China, Congo and Zambia: Friends in Need?
China’s growing presence on the African continent is focused in large part on obtaining access to mineral resources. Mining by multinational corporations in Africa has always been controversial, and is rapidly becoming so again as governments, international organisations, civil society and ordinary citizens debate the pros and cons of the dramatic scaling up of Chinese activities – particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
According to a new report by Global Witness, the huge potential of a multibillion-dollar mining deal between Kinshasa and Beijing risks being undermined because the agreement is opaque and key terms are ill-defined. The deal between Congo and China was originally signed in 2007, covering an investment of $9 billion (later renegotiated to $6 billion) in infra-structure and mining – making it roughly the same value as the Congolese budget at the time. At a talk held at the University of Oxford in May 2011, Lizzie Parsons of Global Witness presented the report “China and Congo: Friends in Need” and offered ways forward that place the Congolese population at the very heart of the debate.
At the same event, Dan Haglund presented his views on the complex developing relationship between China and Zambia by analysing the effects of Chinese investment in Zambia’s Copperbelt. China’s presence there predates that of Congo and offers key lessons regarding governance in the mining sector as a whole. It also underlines the political sensitivity of mining activities in the African context and the options available to China and its African partners as discontent mounts in a context of mineral dependent states with weak institutions and a highly diverse mining sector.
Click HERE to listen to a podcast of the talk.
Lizzie Parsons has worked since 2006 for Global Witness DRC campaigning team and has over ten years of experience in the human rights and development field. She has worked in Eastern Congo, Uganda and Kenya and was previously associated with Human Rights Watch. Global Witness fights against corruption, human rights violations and conflicts associated with the natural resource industries.
Dr Dan Haglund works as a consultant at Oxford Policy Management, focusing on natural resources policy. His PhD at the University of Bath explored the differences between Chinese, Indian and “˜western’ companies operating in Zambia’s copper mining sector. Journal articles, policy briefings as well as his full PhD thesis are available on www.danhaglund.net.