Cedric Bakambu

Cedric Bakambu: "I want to offer these kids the same opportunities I had"

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Cedric Bakambu

Seven players have been nominated by their unions for the 2023 FIFPRO Merit Awards. FIFPRO will announce the winners in three different categories – Activism, Impact and Voice – during its annual general assembly in South Africa on Thursday 23 November.

France-born DR Congo international Cedric Bakambu, currently at Galatasaray, is one of the nominees. His foundation aims to develop people in DR Congo by providing education on literacy, health, new technologies, sport and the country’s history. 

By Cedric Bakambu

It was on my first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, responding to a call-up to the national team, that the idea of creating a foundation came to me. I was 23 and I was shocked by the appalling living conditions of countless children. I was stunned, physically and morally devastated, by so much misery, by that inescapable begging.

I remember my thoughts then turned to my parents.

What if they hadn’t left their country and moved to France, where I was born: would I too have been one of those kids myself, left to my own devices, with nothing to look forward to, no hope, no reason to believe in the future?

I had to do something; I had to find a way of offering those poor lost children the opportunities I had when I was their age.

I took the time to build a coherent project. I thought about it and consulted people. As a striker, I had no right to miss the target, let alone as the father of a family. And on 12 December 2019, just as the Covid-19 worldwide health crisis was brewing, the foundation that bears my name was founded.

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Our first actions were in response to medical emergencies that went beyond the framework we had set out for the foundation. But we had to act, and act fast. So, in collaboration with the Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris we scheduled operations in Kinshasa, to which cardiologists and their team travelled. And we’ve never stopped since then.  

Since the end of the global health crisis, the foundation has got into its stride and is organised around five main areas. My aim was to create an effective, practical humanitarian aid structure to improve the everyday lives of Congolese people, and particularly young people, both in Kinshasa and within every province of our country, whose sheer vastness alone explains why we were obliged at first to concentrate our efforts on the capital.

We have often been criticised for this, but our aim is ultimately to act throughout the whole country, and actually we are already beginning to do so. The seven people — including my father as vice president — who make up our team are working on it, and it is my firm intention, as soon as possible but certainly once my career is over, since I will then devote myself full-time to the foundation, to visit every province in our country and expand the initiatives there, particularly by joining forces with all the foundations of Congolese athletes and artists that we have inspired and with which we are looking forward to working to increase the possibilities and offers aimed at our fellow citizens.

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But let’s get back to the foundation’s five main areas of activity, which express my wish to communicate, to share, to help the most deprived people, not just on an occasional basis but by giving them the means to take control of their lives and build themselves a future.

First, to give a chance to all those who have not learned to read and write. And unfortunately, there are many children in our country who have not mastered either. That’s why literacy is essential and it’s why we’ve decided to open up the classes to parents as well, which also makes it possible to create a positive dynamic within families, with each leading the other. In the same vein, we are supporting basic education by offering suitable tools to several primary and secondary schools and regularly renewing them.

Still on the subject of education, and this is particularly close to my heart, our digital classes, as we call them, provide access to new technologies in every province thanks to the tablets we are distributing in schools.

For the development of sport, mainly football, as well as donating equipment to training centres, we help to train coaches so that those who pass on the skills have the necessary knowledge and the expertise required.

And finally, by helping to fund our country’s historical sites we have been aiming to continue encouraging all generations to appreciate the value of the history of DR Congo and of those sites.

Obviously, this account is not exhaustive, and I think other opportunities will present themselves when I come to devote myself to the foundation full-time. At the moment I spend a lot of my spare time looking for partners, sponsors and donors, because we have many projects and we are committed to quality and continuity in the level of support we provide to our young sisters and brothers and, more broadly, to all Congolese people who need it, while realising — and it is often difficult to accept — that we unfortunately can’t help everyone.