Representatives of more than 100 firms and cooperatives in DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, on Friday held a meeting with local businessman, Jean Malic Kalima, seeking his assistance on how to best plan and implement a city cleaning project.
Kalima, who dabbles in mining, health among other businesses, in the past implemented a successful project in Lome, Togo. The Congolese - especially those who have been to Kigali and were struck by its beauty and cleanliness - want him to help them do it right.
The project, it appears, could be the very first business opportunity sprouting from the move by the national carrier, RwandAir, to open its new route to Kinshasa on Wednesday.
Josee Rashidi, head of Kinshasa's new national sanitation and health agency, Agance Nationale d'Assainissement et Salubrite Publique (ANASAP), told The New Times that they know what Kalima helped the Togolese do in Lome.
And, she said, they too want the same, or better, for Kinshasa.
Rashidi said: "We members of ANASAP have requested him to give us a chance too; and come here and help us implement what he did in Togo and other places. And our President has blessed this. We are now looking to have him [Kalima] come here as our consultant for this project."
"We are very ready to welcome him. And, by the way, all other experts in Rwanda are welcome. We want to see Congo changing for the better in two to three years."
On the road from N'djili International Airport to Avenue Batetela in a fairly classy area of Gombe neighborhood, The New Times saw a city bustling with activity.
But as its very many inhabitants hustle to make ends meet the city appears as if drowning in waste. Piles of garbage including the plastic bags that Rwanda banned nearly a decade ago are a common scene.
The city's inhabitants, or Kinois, as they are called, told this paper that the government is determined to turn the situation around. They know it will be a mammoth task but they want to see something done.
Angelique Ngandu, a woman from the Ngaliema municipality of the city's Lukunga District, said: "The situation is so bad, especially when it rains. Cleaning this city will take a lot of effort but we are optimistic. Our challenge will be how to effectively pull off a massive cleaning project. We need people to understand the danger so they support efforts to make our city clean."
Kinshasa is reportedly Africa's third largest urban area after Egypt's Cairo and Nigeria's Lagos.
It is a city of nearly 10,000 square kilometers with a population of nearly 17 million, according to locals The New Times talked to.
During the meeting, Kalima fielded questions from the Congolese entrepreneurs on how Rwanda, among others, effected the ban on harmful plastic bags over 10 years ago.
He explained that there was resistance from the public at first when people did not understand the essence of the ban.
Blamed for clogging water bodies and killing marine life, plastic bags are lately a major global issue. They take hundreds of years to degrade and thus also affect agriculture and farming as they contribute to flooding.
Kalima told his hosts that: "You too will have to sensitize people about this. Some regulation might be required but this is not, and should not be, hard force but soft force which implies strong mobilization and sensitization so that the public understands and owns the project."
"It will be a process. Start by sensitization. Educate people on how things are done and show them options or alternatives to harmful plastic. Also have regulations and institutions set up. For us we have REMA and it has departments."
Kalima gave the Congolese a picture of how things are done in Rwanda to keep cities and other places clean.
Kalima was part of a private sector delegation that traveled on the inaugural flight to Kinshasa. From Wednesday to Friday, he and others held several meetings with different parties in DR Congo aimed at examining and tapping business opportunities in the two neighboring countries.