China and Democratic Republic of Congo are discussing $7 billion in financing as part of a renegotiated minerals-for-infrastructure deal, President Felix Tshisekedi said Saturday at his second inaugural address in the capital, Kinshasa.
Tshisekedi has been pushing for a restructuring of a 2008 $6.2 billion contract between the countries, which he says has provided little benefit to Congo. The original deal promised $3 billion in infrastructure projects paid for by proceeds from a copper and cobalt mine known as Sicomines.
While the mine has operated for years, less than a third of the development money was ever disbursed, according to Congo’s government.
Tshisekedi said a new infrastructure initiative to open up the enormous country would be financed “thanks to the upcoming allocation of funds from the envelope obtained as part of the renegotiation of the Sicomines project and which should reach a total amount of $7 billion.” He did not offer further details.
Congo is Africa’s second biggest country by landmass, and is deeply poor despite huge mineral riches, including key green-energy metals like copper and cobalt. China, where most of those minerals are processed, is by far the country’s largest trading partner.
China’s embassy in Congo did not immediately respond to two emails requesting comment Saturday outside normal business hours.
Tshisekedi was sworn in for a second five-year term before tens of thousands of supporters and more than a dozen African heads of state at Congo’s national stadium.
The president won more than 70% of ballots in the country’s Dec. 20 election, which was marred by delays that stretched the voting for days. Opposition leaders have rejected the poll and called for protests Saturday. But the international community has in large part accepted the results given Tshisekedi’s margin of victory and the generally peaceful elections.
In his speech, Tshisekedi also vowed to reduce inflation, stabilize the exchange rate and expand industry to create employment in the country. More than 62% of Congo’s nearly 100 million people live in poverty, according to the World Bank.
(By Michael J. Kavanagh)