Felix Tshisekedi visits China to renegotiate mining contracts
The Democratic Republic of Congo is looking to strengthen their partnership with China as the two countries are renegotiating mining contracts for the DRC’s mineral reserves.
This first State visit to China by the President of the DRC, Félix Tshisekedi, is the latest in a series of diplomatic exchanges between African leaders and Beijing.
Mr Tshisekedi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping announced on Friday that they were upgrading “the bilateral relationship from a win-win strategic cooperative partnership to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
China is a major investor in the DRC, where the Asian power dominates the lucrative mining industry with companies such as Sicomines.
But Mr Tshisekedi has publicly pledged to renegotiate Congolese mining contracts, in particular the one signed in 2008 with China by his predecessor Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), in order to obtain better conditions for his country.
On Friday, he was greeted by a line of honour and jubilant children between meetings with Mr Xi and Premier Li Qiang.
Mr Li told Mr Tshisekedi that he believed “China-DRC relations will surely achieve greater development and benefit both peoples.”
The large central African country is a major exporter of copper, uranium and cobalt – a key ingredient in batteries for consumer goods – but remains one of the world’s poorest states.
A senior DRC official, Erik Nyindu Kibambe, told reporters in Beijing that the mining renegotiation talks were going “wonderfully”, with the Congolese side hoping for an agreement by the end of this year.
He said they were aiming for a state-to-state agreement, rather than agreements between the DRC and individual mining companies.
Félix Tshisekedi is the latest in a series of African leaders to visit China in recent weeks, following delegations from Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Gabon.
The African continent is at the heart of a struggle for influence between the great powers, China, Russia and the United States, who have all sent their heads of diplomacy to the region for rival diplomatic offensives this year.