An introduction from Kinshasa

Weekend break from Kinshasa

20 years ago I embarked on my first development job with Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW) - SPW has since changed its name to Restless Development and is leading the charge in youth-led development. As a naïve but an adventurous 18-year-old volunteer, I spent a year in a remote rural school in the north east of Zimbabwe. Those 12 months turned out to be a defining moment, it was then that I decided to work in international development.

Twenty years on, having worked for the private sector, international NGOs, the World Bank and the National Health Service as a hospital manager, I am back in Africa as the Deputy Head of DFID’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo, embarking on my first

Kinshasa, DR Congo

blogging  adventure. It's true that I spend more time in offices of government officials, adhering to security rules and in the back of a 4X4 than I am always comfortable with. What would I have thought of me 20 years ago – amazed, horrified, excited? Probably all three, yet my views and actions are rooted in the commitment to make a difference

and what I learnt about community development back then. I overheard my 4-year-old proudly saying (in French, she has just started in the French school in Kinshasa) that her papa helps people who have less than us. How proud was I?

Living in Kinshasa is great. It is the largest francophone city in the world and it can be chaotic, but I love operating in French (adding an extra bit of edge to life) and soaking up

The kids on a sandbank in the Congo river and our shared boat, the Lily Jane

the vibrancy of the city. Maybe there is not as much to do here with a young family compared to somewhere like Nairobi.

But we have found it great - in the past few weeks we have been camping on the bateke plateau, swimming in the Congo river, mountain biking in the hills around the city, dancing to world-famous congolese musicians, eating goat and drinking cold beer on street terraces in Kinshasa's bustling quartiers. As the Kinois say, Kinshasa, ca bouge.

Though I probably never thought I'd say it, the past 12 months have been the most challenging and exciting ones since that defining year in Zimbabwe.

River water that all too often is the only source of drinking water in central Congo

The work is fascinating and hugely challenging, managing investments that will affect the lives of millions of people. We provide vital life saving humanitarian services to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We invest in services to meet the basic needs of people across the country through the provision of health, education and water programmes. And increasingly, we work to transform the government's ability to be accountable to its people.

Handwashing stations made out of bamboo, through UNICEF's Village Assaini project.

In my job, I work closely with sector teams to make the best use of UK tax payers' money to achieve results. I get to meet and work with exceptional people and see first-hand what works and what doesn't.

Through this blog I want to start a frank and open conversation about what works and what doesn't, some of it based on sound statistical evidence, some on anecdotal reflections from the field. All in the spirit of trying to improve the way DFID and the wider international community works.


  1. Singh

    I'm happy to see a blog for DR kinshasa,
    so, you are kinois now?
    I have been at Gombe, it was very nice ca bouge!

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  2. Ben

    Great to read this honest opening. I look forward to reading more. In subsequent blogs I'd be interested for you to develop the theme that you touched on here of "what's happened in 20 years" in terms of the development sector/industry. I also work in development and have the same commitment to make a difference. But, with the benefit of your disparate experience, what *has* been the difference in those 20 years? Navel gazing, I know - but if people accuse you of that, just blame me.

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  3. joaquin

    bravo, pete! embrasse la famille de ma part! je vais te suivre sur ton blog. felicitations des tes amis de l'inde.

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  4. Hosneara Khondker

    Pete- thanks for sharing information through this blog. I will look forward to learn more .

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  5. gnipmac

    Very great article for Kinshasa.
    I already went to Kinshasa and it was very cool trip.

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  6. Mbikay Kalala

    Hi Pete,

    I hope your work is going well and that your family are still enjoying.
    I am looking forward to reading what works and what does not.

    I have my own opinions but would rather trust someone with hands on experience.

    I am from the Congo, but been in the UK for some times now. Have been back in Kinshasa twice in the past few years of times. Last time, I took my wife and we both left a bit disappointed.

    So, really looking forward to rediscovering the Congo

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