07 Nov Gulf-Congolese Relations
Africa’s leading poet Pancol Reiner says in his wonderful poem “The Amputee Congo”:
Tens of years and your sons bleed to build the cities of Belgium,
And when the Africans of Congo refused to collect red rubber for colonizers,
They were plagued by the civilization of massacre and killing.
From the land of the spiritual leader of Congo and the leader of national struggle in Africa “Patrice Lumumba”, and from one of the largest cities of sub-Saharan Africa, the center of modern African music. From the charming quarters of Africa which once I observed its man-made geography, ancient history, bewildering future, and turbulent peoples, I soon realized that the whole of Africa is confronted today by a hard labor that promise a prosperous life following centuries of renewed death. From Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, I write my today’s article.
Following a kind invitation from the Institute of Strategic and Security Sciences in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, I presented a paper entitled: “Gulf-Congolese Relations” following the RAKOMESKO Real Estate Development Group inauguration of its projects in several Congolese cities. Despite the multiple Gulf projects in Congo but they witnessed no improvement and it is enough to travel through the eleven provinces of the Republic of Congo, from Katanga to Équateur and from Oriental to Kinshasa to understand why the Gulf presence remained stalled.
Congo is considered the world’s richest country with natural resources. This is what caused the so-called “resource curse” that was behind the struggle among the international powers. In addition, there is the Congo River basin which is most distinguished by its lack of a delta and powerful current pushing water towards the sea greater even than the Nile River. Cairo realized that and proposed one day the project of linking the Congo River to the Nile River*, which if completed will achieve electricity self-sufficiency for Egypt, Congo and Sudan. What enhances the success of this project is that the international law allows any country with poor water resources to draw water from any bordering country of rich water resources after obtaining its approval. In case that the project has been implemented it will revive the potential of the water transfer project from Sudan to the Gulf States through pipelines across the Red Sea. This will be supported by the abundance of water and the non-objection of the other basin countries to this procedure as it falls within the Sudanese sovereignty and does not affect water quotas of the basin states.
The Gulf investments in Congo have been numerous. In the telecommunications sector for instance, Al-Dhabi Investment Group has launched its investments, stressing that this sector is one of the fastest developing ones. In March 2018, Dubai Ports Company won the bid for the development of the Congolese port of Banana, which will link the Congo with international trade lines and reduce dependence on the ports of neighboring countries. The Gulf States also undertook a series of agricultural and oil projects in the Republic of Congo in collaboration with international companies. Moody’s Credit Rating Agency predicted that Congo’s economy will grow thanks to the influx of large foreign investments in the mining and consumer sector, however, the Gulf investment has become subject to some obstacles, most important of which are:
- The spread of illegal economic activities which aren’t included in the gross domestic product That motivated the government to establish private economic zones focusing on agricultural and mining industries.
- The apparent imbalance between supply and demand which has caused the spread of informal economic sectors. Also, small and medium-sized firms are complaining of an inadequate regulatory framework that resulted in a decline in their activities and incapacity for competitiveness.
- Congo’s lack of modern road networks due to poor infrastructure. The terrain and climate of the Congo Basin impede the construction of roads and railways in addition to the vast distances characteristic of this country. Traditional water transport is the most common means that is used by more than two-thirds of the population.
Today, The Congo is trying to liberate its economy from the World Bank policy by joining African regional and economic organizations as well as attempting to benefit from preferential trade with Washington under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, besides cooperating with promising economic blocs such as the BRICS. But the economic situation remains weak due to policies adopted by the Paris Club and the structural adjustment policies designed to continue plundering other countries’ resources. Moreover, Kinshasa is still living in a cycle of illegal exploitation of natural resources in an alarming way, for many natural resources are smuggled from border areas and exported to global markets. This is carried out systematically because of the structures previously set and developed during the AFDL rebels’ war, in addition to illegal networks involving neighboring countries in past periods.
It is worth noting that Burundi, which does not produce gold, diamonds or cobalt, has exported these minerals in conjunction with the presence of its forces in the western parts of Congo. This is added to the role of private security companies which carry out a new sort of task on behalf of governments and perform activities of military and security nature such as military training, logistic support and security missions in areas of conflict. The International Association of Investigative Journalism has confirmed that the majority of these security companies are involved in a global war-making industry with revenues amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. A review of contracts concluded by Washington with 12 out of 24 security companies of American origin and based in the USA showed that these contracts amounted to US $ 300 billion. These companies undertake many activities in other African countries to protect oil and natural minerals production sites, a thing that gained them significant influence in sub-Saharan Africa.
Today, Kinshasa found in cooperation with Berlin a real opportunity to revive its national economy. A five-year plan was considered to develop the national tourism sector in the eastern region rich with tropical forests; especially that The Congo has 50% of tropical rain forests in Africa. Through promoting its most famous national park “Kahuzi-Biega”, which is home to a variety of rare and endangered animals and birds worldwide, Kinshasa has managed to boost national economy by $ 10 million, which was a positive and encouraging step to double efforts.
The Congo Kinshasa continues to be a mine for natural resources and still strives to improve its economic and political conditions. Though, its main problem lies in the fact that it’s subject to the influence of governments that care for the interest of all parties except the national ones. This is what Patrice Lumumba was struggling against and died for.
* The project was rejected due to high cost.
Dr. Amina Alarimi,
UAE Researcher in African Affairs