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Lawyers discuss human rights dimensions of Chinese investments in extractive sector in Africa

"IBASeoul: Beyond the Belt and Road"

Links between Chinese investment and Africa’s natural resources featured in sessions at the IBA’s Seoul meeting – as did the challenges arising from those investments...Similar themes were expressed by Ely Katembo, of the Clean Cobalt Initiative and Katembo Group, who gave a view from the Democratic Republic of Congo pointing out that the African mining sector presented a high-risk high-return opportunity. He detailed the growth of the cobalt industry, fuelled by the popularity of electric vehicles, which, alongside other African rare earths and minerals, has seen demand for those resources soar, with production jumping from 15 tons in 2006 to 90000 tons in 2018...

The proliferation of small Chinese mining companies in his country, he said, made it difficult for the local government, itself relatively weakened by years of civil war, to control and centralize the collection of mining revenues, while he called upon the Chinese government to enforce their guidelines for corporate social responsibility and due diligence in DRC. Protests – often broken up with local security force interventions – had been seen in the DRC, while he argued that the government had essentially outsourced both the local governance and provision of collective goods to miners, which he said was “not unique to Africa” and “not new to the DRC”. He outlined a number of mines where problems between Chinese corporates and local residents were extant, with instances of reported health, environmental, security, land and livelihood rights violations, including resettlements; but there were solutions...

Moyo told his audience that “legal, commercial, financial and reputational risks can face any business which is operated in a manner that does not take into account human rights requirements”, which included the denial of social and economic rights, through poverty, which Moyo called “one of the biggest threats to the realization of human rights”.