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Um Bongo factory shuts: Congolese economy in tailspin

Way down deep in the middle of the Congo,’ reads the famed inscription on the office wall of Um Bongo’s CEO Joseph Sarwaya, ‘A hippo took an apricot, a guava and a mango. He stuck it with the others and danced a dainty tango. The rhino said, “I know we’ll call it UM BONGO.”

But from such mythologised beginnings to a sad and controversial end. “We are halting Um Bongo production, effective immediately,” Mr. Sarwaya announced today amidst ugly scenes as workers protested outside the factory gates. “

It has been a stormy five years for Congo’s national drink and top export, facing a global recession, increased competition and a devastating factory fire. The closure is already having serious consequences for the whole country.

Inflation is up, unemployment is up, investors are running scared,” fumes Jeanne Dambendzet, Congo’s minister for trade. “It is gross mismanagement on the part of the Um Bongo executive. Um Bongo, Um Bongo – now they will not drink it in the Congo. What will they drink? They will drink shit.”