Kinshasa blocks Sicomines imports to force contract review
The state auditor is stepping up pressure on the miner owned by China and DRC in the hope of forcing the initial 2008 deal between Kinshasa and Beijing to be renegotiated.
DR Congo's foreign affairs minister Christophe Lutundula signed a contract in December 2021 for the delivery of 167 vehicles to embassies around the world. The deal was awarded to Sada Motors, a company in which the finance minister's brother Nicola Kazadi is a minority shareholder.
The mining magnate Robert Friedland was received three times in July and September by the Guinean junta leader Mamadi Doumbouya. The billionaire and the colonel discussed at great length projects and strategy for developing the country's mining sector.
With the exception of Namibia and Mozambique, Africa has ceased to be attractive to US oil companies, which are gradually withdrawing from the market. This strategy is the opposite of that adopted by the Chinese and Russians, which are continuing to push ahead.
Put on alert by the turn of events in the Central African Republic and Mali, Western powers are worried about a potential rapprochement between the DRC and Russia and are hoping the UN will at least continue to enforce its arms embargo in the country.
Having already secretly signed a $400m financing deal with the Chinese firm Chengtun, which has taken over Nzuri Copper's mines, the Genevan trader Trafigura is now set to finalise a deal with Chemaf first announced in late January.
The Chinese group has taken advantage of Gécamines' reluctance to pursue artisanal mining at the Kasulo mine, which Kinshasa wanted to suspend. But if it wants to keep its access to Congolese cobalt, this provider of large battery manufacturers in China will have to invest more in the sector's modernisation.
The new Gécamines chairman, Alphonse Kaputo Kalubi, was for a long time sidelined by Albert Yuma, who has just been ousted from the helm of the state-owned mining company. It seems that the new managing director appointed at the same time was not a Yuma favourite either.
China's supremacy in Congolese mining has recently been challenged by both the government in Kinshasa and by Washington's renewed influence in the DRC. Beijing, in a bid to counteract this trend, has overhauled its previous communications strategy to focus on transparency and human rights.