In Congo, all that glitters is really gold... and diamonds and cobalt and coltan

Sunday January 6 2019

Congo needs to be helped to start selling its

Congo needs to be helped to start selling its wealth in Congolese currency and at the right price. Then Congo will be viable to lend other African countries all the money they need for development projects. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG 

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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Next year, DR Congo will mark 60 years of Independence. Judging from the confusion of the first 59 years, we can safely predict that there won’t be much to celebrate.

But Congo’s situation shouldn’t be blamed on the Congolese alone; it is an indictment of the entire continent, especially the leadership of its 54 states.

Look at what is becoming an annual ritual of those 54 heads of state (only a quarter or fewer send representatives), solemnly responding to a summons by some foreign economic power to go and “discuss” development funding.

They proudly return home announcing that they are going to be lent more money for projects.

Yet if there is one place they should all go to seek finance for their infrastructure projects it is in Africa – Congo. And they know it.

Do you think African leaders are ignorant of the fact that world’s telecoms and the coming electric cars are all possible courtesy of Congo’s cobalt?

Even if you don’t like our leaders, you don’t have to underrate them, they know these things.

They also know that the post-industrial, post-information age is largely powered by Congo minerals.

They know that many of the projects they are borrowing for are padded with inflated costs while the true cost is not much more than the local counter-fund that the borrowers have to provide themselves.

African leaders know these things because they are not fools – otherwise they wouldn’t be able to hold power for five, 10, 15, even 30 plus years like they do.

DR Congo is in the African Union family. If we stop running overseas for ideas as if that is where our brains are kept, we may begin to notice the massive wealth that we have on the continent.

Congo needs to be helped to start selling its wealth in Congolese currency and at the right price. Then Congo will be viable to lend other African countries all the money they need for development projects.

Africans need to urgently start mounting pressure on the African Union to intervene in DR Congo.

The AU professes ideals that are all begging to be implemented in that country. Every year that passes without the AU intervening in Congo is another year lost by the whole of Africa.

The AU doesn’t need to impose a government on Congo; they just need to make an agreement with whoever is in charge in Kinshasa, send in troops that the latter will pay for, and the continent starts living.

The money is there in Congo. The whole developed world needs Congo’s cobalt.

It is this cobalt that will enable hundreds of millions of electric cars to hit the road in the next two decades and drastically cut carbon emissions that are threatening the world.

Kinshasa should sell that cobalt in Congo currency the way Kenya is now considering pushing outsiders to denominate loans to it in Kenya shillings.

Yes, donors who want to give or lend to Kenya will first have to buy Kenya currency – that is what self-confidence means.

Why shouldn’t Congo charge for its wealth in its own currency, which should make it the most sought after currency in the world? It’s not going to be easy, as the currency must remain stable and its management transparent. Africans need to start thinking of their interests.

And as putting Congo on a rational course gets under way, other African countries will start realising that they too can power their own development without seeking advice and aid abroad.

The next 60 years can be Africa’s if the African Union starts sorting out Congo now.

Joachim Buwembo is an independent journalist based in Kampala. E-mail: [email protected]

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