After a career in international finance, Mr. Bomboko, a trained commercial engineer, decided to invest in a personal project close to his heart.
You had the idea for a floating library on the river Congo, to serve the riverside villages. How would you describe it?
My project is based on a simple principle. The boats will stop at, or pass in front of, the riverside villages, first in one direction and then in the other. The rotation of the boats will encourage an exchange of books. In most villages, I have seen primary schools but I was staggered to learn that that there were very few textbooks and a complete lack of books that could enable students to develop their reading abilities. Reading cultivates intelligence, brings knowledge, reinforces spelling, enriches vocabulary, develops the imagination and opens up the world. How is it possible to live without reading? Well, the children of the Congolese countryside do not have books. They are thus doubly isolated: geographically and intellectually. My project is an attempt to break this last form of isolation. I would like to offer the children the most beautiful of journeys, those of the mind. With books, the world would be on their doorstep. How unjust and selfish would it be to have a solid education, after many years of learning in Europe and the United States, then to come across people who haven’t had that opportunity, and do nothing to change the situation?
Is there a link with development perspectives on costal and inland navigation, particularly as a result of certain kinds of rural economies?
More than just inland navigation, I advocate the development of navigation in the wider sense, including transport. In the D.R. Congo, endowed with an enormous river basin, river transport is neglected. We forget that it is at the heart of all successful civilizations. The big cities of the world are all port cities: Rome, Paris, London, New York, Shanghai. Maritime and river transport are the cheapest forms of shipping. This has already been adopted by the rural world, with the use of pirogues. However, our leaders are obsessed with motorways, seeing them as a symbol of modernity and, wrongly, the sign of economic success.
Interview by Jacky Vieux
Contact : Alain Bomboko, email@example.com
Translated from french by Juliette Rutherford