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Research Report

Chinese aid, trade and investment and the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Louis Putzel
Noël Kabuyaya
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 56
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-3)

    Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) dates from the 1970s, when the two countries shared a mutual interest in balancing power relations with Western countries and the Soviet Union (Shinn 2008). In 1973, then President Mobutu Sese Seko visited Beijing (Figure 1.) and returned with promises of US$100 million in agricultural aid (Young 1978). During the following few years, Chinese investment soared, and a series of high-profile projects began to appear, the most symbolic of which included the People’s Palace, to house the National Assembly, valued at an estimated US$42.3 million (DRC...

  2. (pp. 3-4)

    Data for this working paper were collected through the following activities:

    review of the literature on DRC–China diplomatic and trade and investment relations;

    review of the legal frameworks that govern forestry, mining, investment and land in the DRC;

    review of primary documents collected in the DRC;

    key informant and field interviews with more than 70 individuals conducted during a single trip to Kinshasa, the Batéké Plateau and Mbandaka (Equateur Province) in July/August 2010, and during a trip to Lubumbashi and Kolwezi in Katanga Province in November/December 2010.

    To facilitate field visits and access to key informants, the École régionale...

  3. (pp. 4-10)

    The Second Congo War of 1998–2003, sometimes referred to as ‘Africa’s world war’, was largely motivated by the interests of many countries – from neighbours to distant trade partners – in controlling the DRC’s significant natural resources, especially minerals (Ballentine and Nitzschke 2005). In 2002, the United Nations Security Council commissioned a study by a group of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the DRC, and identified 11 African countries as points of transit for the ill-gotten resources from the DRC. The group recommended placing financial restrictions on a number of...

  4. (pp. 10-13)

    In the DRC, there is no reliable central source of data on domestic and foreign investment levels, partly because of the lack of coordination between the national and provincial levels.13 In addition, although created to attract and facilitate the startup of primarily foreign investors in the DRC, ANAPI is explicitly not the first point of contact for investments in the mining, oil, financial (banking) and military-related sectors.14 Figures on investment in these sectors are generally not released.15 In addition, investments that arise through or are somehow contingent on bilateral relations between the DRC and foreign governments are unlikely to pass...

  5. (pp. 13-29)

    Mining concessions cover most of eastern and southern DRC, with industrial mining dominating Katanga Province in the south and artisanal mining more prevalent in the east. The extent and location of these concessions constitute a potential environmental threat: a number of concessions overlap with protected areas.27 While the associated environmental problems are unquestionably a matter for concern, the social aspects of mining are at least as compelling: in the southern province of Katanga, according to one ministry official, 80% of the population is dependent on mining for subsistence, and many areas both within and outside of official concessions are mined...

  6. (pp. 29-33)

    As in the mining sector, the DRC timber sector can be described in terms of formal large-scale and artisanal activities; however, the latter are less well studied and poorly understood (Eba’a Atyi and Bayol 2010). Most conventional logging, both formal and informal, occurs in the provinces of Equateur and Orientale. However, because of poor transport infrastructure and a bottleneck in DRC’s main sea port at Matadi, the cost of transporting wood from Equateur is extremely high, thus limiting companies’ capacity to remove felled logs. On the other hand, with the repair of national highway RN4, which links Kisangani, the largest...

  7. (pp. 33-34)

    The industrial agriculture sector in the DRC is characterised by abandonment due to the wars of the 1990s–2000s and the loss of viable transportation infrastructure. Agribusiness has been slow to recover, and business models are changing as a result. For example, the former largest producer of palm oil in the DRC, the Lever Brothers, sold their large holdings in Bas-Congo a decade ago and are now reportedly considering sourcing from smallholders, for pre-agreed contracts on volume and price.170

    The largest investments in agriculture are coming from international development funds and are largely aimed at reviving the sector and supporting...

  8. (pp. 34-37)

    The purpose of this working paper was to acquire and share a general overview of the status of Chinese investment and resource extraction in the DRC and, as much as possible, to understand the functioning of the DRC’s governance of the associated social and environmental trade-offs, especially in terms of forest-related effects. The working paper is based on a general review of recent literature and a field-scoping exercise, and was intended to be comparative in terms of its attention to both Chinese and non-Chinese actors and their activities. With regard to the latter, the scope was likely too wide; more...