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Q&A: Why Now? The Domestic Politics Driving the DRC’s Review of Chinese Mining Contracts

DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi standing next to Sicomines Director-General Li Sheng during a visit to the Chinese joint venture mining company in May. Photo via Xinhua.

Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi is fulfilling the promise he made last May to investigate foreign mining contracts to ensure they are fair and equitable. While the President did not single out the Chinese specifically, they’re no doubt going to be disproportionately impacted given their outsized role in the Congolese mining sector where Chinese companies reportedly account for 70% of all foreign mining companies operating in the country.

But these contracts have been in place for years, so why is the president choosing to take action now? It turns out the answer is probably straightforward: a mixture of politics and profits. President Tshisekedi will face re-election in 18 months and wants to eliminate a potential hot-button electoral issue his rivals could use against him. Separately, cobalt prices are expected to boom in the coming years as the demand for batteries needed to power electric vehicles surges.

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