After years of a lull attributed to insecurity, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is on course to fulfill its mining potential on the back of the biggest global interest and some measure of stability since a new administration assumed office.
Arguably the country most endowed with mineral resources globally, the vast nation has failed to fulfill its great potential after years of skirmishes since independence from Belgium in 1960.
It had its first peaceful transfer of power earlier this year when the then-opposition leader, Felix Tshisekedi, won a hotly-contested presidential poll to bring the 18-year-old reign of Joseph Kabila.
This has coincided with a significant interest in the country’s immense mining sector, with the upcoming DRC Mining Week drawing interest from France, Germany, South Africa, the United Kingdom (UK) and Zimbabwe.
The event scheduled for June 19-21 in Lubumbashi will have more international pavilions than any previous edition.
More than 3 500 international mining experts and local stakeholders from more than 50 countries are expected to attend this long-running, award-winning and flagship event that this year is celebrating 15 years of bringing the mining community in the DRC together.
Zimbabwe, itself emerging from years of economic decline and political problems, is among the most notable potential investors.
ZimTrade, the country’s trade promotional organisation, organised the first Zimbabwe country pavilion at DRC Mining Week last year and is returning after a lucrative experience in 2018.
The Zimbabwean pavilion clinched more than US$3 million (R42.1 million) worth of deals onsite at the last event.
“This is an indication that DRC is a lucrative market and that there is potential for business synergies between Zimbabwean and DRC companies. It is what has spurred us to participate at the show once again in 2019,” said a ZimTrade spokesperson.
“We were very pleased with the level of interest in Zimbabwean products and our participants generated many business leads some of which they have managed to convert into export sales within a short period of time,” the official added.
Sophie Olivier, Director General of the French-Congolese Chamber of Commerce (CCIFC) and convenor of the French Pavilion at the DRC Mining Week, said the country would build up on the French economic presence in the DRC, which comprises about 40 companies.
This presence includes locally-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and subsidiaries of large corporations that have adapted to the local environment across hospitality, telecommunications and energy industries.
“Also, the French are recognised for their technical expertise, both in
subcontracting and in associated services. There are therefore many French services or products – including technical equipment – within local companies, including mining,” Olivier said.
DRC Mining Week has already secured wide and impressive industry support through leading industry giants.
Elodie Delagneau, DRC Mining Week event director, said, “The business case for DRC’s mining sector remains compelling.”
She said for example, demand for battery metals such as lithium and cobalt was on the rise and the country’s low production costs (the average cost of producing cobalt in DRC is 30 percent) lower than the rest of the world, allows miners to absorb the additional higher royalty payments introduced in the new Mining Code.
“Furthermore, challenges always present opportunities, with the DRC mining sector’s energy deficit creating a huge gap to fill for the right power solution providers.”