CONGO BUSINESS CASE
Disillusioned by his experience at the United Nations Daniel Knoop quits being a development worker and starts up his own business. He believes Congo can turn into the granary of the African continent. The congolese farmers receive Daniel as the Savior because he is the first trader to arrive since the civil war ended. A year later the farmers explain how Daniel left without a word. They wonder: has he earned money or lost?
Congo Business Case is a documentary about my friend Daniel Knoop who sets up a company in Congo to trade in agricultural products and to help professionalize agriculture. Daniel and I got to know eachother during the shooting period of ‘Bridging the Gap’ (Corinne van Egeraat – IDFA 2008). At the time he was working in Cameroon for the Food- and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN and he inspired me a lot. Daniel started working for the UN with the ambition to contribute to the development of Africa, but gradually lost his faith in the institutions that he worked for. He could never justify for himself the bureaucracy and the amount of money spent for the results that were achieved. Eventually his discontent with the FAO became so big that he quit his job and decided to start up his own company.
Daniel wanted to contribute directly to the development of Congo’s huge agricultural potential. His basic principle was Trade not aid, the making of profit in stead of aid as a means to development. By setting up a trading company that would guarantee to take away their products, he believed farmers would be more stimulated to produce. His company would bring the barely existing agricultural trade back to life between the hinterland and the capital Kinshasa. From there on the free market would gradually take over and make the chain work between farmers and traders .
Around this time Daniel contacted me whether we could do something together in order to raise attention and money for his plan. Looking for a platform we went to the Dutch public broadcasting foundation HUMAN and talked to Bert Janssens who offered us to start our own blogsite where we could post films and discussions around the theme ‘How does progress happen?’. Through this site we documented the first six months of the start-up of Daniel’s company when he was still working with his former businesspartner. Following the progression of the site HUMAN agreed to make a documentary film out of it and help me get funding through the Mediafund
The rest is history. I followed Daniel for almost three years as he first tried to set up a trading company and later a cassave factory on the terrain of an old missionary post. Things worked out rather different as planned. Finding money from investors was not easy and the dilemmas Daniel had to face in realizing his dream were numerous. The film documents the daily dealings with the local population, the expectations and the misunderstandings, as wel as Daniel’s relentless efforts to find money. The (im)possibility to combine aid and trade develops as the main theme towards the end of the film, when Daniel takes a radical decision.
Prices and Festivals:
World premiere at the Dutch Filmfestival 2013, competition ‘Best Long Documentary’
FIPA D’OR 2014 Grand Reportage et Investigation – FIPA Palmares Biarritz, France
Grand Prix du festival Film& Science Amsterdam 2014 – Institut Français
DOCVILLE 2014; Competition ‘Science & conscience’ programme
Congo Business Case was broadcast by HUMAN on the 9th of december 2013 at Hollanddoc on ‘Nederland 2’