By Heather Fiore
As a student of Congolese descent with a passion to contribute to a global cause, Arthur-Kalala Katalayi takes his Project Seminar in Organizational Leadership seriously. Katalayi’s project raises awareness about the Democratic Republic of Congo and fosters educational development among Congolese children via the non-profit organization Giving Back to Africa (GBA).
Katalayi, a master’s student with an information technology concentration, has been attending Rider since 2007 and has resided in the United States since 2001. Of Mbuji-Mayi descent, Katalayi was born in Lyon, France, and grew up in Paris; he also lived in the United Kingdom for three years to finish high school. He has been a part of GBA since 2008 and has been an active ambassador.
According to the official Web site, the main goal of GBA is to “empower the GBA beneficiaries — through service-centered education — to become servant-leaders capable of taking control of their own lives while serving as change agents in their local communities and throughout the nation.”
The DRC is one of the world’s wealthier countries in terms of natural resources. Eighty percent of the special metal Columbite-tantalite or coltan, which is found in almost all electronics (cell phones, TVs, game systems, computers, etc.), is found in the Congo. However, although the country is prosperous in its resources, many of its people are extremely poor. This has led to a myriad of problems, Katalayi said, including many refugees struggling in eastern Congo amid conflicts with neighboring countries lusting over the country’s riches.
According to globalissues.org, the conflict in the Congo — called Africa’s first World War by some — has involved seven nations fighting over resources and political power. Some 5.4 million people have died since 1998.
“Assisting the Congo is a noble enough cause, I believe, for the general public to be aware of,” Katalayi said. “Countries rich in natural resources, like the Congo, have a long history of exploitation by developed nations, a situation I believe threatens global peace.”
Sixty-five percent of children under 10 are illiterate and lack basic skills, Katalayi said. Not only does GBA help stabilize economic development, but it also invests in infrastructure.
“People think that Africans need help because they’re poor, but that’s not the case,” Katalayi said.
“Children in the Congo need to be helped through educational development because with an educated population, the Congo can take charge of its own destiny and fulfill the needs and desires of Congolese citizens,” he added in a written statement.
Because of the widespread misconception of the country’s problems, Katalayi is a firm believer in his own saying: “Trade not aid.”
“Africa is the only continent that can support itself on the grounds of just its natural resources,” Katalayi said. “[Africa] is an economically prosperous continent. Trade on mutual grounds is a long-term solution to the problem, whereas aid, in the long-term, is not.”
While Katalayi’s vast cultural exposure allows him to elaborate on many different aspects of foreign societies, his extensive knowledge on the DRC greatly contributes to his involvement in GBA.
“The Congo’s potential needs to be transformed into something concrete,” Katalayi said.
On April 3, Katalayi is going to GBA’s base in Indiana to meet with its president and committee to discuss several issues concerning his involvement with the organization. On April 23, from 5-8 p.m. in the BLC Theater, there will be a “Congo Day/Giving Back to Africa Fundraiser” held at Rider. This will be a combination of everything that’s been achieved for GBA so far on behalf of Katalayi. He also hopes to instill a permanent “Congo Day” at Rider for the years to come, but has yet to solidify plans with Rider.
As if an affiliation with GBA, organizing a fundraiser and finishing a master’s degree aren’t enough to juggle already, Katalayi is also currently writing a book titled, The Katalyst: A Positive Perspective for a Prosperous Congo.
With enthusiasm for his cause along with the immeasurable Congolese pride he carries, Katalayi seems to exemplify GBA’s goals of securing leaders capable of executing the missions it first set out to accomplish.