History of Pointe-Noire

Published on 3rd July 2007

Pointe-Noire is the second largest city in the Republic of the Congo and a district in the Kouilou province. It is the main commercial centre of the country and has a population of 663,400 (2005 census). It is situated on a headland between Pointe-Noire Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Pointe Noire is divided into four areas: Patrice Emery Lumumba with 12 districts; Mvou-Mvou with 10 districts; Tié-Tié with 7 districts and Loandji with 20 districts.

The name Pointe Noire's originated from Portuguese navigators who saw a block of black rocks on the headland in 1484. From then, Pointe Noire also known as Punta Negra became a maritime reference. In 1883, it became a small fishing village after the French signed a treaty with local people, Loangos.

In 1910, the French Equatorial Africa was created, and French companies were allowed to exploit the Middle Congo (modern-day Congo Brazzaville). It then became necessary to build a railroad which would connect Brazzaville, the then-terminus of the river navigation on the Congo River and the Ubangui River, with the Atlantic coast. As rapids make it impossible to navigate on the Congo River past Brazzaville, the coastal railroad terminus site had to allow the construction of a deep-sea harbor. French authorities chose the site of Punta Negra instead of Libreville as originally envisaged. Constructions of the Congo-Ocean Railway began in 1921, and led to the foundation of Pointe Noire on May 22, 1922.

The city continued to grow and in 1950, Pointe Noire had 20,000 inhabitants, and became the capital of the Middle Congo, while Brazzaville was the capital city of the French Equatorial African (AEF). By 1960, when Congo gained independence, Pointe Noire was the most modern city. Oil was discovered around 1980 and re-attracted people and factories. The population doubled by 1982, and reached 360,000 in 1994.

The city is the essential centre of oil industry in Congo-Brazzaville, one of the main oil producers in Central Africa. Congolese oil has mostly been exploited by French company Elf Aquitaine since its discovery around 1980. The city is also known for its fishing industry. 

Pointe Noire is home to Agostino Neto Airport and  is the terminus of the Congo-Ocean Railway. Its main attractions are its beaches, known for surfing.



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