- Beijing has more options on where to source its crude these days, but is still reliant on Africa for its copper, cobalt and other rare minerals, analyst says
- A ‘substantial part of the Congolese mining sector … is now in Chinese hands’, report says
The visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) earlier this year was indicative of a shift in Beijing’s lending and investment focus for Africa, according to analysts.
During his trip to Kinshasa in January, Wang promised that Beijing would write off loans to the Central African nation worth about US$28 million to help it deal with the impact of Covid-19 and provide US$17 million in other financial support.
He said also that China would fund infrastructure projects in the DRC, as it became the 45th country to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s grand plan to boost interconnectivity and trade around the world.
Over the past two decades, much of China’s lending in Africa has gone to Angola, which pioneered the concept of oil-backed loans to pay for roads, power dams and ports. According to the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University, between 2000 and 2019, China extended US$42.6 billion worth of loans to Angola – about 30 per cent of its total lending to African nations.
While China is still the world’s largest oil importer, the availability of crude from the Middle East – whose shipments would traditionally have gone to the US but no longer do because of sanctions – means it is no longer heavily reliant on African suppliers, analysts say.
But what Beijing does still need from Africa is copper, cobalt and other rare minerals, according to Mark Bohlund, a senior analyst at REDD Intelligence.
“This is one reason to expect China’s engagement in Africa to shift towards the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said in a research report.