DR CONGO: Promoting development, not growth

Research in the human and development sciences has been in crisis for many years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now should be the time to promote it, according to Professor Alphonse Mbuyamba Kankolongo of the University of Kinshasa in a commentary published in Le Potentiel of Kinshasa.

The crisis was not in research or technical studies aimed at applications for immediate production - for oilfields, for example - or in the immediate improvement of production technology, said Kankolongo.

"It concerns research in human and development sciences: economics, sociology, political and administrative sciences, law, education, psychology. The list is not exhaustive and could equally include agronomy and medicine which are mixed disciplines at the border of human and physical sciences."

What was at issue, he said, was development and growth, and the difference between these two concepts.

Planning a road, building a bridge, an airport or a factory, and accumulating productive capital were 'growth' actions, said Kankolongo.

"They are striking because we see them - sometimes in a spectacular way - and they are registered in statistics but they by no means involve the development of the country or its population; at the most they provide profit for certain economic agencies. To bring about this economic growth, no social research is necessary. It is enough to have capital, capability and a workforce."

Development took place only when the phenomena of growth were controlled by the human and social objectives of the population, he said.

"Development is to make humans free, to be productive for [them], to construct a happier and more harmonious society - while growth subjugates and impoverishes man and makes him compete against others."

Kankolongo gave an example of a modern factory operating at full output but with underpaid workers whose production and profits were exported: "That's growth, not development. On the human and social level, this even constitutes the growth of under-development."

Growth was not the real challenge now in the Congo. "In this respect colonisers were unbeatable" - but rather development, or control of growth, he said

"It's our fortune now that mankind has at its disposal the tools of scientific knowledge to carry out this development consciously and systematically. For several years, human sciences have allowed us, in principle, to study and control the change. For the first time in the history of humanity, it is scientifically possible to weigh up the future, control growth.

"But politically there are still blind, inhuman forces of growth which take over in the DRC and throughout the world. They take over economically, but equally in the scientific and academic world.

"The dilemma - even contradiction - between research for development, and research which would be secondary and give backing to capitalist growth, totally underlies our analysis of the crisis of Congolese research."

Compared with the country's turbulent past, now over, there were favourable conditions and factors for development of a scientific research system in the DR Congo, he said. "Never since colonial times has the country known such strong scientific and intellectual backing."