In 2007, the Democratic Republic of Congo struck a $6 billion deal with the Chinese to develop their national infrastructure in exchange for access to Katanga’s unparalleled mineral reserves which are worth more than $50 billion. Empire of Dust is a documentary about the Chinese attempt to build a 300 kilometer road connecting Kolwezi with Katanga’s capital, Lubumbashi, formerly known as Elisabethville.
The road was originally built by the Belgians in the 1950s but was neglected and has deteriorated since independence like the rest of Congo’s infrastructure. The Congolese were incapable of maintaining it. The documentary shows how frustrated the Chinese become with the laziness, incompetence and thievery of the Congolese. In Africa, even the most simple tasks become extraordinary challenges for Chinese engineers.