By Dalton Karwacki
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the potential to become a major player in the world if the devastating civil war can be brought to an end, according to Rider graduate Arthur-Kalala Katalayi.
Katalayi, who graduated in 2009, serves as a senior adviser and global ambassador for an organization known as Giving Back to Africa (GBA). The mission of GBA is to further education within the DRC by working with groups both within and outside the country.
“In partnership with local Congolese educational institutions and non-governmental organizations, our goal is to empower 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,” Katalayi said.
Katalayi, who is of Congolese descent, joined GBA after visiting the DRC in 2007, when he saw many brilliant but undereducated Congolese youths.
“I felt the necessity to put the experience I’ve gained in these parts of the world, from an educational standpoint, at their disposal; to aid them as best as it is humanly possible — and this is now realizable via Giving Back to Africa,” Katalayi said. “As a senior adviser and global ambassador, my role is to advise the organization on unseen opportunities and bring a Congolese-centric perspective, but with a global outlook, to the organization. I am also in charge of fund raising, spreading the word about GBA as well as raising its profile within the United States and around the world.”
The DRC is a country rich in resources, with an estimated mineral wealth of more than $24 trillion. This is equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of the United States and Europe combined. This is, Katalayi said, the reason that the country has nearly limitless potential. It is, however, also the genesis of the devastating conflict taking place within its borders. This war is widely viewed as the worst since World War II, both in terms of loss of life and length, claiming roughly 5.4 million lives in about 20 years.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo is the richest country on earth in regards to natural resources,” Katalayi said. “This creates international interest and, consequently, conflict. If we want to understand and solve the conflict, we need to go to the genesis of it — and not just report on the consequences.”
According to Katalayi, it is also estimated that the country has the agricultural capacity to feed the global population until about 2050 and can generate enough hydroelectric power from the Congo River (the second longest in Africa) to power all of Africa and beyond.
Katalayi points to legislation introduced by then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2005 and co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton. In 2006, it was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
“The goal of this bill is to put this conflict to bed and help bring peace to the Congo,” Katalayi said. “This highlights the importance of peace in this vast central African country to the benefit of not only the Congo, the African continent and the United States but, in the grand scheme of things, the world as a whole. It is for this reason, I reckon that President Obama, being the student of history that he is, decided to introduce that bill on the Congo in 2005, when we know that he could have introduced thousands of bills on thousands of other countries.”
The idea of a global benefit to solving the conflict in the DRC is one Katalayi emphasized.
“The goal is not to point fingers but to help find solutions for the benefit of us all,” he said. “We live in a global village, and everything is interconnected.”