In 2013, the DRC became the largest copper producing country in Africa. What are your next milestones after this important achievement?
First of all I would like to take this opportunity and thank all mining investors listed on the stock exchanges over the world and present with their projects in Katanga, because the success of having become the largest copper producing country in Africa has to be accredited to them. The DRC moved from number 80 globally to number one in Africa and this is a remarkable achievement indeed. A couple of years back not many people supported the idea of refining in country. However, at the start of my mandate, I had a vision for the Province that required unpopular decisions, such as the ban on the export of copper and cobalt concentrate that was enforced to create further added value for the country. In 2006, Katanga exported about 18,000 MT of copper cathode, in 2012 650,000 MT and in 2013 we are at over 900,000 MT. Also 55% of the country’s GDP is actually generated in Katanga, which is fast turning into the country’s locomotive. There is no other place in the world with copper grades like Katanga. Our aim going forward is to provide mining operators with enough power supply so that the DRC will be able to compete with Chile for a spot as the largest copper producing country in the world.
Could you elaborate on how you are planning to re-address the energy deficiencies in the Province going forward?
The strategy is to build enough small-scale hydro power stations to provide the electricity to meet Katanga’s increasing demand. For instance, the Luapula project, on the border between Katanga and Zambia, will bring 1,400 MW of new capacity to the Province in 2015. Great Inga is a case study known to anyone in the energy sector that should have started earlier with the aid of our South African development partners. In the short term, we have several mining operators working on different projects, like Tenke Fungurume Mine at the Nseke hydroelectric power plant. New investors coming to Katanga need to know that, with the aid of the Provincial Government, they need to provide for clear energy supply solutions in their investment planning prior to committing to the region.
What other opportunities for investments are present in Katanga?
The Province is aware that natural resources will not last forever and therefore we need to diversify our economy. In the last seven years more than US$20 billion were invested in Katanga. Today, we have a population of 12million people in the Province, comparable to Zambia’s overall population. There are, therefore, several investment opportunities for food and shopping malls. We are also seeing investment coming from South Africa into agricultural related projects, which will be important in helping us become self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. In 2007, when I was elected as Governor, Katanga was importing 98% of its agricultural related products. Today, we are importing only 25%, and in ten years time our goal is to start exporting our agricultural products to other countries. Katanga is also home to the highest Waterfalls in Africa, and so the tourism sector will also offer opportunities for investments going forward. Overall, Katanga is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and serious investors should not miss this train of opportunities.
Discussions regarding amendments to 2002 Mining Code are ongoing. What kind of changes can investors expect going forward?
The 2002 Mining Code was devised in conjunction with the Word Bank and mining investments decisions have been made on the basis of the current Mining Code. Authorities should also consider that most of DRCs recent achievements in terms of growth of the country’s economy are attributable to the mining sector and that 80% of the country’s mining operators are based in Katanga. Therefore changes to the existing Mining Code cannot be retrospective and should be orientated towards new players coming to the country, not the existing operators. We need to remember that the DRC came back to the global scene because of the early investors who came here believing in the future of this country. Prior to any final decision there must therefore be a full consultation procedure between mining operators, the Chamber of Commerce and the Government. It will be my job as Governor to maintain stability in the Province and I will not agree to anything that could jeopardies the future growth potential of the mining sector.
What are your milestones for the Province prior to the country’s next Presidential elections in 2016?
Katanga needs to maintain a strong growing economy that will have to increasingly focus on reducing poverty and contribute even more to the country’s national economy. When I became Governor, Katanga was the country’s third contributor to the National Treasury with US$187 million. One year into my mandate we became the country’s first contributor accounting for US$3 billion to the National Treasury. Our aim in ten years time is to contribute US$30 billion to the National Treasury and we will keep working hard to develop our Province further by working closely with our international investors’ community.
Do you have a final message for our international readership?
The international investors community should come and see with their own eyes what we were able to achieve so far, and reliable investors are all welcome in Katanga. Authorities are working hard towards transparency and we are here to secure their investments.