife on the immense agricultural opportunities in DR Congo. My wife was actually living in Ghana in exile from Congo due to overthrow of Mobutu Sese Sekoand the ensuing civil unrest. It was after I had come to visit with her at her home and I found her planting Cassava stalks in her garden that I learned we had a common interest in farming. I asked her about Cassava farming in Congo and she mentioned to me that this was the main staple crop her family grew on their farm in Congo.
She then made a comment to me that was an invitation of sorts. She told me that if I came with her to see DR Congo she promised me that because of Congo's beauty I would never want to come back to Ghana or the USA.
I took her up on the invitation. I told her that if we ever ended up in Congo together I would marry her. As fate would have it I ended up in Congo on business about ten years later. We found each other. She reminded me of what I had told her in Ghana—that if we ever ended up in Congo I would marry her. She asked me if I had been telling the truth. I thought about it for about a week, told her yes it was true and we were married October 9th, 2014. It's a day that I am still basking in the afterglow of having married my soul mate.
On Work Life And Entrepreneurial Opportunities
Can you tell us a bit about your professional life there?
Both my wife, Leontine Mafuta Boyd and I are engaged in production agriculture and agribusiness. We work in the international trade of agricultural products through Coopagel DRC. My wife is president and I am vice president.
What types of business opportunities are there in DR Congo for foreign entrepreneurs? How can they access information about opportunities? Would you need a significant amount of money?
There are many opportunities for investment in all sectors of DR Congo's economy and for all levels of investment. Most information on investment in DRC can be found on the website of DRC investment agency ANAPI.
On Living In DRC
What’s everyday life like for you in DRC?
Right now everyday life is very busy - meetings, meetings, meetings. So, I look forward to getting back home to unwind and enjoy downtime with my wife.
How have you been welcomed as an African American?
As an African American in DRC my welcome has been very warm and positive. Most Congolese brothers want to know all about America and are puzzled as to why I would leave America for DRC. The women want to marry me as a way to get to America.
You SAY in your next life you want to come back as a Congolese. What do you love the most about living there?
I want to be reborn in my next life in DRC because of the beautiful nature of the Congolese people and the country itself. And because of the tremendous potential the country holds.
What are the most challenging aspects of living there for you?
I find the most challenging aspect of living in DRC is addressing its most basic development needs and the need for improved quality of life for the Congolese people. Other challenging aspects are how the Congolese can be lifted out of poverty in light of the immense mineral wealth of the country valued at some 24 trillion USD. This would afford the people the right of self-determination peace and a progressive and corruption free government.
The US State Department warns Americans against unnecessary travel to DRC. How does your experience compare?
On the matter of the State Department's warning to Americans against unnecessary travel to DRC—I am from Detroit. So, I know how to keep my head down…lol.
We hear you! Can you share a few details on the cost of living in your community?
I live in a more upscale community. Rent in upscale communities like Gombe for example, can be outrageously expensive ($2,000 a month). Monthly rent for an average 1 bedroom apartment is around $250.
Food costs can be ridiculous because most food in grocery stores is imported. A 20-ounce bottle of Heinz Ketchup costs about $20. Most fast food is slightly higher than what it costs in America. Meat from the major markets is quite expensive. It's normally around $15 to $20 per kilo.
Electricity is sporadic but not expensive. The municipal water also isn't that expensive. But I prefer to drink bottled water or the local Tembo beer.
Would you encourage an African American or other diasporan to consider moving to DRC? Why or why not?
I would only encourage adventurous and open-minded African Americans to move to DRC. Those who have international travel under their belts and are open to learning a new language like French or local dialects of Lingala. And those who like cultural cuisines. Because everything ain’t for everybody.
What has your time living in DRC taught you or how has it changed you?
My time living in DRC has taught me that there is so much more to our people’s rich history. The word Bantu in Lingala really means human and that we are Creation's first people. This is a fact that I thank the Ancestors for having conveyed to me by my adorable Bantu wife. It's a realization that confirmed my right to exist!
Enjoyed Dewey's experience? Dive into our interview profiling another African American living in Kinshasa, DRC, here.