China and DR Congo vow tighter ties, discuss mining contracts

AFP , Friday 26 May 2023

China and the Democratic Republic of Congo will strengthen their partnership and step up cooperation, Beijing said Friday, as talks over renegotiating mining contracts for the African country's valuable mineral reserves continue.

Congo   China
Republic of Congo s President Felix Tshisekedi, left, meets Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Friday, May 26, 2023. AP


DRC President Felix Tshisekedi's trip, his first state visit to China, is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic overtures between Beijing and African nations.

Tshisekedi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday "announced the elevation of the bilateral relationship from a strategic partnership of win-win cooperation to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership", China's foreign ministry said in a statement.

China is a major investor in DRC, where the Asian power dominates the lucrative mineral mining industry.

But Tshisekedi has vowed to renegotiate Congolese mining contracts, which include those signed with China under his predecessor, to achieve better terms for his country.

On Friday, he was greeted by an honour guard and cheering children between meetings with Xi and Premier Li Qiang.

Li told Tshisekedi that he believed "China-DRC relations will surely achieve greater development, and benefit the two peoples".

The large central African country is a major exporter of copper, uranium and cobalt -- a key ingredient in batteries for consumer gadgets -- but remains one of the world's poorest states.

Senior DRC official Erik Nyindu Kibambe told reporters in Beijing that mining renegotiation talks were going "wonderfully", with the Congolese side hoping for a deal by the end of this year.

He said they were aiming to make a state-to-state deal, rather than agreements between DRC and individual mining companies.

Tshisekedi is the latest in a series of African leaders to visit China in recent weeks, following delegations from Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Gabon.

The continent has found itself at the centre of a tussle for influence among the major powers, with China, Russia and the United States all sending foreign ministers to the region on rival diplomatic offensives this year.

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