The DRC, the IMF, China and the Sicomines negotiations
This paper seeks to contribute to ongoing debates around African countries‟ relations to their external partners. It explores the notion of recipient government control, here defined as the extent to which a recipient government is able to ensure that the outcome of negotiations with its external development partners is in line with its agenda. The paper focuses on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), interpreting the extent to which the Congolese government was able to ensure that the outcome of the different phases of the 2007-2009 negotiations over the Sicomines agreement was in line with its agenda. The Sicomines agreement is a barter setup by means of which a Sino-Congolese joint venture has been granted mining titles in exchange for the large-scale provision of infrastructure projects funded by China Exim Bank loans. The agreement was contested by the traditional donors who, among other things, cited concerns for debt sustainability. The paper argues that in the early stages of negotiations with China during 2007-2008, the Congolese government exercised control in the sense that the 2008 version of the Sicomines agreement made sizeable amounts of funding available towards large-scale infrastructure refurbishment, a key feature of the government‟s agenda at the time. During the 2008-2009 renegotiation phase, the Congolese government‟s ability to exercise control was gradually weakened due to pressure from the traditional donors to rearrange priorities and move macroeconomic concerns, notably debt sustainability, higher up on the agenda. Moreover, during this phase, the Chinese government‟s attitude towards the agreement came to change due its growing aspirations as a responsible international actor. The Chinese ambition to take up a more active role in the IMF board is of particular relevance here, since it reduced its willingness to push ahead with the criticised version of the Sicomines agreement. Eventually, mid-2009, President Kabila accommodated the concerns of the traditional donors. The agreement was reduced and HIPC completion point was subsequently reached in July 2010. It is not known whether Kabila felt forced to accept this change of agenda given a lack of realistic alternatives, or whether it was a genuine change of priorities brought about by the lobbying efforts of the IMF and the traditional donors. In any case, the final settlement was in line with Kabila‟s modified agenda to secure both Chinese funding and HIPC debt relief. The paper thus concludes that recipient government control was retained, although it was under heavy pressure.
Democratic Republic of Congo; IMF; China; Negotiations