The Democratic Republic of Congo has elected a new leader in an election that’s obviously not fraught with violence as popularly predicted. This is historic and against all odds! It’s the first-ever electoral win by an opposition presidential candidate in the country’s history since independence in June 1960.
Congo’s electoral commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), has announced opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi’s win against his closest rival Martin Fayulu. But there are questions over the credibility of this election. The Catholic Church, which is a powerful actor in the country’s politics, in its vote tallies showed second-placed candidate Martin Fayulu as winner.
The camp of opposition leader Martin Fayulu has challenged the results too. But its mind boggling for France and Belgium to cast doubt on the election result. What’s really their interest? But this isn’t my focus now.
Let’s focus on natural resources. The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in natural resources. It’s Africa’s largest copper producer and world’s biggest producer of cobalt. It accounts for two-thirds of global production of cobalt, a metal needed for rechargeable batteries. But it is a poor country, with about half of its 80 million population living in poverty.
Mining deals most of the times have been struck in the dark.
Investigations by Global Witness revealed how a series of suspicious mining deals were struck with anonymous offshore companies that cost the country $1.36 billion in potential revenues. According to the Carter Center, Gécamines, the state-owned mining company, was contractually entitled to US$1.1 billion between 2011 and 2014, but US$750 million of the total amount cannot be reliably tracked to Gécamines’ accounts.
Why all these irregularities? It’s the politics. Joseph Kabila, the current president, ruled Congo for nearly 18 years. Under his rule, a small group of elite amassed huge fortunes mostly from the country’s mining sector.
Politics cannot be separated from natural resources. This is why this election outcome has strong connotation to what happens in the minerals sector. Investors are keenly watching what could transpire.
Well, there is no clear program nor agenda for the elected leader. This is not too odd for a country with very rugged political and economic history. But one of his key pronouncements was on the fight against corruption and poverty. That’s ambitious! This really means he will be rocking Kabila’s boat. Will he have the fortitude do that? I don’t really foresee that.
A total overhaul the mining sector, which has been riddled with grand corruption, might not happen now. There could be a possibility of reviewing mining contracts and overhauling leadership at the state-owned mining company. I don’t really foresee that.
This is what I think the newly elected leader should do, at least in his first year. First, he should change the structures at the state-owned mining company. There is mismanagement that ought to be dealt with.
Second, the recently revised mining code was worth it. He should keep to it. The country’s previous mining was way too old to tackle today’s mining activities. But implementing the code is as important as the decision to formulate it. It needs strong institutions to check the massive losses and unbridled patronage in the mining sector.
To conclude, Congo’s future lies in its hands and political leadership is key to its progress.
Photo source: Bloomberg.