The city of Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of Congo and one of the country's main industrial centers. It sits on the west bank of the Malebo Pool at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Upper CONGO RIVER, a place known as “the gateway to the heart of Africa.” Founded by the French in 1883, the city takes its name from explorer Pierre de Brazza, who signed a treaty with a local king that gave France control of key parts of the region. Because of its location, Brazzaville became an important base in France's colonial empire in West Africa. During World War II it was the center in Africa of the French resistance to Germany and its allies.
Today Brazzaville is one of the industrial centers in the Congo (the others are Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic Coast and N'kayi, which lies between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire). The leading industries in Brazzaville are textiles, food processing, and leather goods. Many goods are shipped between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, both by train and, in recent years, by motor vehicle and by air. Brazzaville is home to one of the Congo's two international airports.
Brazzaville has served as capital of the Congo since the country gained its independence in 1960. The city has about 1 million inhabitants, almost one third of the country's population. It is a main port on the Congo River and serves as the headquarters for many important African organizations. These include the World Health Organization's African headquarters, the Pan African Union of Science and Technology, and the African Petroleum Producer's Association. Brazzaville is also home to many educational, scientific, and technical institutions. (See also Congo (Brazzaville).)