L'Afrique en Mutations: L'Afrique des Individus, L'Afrique des Generations. Africa in Transformation: Africa of Individuals, Africa of Generations edition:ACEA-CAAS - Canadian Association of African Studies - annual meeting location:Universite de Laval, Quebec (Canada) date:2-4 May 2012
This paper explores new dynamics in intergenerational encounters in Kinshasa as these are triggered by ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), in particular mobile phone technology. Since the early 2000s, mobile phone technology has expanded in Kinshasa. Nowadays (October 2011), four network companies operate in the city. The introduction of these telephone operators has rapidly transformed the city’s communication infrastructure, urban economy and also social interaction. Some examples are: new jobs have been created; advertisements for the telephone operators are omnipresent (on compound walls, on radio and TV screens, on roundabouts, etc.); and ‘beeping’ (making a call that rings only once) has become a familiar way of greeting someone. Far from being excluded from these transformations, Kinshasa’s old aged are confronted with these prompt changes. Some old people possess mobile phones, while many of them use mobile phones to communicate with their kin elsewhere in the country and abroad. Further, mobile phones (and phone credit) increasingly have become gifts that kin offer to their elders as part of the caring strategies. No examination of the lifeworlds of Kinshasa’s third age can ignore the presence, circulation and use of ICT. Based upon ethnographic research with Kinshasa’s old aged (+65 years), I unravel how the interactions between the old and the younger generations have transformed alongside the expansion of mobile phone technology. Issues such as ICT (il)literacy and ICT ownership, media brokerage, elders’ uses of mobile phones and their attitudes towards the urban transformations following the arrival of mobile phone technology will be developed.