5 May 2014

Longform: War, debt and business: the true story of microcredits

In the war-torn region of Easter DRC, a local investigative journalist seeks to understand how conflicts shape poverty by looking at the impact of microcredits on the daily lives of those directly affected by violence.

 

“In war-torn Eastern DRC, a Congolese journalist goes on a personal journey to show the impact of microcredits on local communities.”

A journalist and filmmaker by profession, Pacom Bagula is tired of reading the same news headlines whenever his native region of Eastern DRC is mentioned: war, rape, poverty, blood resources…

Pacom does not deny all this is happening. But where are the stories of joy, hope and solidarity that also emerge in such places?

Armed with the belief that the economic development of Eastern DRC is a pre-requisite for an eventual peace-process, Pacom embarks on a journey to understand the conditions that could render this possible.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently ranked as the world’s poorest country in terms of GDP per capita. In the east, North and South Kivu are engulfed in conflicts between government troops, militias and armed rebel groups for access to immense natural wealth.

These conditions render any type of investment virtually impossible. But some people have decided otherwise, and have successfully maintained small-scale businesses through microcredits that not only provide food, education and healthcare for their family, but also hope for their community.

People like Martha, mother of six and wife of a struggling fisherman who has managed to build her own bar, where she serves home-made beer. Or Tombola Mahenga, a former miner in illegal coltan exploitations who invested in a motorcycle to become a driver in his home village of Kalehe.

But not everyone has a success story to show for. George Nikoyagize is a refugee from Burundi trying to make ends meet in Goma by working as a carpenter. But he has so far not managed to reimburse his microcredit, and is bitter about his economic situation now that he is in debt. The same story happened to Cécile, a widow, mother of 8, who was abducted by rebel groups several years ago, used as a sex-slave, and is now struggling to make a living.

Their stories show how microcredit-led projects are helping to shape the economic reality in North and South Kivu.

This type of lending has been both praised and criticised. While some believe it can indeed help people who don’t have access to traditional finance, others argue that microcredits can instead lead to higher debts, hidden agendas from financial institutions, weakened cooperative structures, “welfare privatization”…

Besides putting a face and a personal story on the numbers, this project will also compile data through an innovative tool called "detective.io", which will show how there can sometimes be a story behind sheer numbers.

Finally, through direct interaction with the camera, Pacom will reveal how his doubts, hopes, fears and expectations materialize as he tries to balance his private life and his work as a journalist.

 

 

 

You can fin the result of our long long read about microfinance in DRC