Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Virunga Report 31-Dec-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Trafigura buys out founder's family stake in full (Reuters 09-Dec)
China Molybdenum Co $550m for ore project owner (Bloomberg 13-Dec)
Freeport sells Kisanfu copper-cobalt project stake to CMOC (FastMarkets 14-Dec)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Pres wants all DRC provinces under his control (AllAfrica 29-Dec)
Expansion of relations with Iran discussed (Mehrnews 11-Dec)
DRC to open consulate in Morocco (MWN 18-Dec)
The Virunga’s View
2020, despite the ongoing sanitary and food crises, closes positively for the DRC economy. The new economic and diplomatic relations with countries from the global south like Iran and Morocco, and increasing relations with China, offer promising prospects for the coming years.
However, this month has been an extremely destabilising one politically. Pres. Tshisekedi pushed to split the ruling coalition earlier this month and managed to move to a sack government. The president has now concentrated more power in his hands.Whether this will be positive for political stability is still unclear. 
Fun Fact: A congolese activist was fined after trying to steal an artefact from the Louvre (Art Newspaper 18-Dec)

The Virunga Report 30-Nov-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Barrick, Loncor expand JV partnership (PR 11-Nov)
Volkswagen joins cobalt group supporting artisanal miners ( 19-Nov)
Bboxx secure a $4m loan from  F.E.I.Off-Grid Energy Access Fund (EMR 20-Nov)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Govt propose 23.2% budget cut for 2021 (Times 04-Nov)
Secretary of State holds political consultation in S.Africa (All Africa 11-Nov)
Environment minister meets Egypt over GERD (AhramOnline 19-Nov)
The Virunga’s View
Rumours after a series of deaths in the president’s entourage are increasing risk of implosion of the ruling coalition. Moreover, as cobalt demand booms, the govt. should induce companies to protect congolese miners in order to avoid riots.
However, the Virunga is confident that this month’s economic developments might even out political uncertainty. The DRC is positively advancing interesting trade deals with Rwanda, Brazil, Namibia, Somalia, Tunisia, and Zambia. Nuclear energy cooperation with ROSATOM could positively influence congolese public opinion on the matter. Nonetheless economic advancement is not enough to guarantee a stability. 
Fun Fact:  Harmony Ilunga, a congolese model, is challenging China's love for 'tall, light and skinny’ (Digital Journal 23-Nov)

The Virunga Report 31-Oct-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Regeneron (RGN:NASDAQ) 1st treatment ever for Ebola approved (Ars Technica 15-Oct)
Glencore lowers coal production guidance (Mining Weekly 30-Oct)
Samsung trains 1500 Congolese cobalt miners (Korea Herald 30-Oct)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Tshisekedi wants DRC to join EAC (All Africa 11-Oct)
DRC & Uganda approved Shs200bn to build roads (Observer 21-Oct)
AU high representative visited Tshisekedi (All Africa 28 Oct)
The Virunga’s View
The arrival of the Covid-19 second wave is fortunately unifying central and east African countries rather than dividing. The Virunga is confident in describing the DRC as a regional leader that is tightening its diplomatic influence over neighbouring countries. 
First, the pres.’s intention of joining EAC has fundamental economic and political implications. If this happens, the prospects for the DRC will be extremely interesting. Second, the DRC is gaining a pivotal role in regional security. It hosted the last summit on the Kivu conflict. Lastly, the recent peace-centred meeting between the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, and Angola could lead the way to flourishing trade relations. 
Fun Fact: A Congolese activist attempted to take an artefact from the Louvre, saying he wanted to recover items taken from Africa in the colonial era - the artefact he tried to take was from Indonesia  (ARTnews 26-Oct)

The Virunga Report 30-Sep-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Kamoto Copper Company ramping up to full production (Reuters 22-Sep)
Zanaga loss widens but sees iron ore demand boost (London South East 29-Sep)
Africell should launch commercial services Q2 2021 (CU 29-Sep)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
DRC backs Egypt in Nile dam dispute (Al-Monitor 25-Sep)
DRC and Malawi will chair regional model Laws Committee (All Africa 28-Sep)
Uganda to help build roads in DRC (AP 29-Sep)
The Virunga’s View
Stability in the DRC is hard but the recent steps forward taken by the joint defence commission with Angola seem to be having positive effects. First, on 16-Sep, all South Kivu armed groups agreed a ceasefire. Second, all borders have officially been secured. Moreover, earlier this month Pres. Tshisekedi invited the region’s presidents to declare peace at the security summit. The DRC is positioning itself as a stabilising force in the region. This should present both political and business opportunities.
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un sent a reply to President Tshisekedi for his message congratulating the DPRK on the 72nd year since its founding (KCNA 30-Sep)

The Virunga Report 31-Aug-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Ivanhoe Mines & China’s CNMC announce DRC partnership (AMM 18-Aug)
Equity Group secures a discount on buying Congolese bank (All Africa 18-Aug)
Glencore promotes initiatives to support informal miners (AMM 24-Aug)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
UN ramps up food aid to reach 9m people (News24 14-Aug)
EAC exports to DRC surges (All Africa 19-Aug)
DRC says measles epidemic is over (Reuters 25-Aug)
The Virunga’s View
While the health crisis is slowly getting better, political stability in the DRC is crumbling. The opposition leader Fayulu has returned to push for early elections.
Trade prospects are positive. The increasing inclusion of the EAC in DRC’s trade routes is good for the economy. 
Fun Fact: A UFO in the jungle turned out to be an internet balloon (Reuters 25-Aug)

The Virunga Report 31-Jul-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Bboxx & Vivendi (VIV:PA) off-grid solar energy TV broadcasting (Bloomberg 24-Jul)
Eni seeks to sell assets (Bloomberg 21-Jul)
Tesla cobalt deal (Bloomberg 22-Jul)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
President announces end of Covid-19 emergency (All Africa 22-Jul)
CDF has lost 15% of its value in the past months (France24 31-Jul)
Uganda temporarily opens border to refugees (Anadolu Agency 01-Jul)
The Virunga’s View
As the Covid-19 state of emergency relaxes, the health of the energy sector and intra-africa trade looks encouraging. The DRC and Angola are cooperating on health and economic issues, Uganda reopened the border, and the UN called for a ceasefire in Eastern DRC. This should increase investor confidence.
Fun Fact: DRC bloggers launched a campaign to teach positive masculinity (France24 16-Jul)

The Virunga Report 30-Jun-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Muska launches DRC’s 1st mobile music platform (All Africa 05-Jun)
Launch of new passport maker after Semlex’s failure (Reuters 16-Jun)
Glencore faces new corruption probe in Switzerland (BID 21-Jun)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
WB supports education & health improvements (BID 15-Jun)
DRC goes on with Grand Inga Dam project (All Africa 20-Jun
Ebola outbreak over (All Africa 25-Jun)
The Virunga’s View
The end of the Ebola outbreak is encouraging for the DRC’s prospects of successfully tackling Covid-19. 
Militia conflicts and displaced citizens at the border with Uganda are hindering trade relationships. The mining sector is fortunately at its peak.
Several govt officials are being excluded from decision-making processes. Pres. Tshisekedi’s authority seems to hold as the economy is growing. More political stability will be necessary for the DRC to accomplish its developmental aims.
Fun Fact: During the Covid-19 pandemic religious leaders are giving sermons on WhatsApp (France24 06-Jun

The Virunga Report 29-Feb-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
Glencore cobalt output up 10% in 2019 (Fastmarkets 04-Feb)
Samsung signs 5-year cobalt supply deal (SupplyManagement 11-Feb)
SES’s and Gilat restore internet connectivity (ABC 13-Feb)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
New planned 4G fibre connection will drive further growth (All Africa 07-Feb)
East Africa’s locust outbreak spreads (CGTN 26-Feb)
IMF urges budget cuts and Central Bank to stop foreign reserves waste (News24 26-Feb)
The Virunga’s View
The DRC’s economy is moving, and the govt is gaining ground facing national security issues such as Ebola and rebel attacks in the East. The country is pressured by both the world’s market demand for minerals and IMF and World Bank debt obligations.
Pres. Tshisekedi should take advantage of the growth in exports that supply world’s IT giants and free the DRC from its debt burden. This would allow wider long-term independence in economic planning. The DRC should also diversify minerals production to reduce exposure to cobalt’s price shocks.
Fun Fact: Watch out for the Pink Congo Philodendron scam - it isn’t a real plant (Wired 19-Feb)

The Virunga Report 31-Jan-2020
Top 3 Company Headlines
IMF aid to the DRC on hold over Glencore (Reuters 24-Jan)
DPO Group extends operations to the DRC (Africa Tech 28-Jan)
Duna Aszfalt is building a road between the DRC and Zambia (BBJ 30-Jan)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Tanzania is boosting business flows with the DRC (All Africa 28-Jan)
Kibali gold mine hits record of production ( 28-Jan)
The DRC reaches a 25% worldwide monopoly of cobalt exports (Bloomberg 30-Jan)
The Virunga’s View
One year has passed since president Tshisekedi has been elected. The ebola outbreak has started being addressed, but casualties caused by measles are skyrocketing. Extraction of primary resources has reached a unprecedented expansion. The DRC is also the third-largest oil producer in Africa, but widespread corruption still negatively impacts the sector.
Conflicts in the Eastern Region of the country are intensifying. Earlier this week 30 civilians have been killed by the rebels militias. Nevertheless, improvements of infrastructure such as roads and railways connections with neighbouring countries will allow profits from the mining sector to better float beyond the DRC borders. The Virunga believes that the govt should take advantage of the increasing trading deals with neighbouring countries, better distribute the economic benefits, and reduce inequality and conflict over resources. 
Fun Fact: Elon Musk’s fans will not be happy to know how Tesla provides Cobalt needed for batteries (Guardian 05-Jan)

The Virunga Report 30-Nov-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
Glencore backs $5.8bn cash call at subsidiary (FT 07-Nov)
PPC reports lower profitability but generates free cash flow (Engineering News 20-Nov)
UK Development Bank violates workers rights in palm oil plantation (Guardian 25-Nov)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Pres. at 1st Uganda-DRC Business Forum (All Africa 09-Nov)
World Bank could provide $5bn over 5 years (Bloomberg 11-Nov)
IMF growth estimates fall from 4.5% in 2019 to 3.2% in 2020 (Reuters 15-Nov)
The Virunga’s View
Intra-African economic agreements are growing. The DRC has also been included in Tanzania’s standard gauge railways project. International financial institutions are regaining interest in investing in the DRC after a long break. As part of the deal with the IMF, Congolese authorities have agreed to reinforce macroeconomic stability and better address the country’s challenging business climate.
The Virunga nevertheless warns the DRC about debt burden risks with World Bank loans. Chinese financial support has recently shown to be more effective for DRC’s infrastructure, and more flexible on debt relief.
Fun Fact: The nations through which the River Congo runs are cooperating to save its biodiversity (All Africa 27-Nov)

The Virunga Report 31-Oct-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
Rwandan phone company Mara announces  future sales (All Africa 14-Oct)
Oil trader Gunvor Group found criminally liable for corruption (Reuters 17-Oct)
Companies working on hydroelectric power project delay (Reuters 28-Oct)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Zambia 600k tonnes maize export deal (Lusakatimes 03-Oct)
Govt target 60% budget increase for 2020 to fight poverty (Bloomberg 17-Oct)
Russian Railways discuss $500m rail deal (Bloomberg 26-Oct)
The Virunga’s View
The ebola crisis needs more investment. The govt will introduce J&J ebola vaccine.
There is good overall economic progress. FDI flows are becoming more diverse eg. Russia and Japan. The IMF has announced the willingness for future financing partnerships. The Virunga thinks the West fears Chinese dominance in Africa. Additional debt to international financial institutions will only stagnate the DRC’s economy in the long run. The unreliable nature of the IMF’s proposals is shown by US blocks on gold imports from the DRC. 
On political ground the govt. faces threats to its sovereignty. Early this month a cargo plane crashed with presidential staff on board, military clashes took place in the Katanga region, and a Congolese spy accused of the murder of two UN investigators mysteriously died.
Fun Fact: Part-time hunters boost income with bushmeat and are a threat for local wildlife (Reuters 09-Oct)

The Virunga Report 30-Sep-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
Around 30 media companies closed down (News 24 03-Sep)
Gecamines recommends cobalt as a national priority after collapse in cobalt prices (SMM 22-Sep
UK Development Bank suspect Feronia employees in activist murder (Guardian 27-Sep)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
President pitches for new business from Japan (EuroNews 05-Sep)
DRC to launch a biometric ID system and population register by 2020 (Biometric Update 12-Sep)
DRC expresses interest in Angola’s oil (All Africa 18-Sep)
The Virunga’s View
The DRC is experiencing several crises. Although President Tshisekedi is making the country more politically stable and economically successful, the Ebola Crisis is not stopping. Now there's been a measles outbreak. Neighbouring and foreign countries are starting to cooperate. The US recently delivered $21m aid. Kenya and Rwanda are considering the need for a collective solution.

The DRC can expect to benefit from its improving relations with Japan. It ought to help diversify FDI which is presently dominated by China. Moreover, Tshisekedi’s institutional management is gaining credibility: the former Health Minister was sentenced to jail for his inability to manage the ebola crisis, and the DRC's public finances watchdog is under investigation for corruption.
Fun Fact: New Go Jetters episode shows a race to save a family of mountain gorillas (BBC 26-Sep)

The Virunga Report 30-Jun-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
36 illegal miners died in copper mine owned by Glencore in the DRC (Guardian 27-Jun)
Yuma remains pres of SOE Gecamines but with no power (Bloomberg 14-Jun)
South African companies happy for results of Mining Week in Lubumbashi (IOL 24-Jun
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Tanzania to build dry port at Inyala targeting the DRC (All Africa 24-Jun)
Govt targets militia large-scale army operations in eastern region (Times Live 30-Jun)
China to build hydroelectric power plants (Bloomberg 27-Jun)
The Virunga’s View
The ebola crisis in the DRC risks broad and long-term health and economic consequences. The country urgently needs foreign aid to prevent the epidemic expanding. Govt inability to manage rebel groups is causing mass migration toward neighbouring African countries. Ebola outbreaks are affecting the famous Turkana fish market and now the disease is starting to appear in Western Uganda. Approx. 300,000 people are now displaced from the DRC. The Virunga is nevertheless positive considering the increasing and diversified Chinese investments in the hydroelectric sector. This will surely positively influence the DRC’s ability reduce dependency on mining exports. Moreover, the increasing intra-African trade plans are a good prospect for the DRC’s economy. The East African Community trade plans will need the DRC for better intra-continental trade. 
Fun Fact: On 09-Jun a DRC committee organised a ceremony in honour of Kim Il Sung (KCNA Watch 17-Jun)

The Virunga Report 31-May-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
China strikes back on Huawei after US sanctions: battery nickel from DCR mines (Bloomberg 21-May)
Amani Gold to raise $3m through share placement (Mining Weekly 23-May)
Total SA oil explorer pulls out (Bloomberg-29-May)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Rwandan Pres. P.Kagame encourages citizens to trade at border with the DCR (Daily Monitor 19-May)

Return of opposition leader Moise Katumbi might create turbulence in govt stability (allAfrica 23-May)
IMF returns to the DCR as Pres. Tshisekedi seeks to repair relations (Bloomberg 23-May)
The Virunga’s View
The DRC has taken important economic and political steps forward this month. Pres. Tshisekedi is seeking to reunite both the government and the opposition toward a common anti-corruption goal, to guarantee democracy and incentivise foreign investments. First, he allowed the return from the exile of opposition leader Moise Katumbi, and nominated an ally of former President Kabila as Prime Minister.
The DCR’s economic prospects are growing by selling raw materials to the Chinese IT sector. Both China and the IMF are offering a debt relief program. The Virunga sees striking improvements and solidification of Congolese institutions. The new anti-corruption and transparency program sets a better climate for investment. If wisely exploited, copper mining could create new surpluses, but only if profits are well integrated with other sectors through a farsighted use of Chinese-financed infrastructure. 
Fun Fact: Female entrepreneur Josephine Uwase Ndeze is the winner of Miss Geek Africa 2019 (New Times 17-May)

The Virunga Report 30-Apr-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
MMG, Glencore, ERG plan more efficient mining methods (Bloomberg 03-Apr)
Vodacom paid $2.3m to Tanzania’s govt due to company’s irregularities (Bloomberg 11-Apr)
Glencore faces corruption investigations: shares dropped by 3.5% (Bloomberg 25-Apr)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines 
Congolese army killed 36 Burundi rebels at the border (Reuters 12-Apr)
Islamic State claim 1st attack in the DCR (Reuters 19-Apr)
Deforestation increased 38% since last year ( Guardian 25-Apr)
The Virunga’s View
The outlook for the DCR’s economy is positive because of the mining sector. Political instability remains but investors can be a little more confident in the new govt. China’s interest in the copper and cobalt industry should increase competition in a mostly US dominated mining sector. New Pres.Tshisekedi will have to work hard to stabilise the country. There are tensions with the govt opposition, military conflict at the border with Burundi, and terroristic/ethnic clashes between internal factions. The Virunga is sceptical about how impactful the first transfer of power through the ballot box will prove to be on a political and economic ground. The UN is pushing hard for stability.
Fun Fact: “Gorilla Selfie” of iconic animals taken by Virunga’s rangers goes viral (Guardian 26-Apr)

The Virunga Report 31-Mar-2019
Top 3 Company Headlines
Govt ordered to pay DIG Oil $617m (Bloomberg 07-Mar)
SX-EW production increased by 16% in recent years (ScrapRegister 24-Mar)
Kenya Commercial Bank announces expansion in the DCR by 2022 (Agence Ecofin 28-Mar)
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Ex-President Kabila approved oil contract that encroaches on Virunga National Park (Bloomberg 26-Feb)
DCR to increase taxes on mining firms (BBC News 10-Mar)
US Treasury sanctions 3 govt members for electoral fraud (Reuters 21-Mar)
The Virunga's View
The international community have accepted the falsified electoral outcome of what was supposed to be the first democratic election in the DCR’s history. The newly elected president Felix Tshisekedi calls for a reconciled Congo, but political instability is almost a certainty.
Electoral fraud has delivered an unaccountable and illegitimate government. Its authority will be challenged. Moreover, the recent attacks of armed assailants on five ebola centres, and the massacre of the Bananu community last December, show a high risk of internal conflict that nobody is prepared to prevent. The UN is proposing to reduce the strength of MONUSCO’s military personnel. This will cause further instability in the country. 
Fun Fact: President Tshisekedi pardoned 700 political prisoners (Al Jazeera 14-Mar)