President Felix Tshisekedi on Saturday spoke out in favour of revising the mining contract concluded in 2008 with China, signed by his predecessor Joseph Kabila, in order to “guarantee the interests” of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an official source said on Saturday.
Former DRC President Kabila (2001-2019) negotiated a deal in 2008 which saw Congolese cobalt and copper exchanged for infrastructure construction by a Chinese consortium. The original deal was worth $9 billion but was then renegotiated to $6 billion under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). To date, nearly $2.74 billion has been disbursed by the Chinese party, mostly in the form of investments.
In mid-February, the DRC’s General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) estimated in a study that there was, in this collaboration agreement, a “significant financial imbalance to the detriment of the DRC between the advantages granted to the Chinese party and the commitments it is responsible for as well as the gains expected by the Congolese party”.
In its conclusions, the IGF puts forward an amount of “76 billion in gains for the Chinese party against 3 billion in infrastructure for the DRC”.
At the council of ministers meeting held on Friday, President Tshisekedi “evoked the imperative need to revisit the contracts of this convention in the sense of a rebalancing of the advantages aimed at guaranteeing the interests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the exploitation of Sicomines”, the Chinese-Congolese company created for the occasion, Culture Minister Catherine Kathungu Furaha said in an account on state television RTNC.
Tshisekedi “underlined the worrying nature of this deplorable situation…for the development of the Congolese mining sector”, as well as “the slowness” in the construction of infrastructure in the DRC, Kathungu said.
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The head of state has asked “his cabinet to bring together all the stakeholders in order to prepare the elements that will be poured into the discussions with the Chinese partners”, the minister said.
In 2021, the president had already announced his intention to renegotiate these “Sino-Congolese” contracts. A revision promised on behalf of the Congolese people who, he deplored, “still languish in misery”.
The DRC’s subsoil is full of minerals, the country being notably the world’s leading producer of cobalt and Africa’s leading producer of copper.