‘We must invest in education’: DRC’s mining vice-president
TAR: With one of the largest territories on the continent, what is the government in Kinshasa doing to ensure the development of all of the country’s regions?
The government has invested almost nothing in infrastructure in my region, Nord-Kivu. In Goma, we have put together mechanisms in the private sector to see how to build roads and rehabilitate old infrastructure. It is a partnership put in place locally between private companies and the provincial government. The situation is worse in Sud-Kivu.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is regularly in the news because of its rebel groups and their links to the country’s natural resources.
It is true that mining has indirectly financed these groups. But the situation has changed a lot. Guidelines from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development were adopted that ask all companies in the supply chain to be sure that mining production does not have direct links to conflicts.
There have been several suspect sales of state stakes in mining companies to Israeli magnate Dan Gertler and people close to him. They even hurt the government’s relationship with donors. Donors often say that there is a huge lack of transparency about what is happening in the mining sector.
We have a framework for dealing with these sorts of things, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. As companies, we have to prepare reports on what we pay to government and it does the same with the information about what it receives. Every contract to be signed has to be published, and they are. And when things are not done, rest assured, civil society is not giving anyone a pass.
Do you think non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have had a harmful impact on your country?
NGOs developed the idea of ‘blood minerals’ and as a result there was a de facto boycott in 2010. They had a harmful role: buyers walked away, thousands of jobs were lost and government revenue dropped. Some NGOs now admit that their method was not a good one. Conflicts in the DRC are recurrent, old and tied to ethnic problems, not minerals. NGOs should change their approach: you have to work together, improve together and not boycott.
Which African countries could serve as a model for development for the DRC?
The African economies growing regularly and sustainably, like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire, are not dependent on the extractive sector. Here are the lessons from these countries: you have to invest in infrastructure, in electricity, put a lot of resources into education, and strongly develop agriculture, tourism and services. Look at the example of Mauritius. The goal is real growth that serves the country’s development.
What are some of the biggest challenges for the future?
We absolutely must invest in education. That is a huge challenge. We had the opportunity to learn in good schools, but that is not the case for the younger generations. […] In agriculture, we have the largest reserves of arable land in Africa. […] We absolutely have to change the ideas that we have about our economy and diversify it.
This interview first appeared in the Deecember/January 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine