The DRC invests its natural resources to strengthen its partnership with Beijing: The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, visited China, on May 24, 2023, for a period of 5 days, during which he held extensive meetings with officials in Beijing, including his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, Many of the already existing trade deals between the two countries were reviewed, in addition to the conclusion of new agreements.
The DRC invests its natural resources to strengthen its partnership with Beijing
Tshisekedi’s visit to China is his first since he came to power in January 2019, as he seeks to rebalance the mineral infrastructure agreements that the previous Congolese government had signed with Beijing, which can be presented as follows:
Review business deals
Tshisekedi’s visit to Beijing aims to review existing trade deals between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China. Quantities estimated at about $10 billion of Congolese minerals. On the other hand, these companies did not commit to establishing the agreed-upon infrastructure, with only about $822 million.
The Chinese embassy in Kinshasa objected to the content of this report, which prompted the Congolese president to hold a meeting with members of his government, on May 19, during which he confirmed that he would complete the talks with the Chinese side.
And the former Congolese President, Joseph Kabila, concluded an agreement with China in 2008, known as the “Sicomines” project, with a value of about $ 6 billion, according to which it was agreed that the two companies “Sinohydro Corp” and “Security Group China Railway Group Limited has allocated about $3 billion for the development of the joint copper and cobalt “Sicomines” project, and about another $3 billion for infrastructure development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in return for an estimated 68% stake in the project, while a company gets Gecamines mining, owned by the Congolese government, has a 32% stake.
President Tshisekedi believes that the Chinese side has not fulfilled its obligations, according to these agreements, which stipulated pumping large investments in the Congolese infrastructure in exchange for Beijing obtaining copper and cobalt from Kinshasa.
Congo requested Chinese compensation
The Congolese government submitted a request to Beijing for compensation for the losses that resulted from the 2008 deal, as President Tshisekedi demanded that the amount allocated for infrastructure in the framework of this deal be raised to 6 billion dollars, instead of 3 billion, in addition to obtaining another compensation of two billion dollars, Claiming that the Chinese companies obtained minerals from the Congolese company at half the prices in the market.
Comprehensive strategic partnership
Tshisekedi’s visit to Beijing also aimed at strengthening cooperation and partnership between the two countries. During this visit, it was agreed to upgrade relations between the two countries from the stage of “strategic partnership for win-win cooperation”, which was launched in 2015, to the stage of “comprehensive strategic partnership”. This was followed by the issuance of A joint statement that included announcing plans to enhance joint cooperation in all fields, including security.
And the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Tshisekedi’s visit to Beijing witnessed the signing of a number of joint cooperation agreements between the two countries. China is the largest trading partner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as the volume of trade between the two countries in 2022 amounted to about $21.7 billion.
Chinese elasticity with Congo
Tshisekedi’s visit to China reflected the intertwined interests between the two countries, and their keenness to develop relations of cooperation between them, which can be presented as follows:
Raising Congo’s share in “copper and cobalt”
Tshisekedi’s visit to Beijing aims to increase the share of the Congolese state mining company, Gecamens, to 60%, and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to obtain a 10% share, in exchange for reducing the share of Chinese companies to only 30%. The two sides announced their agreement to review joint mining deals, provided that a new agreement will be signed by the end of 2023.
Tshisekedi’s readiness for the upcoming elections
It is expected that the presidential elections in the Congo will be held in December 2023. It seems that President Tshisekedi is seeking to achieve several internal and external achievements that enhance his chances of obtaining a new term in these elections.
Perhaps this explains the timing of his tendency to reconsider the 2008 agreement with the Chinese side, and his efforts to strengthen the economic partnership with Beijing, paving the way for new Chinese investments in Kinshasa that will favor Tshisekedi in the upcoming elections.
Expanding military cooperation between the two countries
In mid-May 2023, the Congo received the first batch of Chinese “CH-4” (CH-4) drones, in conjunction with Kinshasa’s intention to use the regional force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to deploy its forces in eastern Congo. And support efforts to impose stability in this troubled region, after the forces of the East African Group failed in the task of establishing peace and stability there.
The DRC invests its natural resources to strengthen its partnership with Beijing
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is witnessing mounting security challenges in the east of the country, with about 120 armed groups active in it, not to mention the Rwanda-backed “March 23” rebel movement. Although the forces of the East African Group sent forces to support the Congolese army in achieving stability in this region, these forces failed to achieve any real progress in the region, but security threats continued to exacerbate in eastern Congo, which prompted Kinshasa to strengthen its rapprochement with Beijing to support its armed forces.
Beijing Insurance Kinshasa Metals
China is seeking to strengthen its involvement in the Congo to secure its access to its vast mineral wealth, as about two-thirds of the world’s cobalt production is extracted from the latter, which is the raw material used in the production of batteries. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is also one of the world’s leading producers of copper, in addition to having large reserves of diamonds, gold, lithium and tantalum.
Recent years have witnessed repeated cases of Chinese deaths during attacks by terrorist groups on some mines inside the Congo, so Beijing is working to secure its presence in the Congolese interior to preserve its interests there, and Kinshasa is of particular importance to Beijing from a strategic point of view associated with the transition towards green energy.
It is noted that the Chinese influence exceeds its American counterpart in the Congo, as Beijing now owns the majority of cobalt mines in Kinshasa, in exchange for the failure of American companies to keep pace with this Chinese expansion, and some of these companies even went to sell their shares to their Chinese counterparts.
Refuting the Chinese “debt trap” novel
China is currently working to refute the Western narrative of the “debt trap”, which the United States and its European allies see as a deliberate strategy pursued by Beijing to plunge African countries into debt in order to obtain the assets and wealth of these countries.
China seeks to confirm that it does not aim to exploit African countries by affirming its agreement to review previous cooperation agreements with the Congo, which the latter considered unfair to it, in order to reach other, fairer agreements.
Possible international bounces
The outputs that resulted from the Congolese President’s visit to China reflect the presence of several potential repercussions that may occur on the internal scene in Kinshasa, and on the surrounding regional context, during the coming period, which can be presented as follows:
Enhance military cooperation
It is expected that the coming period will witness the strengthening of military cooperation between Beijing and Kinshasa, which establishes a foothold for China in the depths of Africa, especially with several reports indicating that Beijing is seeking to obtain a new military base for it in Central and West Africa, so it is not excluded that the Congo is one of the sites potential for this rule.
On the other hand, the Congo may work to conclude a deal with Beijing, according to which Chinese military support for the Congolese government forces will be expanded, and they will be helped to impose control over the eastern region of the Congo, in return for Beijing obtaining greater concessions regarding the mineral wealth in Kinshasa, or this potential base. . This proposition may be reinforced by the meeting of the Congolese Minister of Defense, Jean-Pierre Bemba, with his Chinese counterpart, Li Changfu, during which the latter confirmed Beijing’s readiness to provide all kinds of military support to the Congolese forces.
Growing Sino-American competition
The United States has had great aspirations in the vast fortunes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 1990s. Therefore, Kinshasa may represent a new focus of competition between the United States and China during the coming period, in light of the large mineral wealth that it abounds in, especially with regard to cobalt, which is a basic pillar in the electric car industry, and it is one of the most prominent areas of current competition between Washington and Beijing, not to mention what This industry is key to the current US administration’s aspirations to limit climate change.
This proposition is consistent with Western reports indicating that the intensity of the US-Chinese competition over the future of green energy has witnessed a sharp escalation in the African continent, as the latter is home to many raw materials needed for the global carbon removal race, which constitute a crucial entry point for batteries and solar panels.
Dedication Polarization in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes region represents one of the most prominent hotbeds of tension in the African continent, and it is expected that the growth of Chinese influence in this region will perpetuate regional and international polarization, especially since the expected Chinese support for the Congolese side may be matched by more Western support for the Rwandan position, which may frame a proxy war. The scene is getting darker in this troubled region.
In conclusion, the Congolese president’s visit to Beijing comes within the framework of the current Chinese movement towards the African continent, and its efforts to expand its political, economic and military influence within it. It is expected that the coming period will witness more visits by some leaders of African countries to Beijing, which may lead to an increase in American concern about these moves, and Washington’s tendency to adopt countermeasures, which may negatively affect the security situation in the region.