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DRC Seeks New China Creditor Deal

FILE: President Felix Tshisekedi discussing with the China Minister for Foreigners Affairs Wang Yi at the State Palace, Kinshasa. Taken January 6 2021

Democratic Republic of Congo expects to reach an agreement on overhauling $6 billion of an infrastructure-for-minerals deal with Chinese investors this year, Finance Minister Nicolas Kazadi told Reuters in an interview.

The government is in active talks with representatives of Sicomines, a cobalt and copper joint venture with Chinese state-owned firms, as well as China's CMOC Group Ltd., massive Tenke Fungurume (TFM) copper and cobalt mine, Kazadi said via videolink from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"It's important for us to have clear agreement because this is what we have now to finance our development," he said.

President Felix Tshisekedi's government has been revisiting a 2007 deal struck by his predecessor Joseph Kabila under which Sinohydro Corp. and China Railway Group Limited agreed to build roads and hospitals in exchange for a 68% stake in the Sicomines venture as well as a 2008 contract with CMOC.

"We have already a framework, we have some key elements of change that we want to bring in that agreement," Kazadi said of Sicomines, though he declined to provide further details.

Speaking about a different challenge in DRC's vast small-scale mining sector, Kazadi said a recently announced joint venture with the United Arab Emirates designed to end the illicit movement of precious metals from the country was a game changer.

"In only five days they have managed to burn and export 27 kilograms," Kazadi said, speaking of the joint venture that is owned 55% by the United Arab Emirates with the remainder owned by Kinshasa.

The countries along Congo’s eastern border have long been conduits for gold worth billions of dollars mined using rudimentary means by so-called "artisanal" miners.

"It will completely change the situation in Rwanda, and this is one of the reasons why Rwanda is absolutely angry with us, they are fighting us - that is the reality," Kazadi said.