Kinshasa (kēnˈshäsə) [key], city (1984 pop. 2,664,309), capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, W Congo, a port on Pool Malebo of the Congo River. It is the Congo's largest city and its administrative, communications, and commercial center. Major industries are food and beverage processing, tanning, construction, ship repairing, and the manufacture of chemicals, mineral oils, textiles, and cement, but the city's economic life collapsed in the 1990s as a result of the political turmoil in the country. A transportation hub, Kinshasa is the terminus of the railroad from Matadi and of navigation on the Congo River from Kisangani; the international airport is a major link for African air traffic with Europe and the Americas. There is motorboat service to Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo, on the opposite bank of Pool Malebo.
In 1881 Henry M. Stanley, the Anglo-American explorer, renamed Kinshasa Leopoldville after his patron, Leopold II, king of the Belgians. In 1898 the rail link with Matadi was completed, and in 1926 the city succeeded Boma as the capital of the Belgian Congo. Its main growth occurred after 1945. A major anti-Belgian rebellion that took place there in Jan., 1959, started the country on the road to independence (June, 1960). In 1966 the city's name was changed from Leopoldville to Kinshasa, the name of one of the African villages that occupied the site in 1881.
Modern Kinshasa is an educational and cultural center and is the seat of Lovanium Univ. of Kinshasa (1954), which has an archaeological museum, the National School of Law and Administration, a telecommunications school, a research center for tropical medicine, and a museum of Africana. Historical buildings in the city include the chapel of the American Baptist Missionary Society (1891) and a Roman Catholic cathedral (1914). There is a large stadium (seating capacity about 70,000). Kinshasa is famous as a center for modern African music.