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China and D.R. Congo Upgrade Strategic Relationship with $7 Billion Infrastructure Deal, as Tony Blair Fumes

On Jan 28, Sicomines (Sino Congolaise des Mines), a joint venture co-owned by the Congolese Gecamines and a consortium of Chinese industrial enterprises led by the China Railway Group, announced that it would invest $7 billion in infrastructure projects (primarily roads) throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. Additionally, Sicomines agreed to pay a new 1.2% royalty on the value of exported ore, and give D.R.C.’s Gecamines the right to market 32% of the ore. Among Gecamines mines holdings is the Tenga Fugurume mine, the world’s largest reserves of cobalt.

The announcement comes as the biggest evidence of the upgrading of the strategic partnership between the two powerhouse nations of the rising Global South, an upgrade announced less than a year ago. “During D.R.C. President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo’s visit to China in May 2023,” wrote Global Times on Jan. 28, “China and the D.R.C. upgraded their bilateral relationship from a strategic partnership of win-win cooperation to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership. The D.R.C. agreed to work with China to deepen cooperation in economy, trade, resources, infrastructure, medical care and other fields to enrich the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and build a mature, stable and groundbreaking relationship for the benefit of the two peoples.”

Formed in 2007 under then-President Joseph Kabila, Sicomines came under fire soon after new President Felix Tshisekedi came into office in 2018. Specifically, what Western press began clamoring about was that the joint venture Sicomines had not come through on the infrastructure investment clauses, unspecified projects for which D.R.C. had allegedly paid $6.2 billion.

At the time, while headlines were connecting the words “corruption” with “China,” the articles were quick to note that a major source of the “corruption” was likely connected to kickbacks taken by administrators of the then-controlling Kabila regime. A major force behind the charges were the “consultants” working with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. While Blair and his imperial allies were ultimately unsuccessful in their larger, unpublicized goal of wresting control of the mines from China’s hands, the Jan. 28 announcement stands as proof that both China and the D.R.C. have now come together on the lesser charge (of failure to come through on the infrastructure projects).

Reflecting on the five-year ordeal, Global Times laments that, “Unlike some Western countries that have adopted a condescending approach, Chinese enterprises have been facilitating African countries in promoting the process of industrialization on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.” As proof, the paper describes Sicomine’s lead contractor, China Railway Resources Group’s construction of the $656 million, 240 MW Busanga hydroelectric power plant, in the southeastern (mining) province of Lualaba, a dam inaugurated in October 2023.