Event: China, Congo and Zambia: Friends in Need?

Wednesday 4 May 17:00, Dahrendorf Room, St Antony’s College

China’s growing presence on the African continent is focused in large part on obtaining access to mineral resources. Mining by multinational corporations in Africa has always been controversial, and is rapidly becoming so again as governments, civil society and ordinary citizens debate the pros and cons of the dramatic scaling up of Chinese activities- particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

According to a new report by Global Witness, the huge potential of a multibillion-dollar mining deal between Kinshasa and Beijing risks being undermined because the agreement is opaque and key terms are ill-defined. The deal between Congo and China was originally signed in 2007, covering an investment of $9 billion (later renegotiated to $6 billion) in infrastructure and mining – making it roughly the same value as the Congolese budget at the time. Lizzie Parsons of Global Witness will present “China and Congo: Friends in Need” and offer ways forward that put the Congolese population at the very heart of the debate.

The Sino-Congolese deal is unique in terms of its ambition, but should be usefully contextualised by comparing it to Chinese investment in Zambia’s Copperbelt. China’s presence there predates that in Congo and offers key lessons regarding governance in the mining sector as a whole. It also underlines the political sensitivity of mining activities in the African context and the options available to China and its African partners as discontent mounts in a context of mineral dependent states with weak institutions and a highly diverse mining sector.

Lizzie Parsons has worked since 2006 for Global Witness DRC campaigning team. She was previously associated with Human Rights Watch. Global Witness fights against corruption, human rights violations and conflicts associated with the natural resource industries.

Dr Dan Haglund works as a consultant at Oxford Policy Management. His PhD at the University of Bath explored the differences between Chinese, Indian and ‘western’ companies operating in Zambia’s copper mining sector.

Dr Nic Cheeseman (event chair) is a lecturer in African Studies at Jesus College, University of Oxford.