China to lend US$5 billion for DR Congo infrastructure

Officials of China and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed a draft agreement September 17 calling for China to lend DRC US$5 billion to modernize its infrastructure and mining sectors.

Although rich in hydropower and mineral resources, DRC has an infrastructure in ruins due to a 1998-2003 war that killed about 4 million people, mostly due to conflict-related hunger and disease. That came on top of years of corrupt misrule under late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

If fully disbursed, the loan would be one of the biggest financial commitments in Africa by China, which has been using financial and technical assistance to open trade avenues on the continent.

DRC officials said the draft accord foresees Chinese companies gaining copper/cobalt, gold, and nickel concessions under repayment deals that also would include toll revenues from the roads and railways to be constructed.

The proposed loan earmarks US$3 billion for strategic highway and railroad projects that would link the country’s mineral-rich but remote interior to its southern neighbors and the international shipping routes of the Atlantic. The remaining US$2 billion targets the revival of the DRC mining sector.

“This agreement will allow us to carry out important large-scale projects,” DRC Infrastructure and Public Works Minister Pierre Lumbi said. “What we have are repayment methods in terms of mining concessions, but also others like toll revenues.”

The draft accord comes with a promise of a possible additional US$3.5 billion still to be allocated.

Although the DRC is important to the hydropower industry for the vast potential of its Inga complex on the Congo River, estimated to have a potential of 40,000 MW, the Chinese agreement did not mention that portion of its infrastructure.

However, earlier in the month, Chinese hydropower builder SinoHydro Corp. announced with less fanfare the signing of a �cooperation agreement� with DRC’s Infrastructure and Reconstruction Department for infrastructure repair, development, and exclusive construction. SinoHydro valued that pact at US$9 billion and said it involved a hydropower station, electricity delivery, road traffic, university, hospital, housing construction, and other work.

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