Le Monde discusses “China’s Congo Plan”

Jacob Kushner

Where is Chinese Money invested in the DRC?

Sébastien Le Belzic, Le Monde

“The problem is the carelessness of the Congolese government,” says Jacob Kushner, an American journalist who has long worked on Chinese investment in Congo. In its investigation, which began in 2013, it already highlighted the gap between the enormity of Chinese investment in Congo with the poverty of the local population. “Chinese investment in Congo has always been very important with big contracts traded from state to state. Infrastructure projects, mining, as well as small restaurants and shops created by Chinese migrants–these are two different worlds that I wanted to study to see how the Chinese investments have changed Congo,” he says. “But what has really changed is the crisis and the great fear for Africa that these Chinese investments are decreasing … Africa depends heavily on China, too much perhaps. ”

“The question everyone asks is: how have Congolese politicians used the money invested by China in their country?” Jacob Kushner asks. “There needs to be more transparency on these mega-projects and the debts they generate.”

“You can see that in this country we have a lot of resources,” lawyer, opposition party senator and prominent critic of the government’s dealings with China Emery Kabamba told Kushner for his eBook. “But where is the proof that we are really enjoying it? Go ten meters from here, you will see the situation. Five minutes from my office you will see people who don’t have electricity.”

Read the full article at LeMonde.fr/Afrique

Enlisting an Academic Gatekeeper to Unlock a Story

Any good reporter, regardless of his beat, will consult as wide a range of sources as possible to get an accurate picture of his subject. But sometimes there’s a single source who seems to know almost everything—an expert who’s the ‘gatekeeper’ to a castle of information and contacts on the business or deal the reporter is investigating. Enlisting the help of this person can unlock access to dozens of key sources and documents all at once.

This happened to be the case when I was reporting my master’s thesis for Columbia Journalism School about China’s rise in the Democratic Republic of Congo, now an eBook. I was investigating a $6.5 billion “infrastructure for minerals” deal in which the Chinese state-owned companies partnered with Congo’s state mining agency to mine an incredible 6.8 million tons of copper and 427,000 tons of cobalt over the subsequent 25 years. In exchange for the minerals, the Chinese companies would spend $3 billion to build roads, hospitals and universities throughout Congo. That investment was not structured as a gift, but a loan: every dollar spent will eventually be paid back in copper revenues.

The more I reported, the more the name Johanna Janssoncame up: It seemed like every journalist, academic and business insider I spoke with about the deal would refer me back to her. Jansson is a Swedish PhD candidate who has spent years researching the specific megadeal I was reporting on, called Sicomines, for her dissertation at a University in Denmark. In January 2013, I approached her in Kinshasa to ask for help understanding the deal—and for her contacts to some of the most powerful and knowledgeable stakeholders in Congo. My eBook, supported by the Pulitzer Center, would not have been possible without the information and contacts she provided me.

But what motivated her—an academic expert and a business insider—to open up to me—a journalism school student and someone with relatively little knowledge of the subject? What inspired her to hand off to me information that she had spent years gathering?

Nearly two years later I called her to discuss what a journalist can do to gain the trust and help of an expert– and what that expert often expects from the journalist in return. Read the full interview at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Covering Business page.

The New York Review of Books reviews CHINA’S CONGO PLAN

The Chinese Invade Africa

By Ian Johnson – SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 ISSUE

“Kushner is fair-minded and has invested much time and effort in figuring out the interplay between the new superpower and a poor but strategically important African country.”

“The Chinese approach guarantees that something will get done. As one Congo official told Kushner: ‘It’s been 50 years that we’ve cooperated with the IMF, the World Bank. And for 50 years we’ve had the same problem. There aren’t roads. There aren’t schools. There aren’t universities.'”

“This way of doing business also leaves Chinese companies exposed. A Chinese manager named Robin told Kushner that the Chinese talked with a Congolese official who promised to help them do it. They began courting him with kind words, and later, with gifts. ‘We gave him a car, a house, and a lot of furniture,’ says Robin. ‘He had been to China to meet with our (company) president. He said ‘No problem, I promise you, you can buy a mine in Congo.’ But it was so complicated.’ The mine never materialized.”

“Some Westerners might shake their heads, but the West pioneered not only colonialism in Africa, but the worst practices in dealing with newly independent countries. For thirty years after Congo’s independence, Western countries supported Mobutu Sese Seko, one of Africa’s most corrupt dictators, supplying him with aid and weapons.”
nike shox bomber
Read the full review at the New York Review of Books. Download the eBook for iPad / IPhone or from Amazon.

Buy Now on Amazon

 

Risky Business: Is China Wavering in Africa?

South Africa’s president arrives in Beijing for a Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Photograph by GovernmentZA.

Chinese companies and banks were once seen as bold and fearless as they invested in countries Western investors deemed too risky. But this may now be changing.

By Jacob Kushner

In 2007, when two Chinese state-owned companies struck a deal with the Congolese government to build the biggest mine the country had ever seen, all involved were riding high. In a mega-deal originally worth some $9 billion, Sinohydro and the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) would gain access to 6.8 million metric tons of copper, the future profits of which were to underwrite the prior building of hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.
nike free womens shoes
At the time, the China’s involvement in Africa was booming and the Sicomines deal embodied much that was symptomatic of Sino-African relations: it was massive-scale, involved vast infrastructural construction linked with similarly vast mineral resources, and was taking place in a country many other investors would have deemed too unstable.

It was not long, however, before confidence in the deal began to wane, especially amongst the deal’s financiers, China’s Export-Import Bank (Exim).

Read the full article at Think Africa Press.