Congo is Rich in Minerals but has a Poor Population
Kinshasa, Congo– the third largest city in Africa, a fireman sits in full dress in a station that has no walls, no roof, and no amenities. They have all burned. Yet, the river Congo is the world’s second-largest river. A young Congolese boy practices martial arts on the muddy streets. Between 230,000 and 1 million Chinese have immigrated to Africa where they have opened banks, import businesses, electronics shops, pharmacies and restaurants. A woman working in a local post office explains to each Congolese worker who comes to collect in his/her pay that there are no wages. However, a “benign climate and rich soil make it fertile, beneath the soil abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil are just some of the minerals that should make it one of the world’s richest countries,” according to BBC. The fireman, the boy, and the woman are three figures in the documentary film, Elephant’s Dream that tours the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where nearly 80 million people reside with only 1% of the population having access to electricity in rural areas and 19% in urban areas.
Chinese Investment isn’t helping the People of the Congo
China replaced the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009, and estimated in 2012 it conducted $200 billion in trade with Africa having in the last 35 years moved approximately 600m Africans out of poverty. This success is attributed to a non-interference policy to develop Africa’s infrastructure in exchange for mineral extraction through mining. Yet Chinese exceptionalism as a resource based policy is not new to the colonies. The independent Democratic Republic of Congo has yet to realize its leverage in dealing with superpowers and determining the terms of its trade with international partners at varying stages of development. Neither the billions of dollars in US AID nor the billions of development investment from the Chinese have dramatically transformed the war torn underdeveloped fabric of the Congo for the average Congolese. However, as the African continent is overwhelmed with mass migration, and the Congo is in a relatively secure location with ample resources, it represents one of the better choices for rapid growth enhancements to the country where some migrants and Congolese may directly benefit both in the short and long-term future.
Generally, their investment is accompanied by a massive influx of Chinese citizens. In the process of building infrastructure, no efforts have been deployed to capacitate the DRC’s public agencies such as the Roads Office, the Office of Urban Roads and Canalization, and the Office for Country Roads. The use of imported Chinese labor, unstructured skills transfer, and lack of investment in the DRC institutions are among some of the factors that create scepticism about China’s development approach.50 The benefits of these mega infrastructure projects are diminished by the fact that most of the people who do the actual work are Chinese who in most cases repatriate their earnings back to China and eventually return home with their skills and expertise. As such, Chinese construction undermines sustainability and transformation of the Congolese society and undermines the win-win partnership.
Work Camps instead of Refugee Camps
If the Congolese government were interested in taking advantage of these opportunities, it with bilateral agreements with developed countries to clean, purify, and develop water resources for drinking, agriculture, and energy. Instead of refugee camps, it may request worker camps to draft in Congolese and immigrant skilled workers or unskilled labor that can be trained to development sites where worker camps can be phased into permanent housing in close proximities to long-term employment opportunities. Since the Chinese mining efforts were implemented in the Congo without respect to water pollution, and Chinese companies have not yet been sanctioned according to an American study, water projects and updated mining methods are one of the immediate areas for international and domestic cooperation and opportunity. Medical resources needed to ensure and maintain healthy labor forces is another area of immediate opportunity that can be implemented towards a sustainable medical industry in the Congo. From growth in these areas, the Congolese government may invest in furthering national education standards in the country and other independent infrastructure.
For US companies working in the areas of mining and water resources such as the construction of dams could mirror similar projects in the US where dam repair and updated water and energy systems many of which were constructed during the 1930s WPA programs and badly in need of improvements can be negotiated into agreements. This would provide additional investment incentives and immediate returns for private US companies working in these industries and US government resources such the utilization of the Army Corps of Engineers and Civil Military Operations to invest in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo where the long-term stability and economic advantages for the US present prohibitive investment risks in both sectors private and public. Additional visible operating presence of superpowers may have an impact on security vulnerabilities for the region while additional stages areas for managing terror and crime threats on the continent.