Cobalt, a key component in the production of lithium-ion batteries that power phones, computers, and electric vehicles, has soared in both demand and price in recent years. Lithium-ion batteries account for over half of global cobalt consumption, and with electric vehicle sales predicted to grow from 6.5 million in 2021 to 66 million in 2040, the appetite for the metal is understandably high. However, Cobalt is a unique commodity because it’s primarily controlled by only two countries: China and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC supplies about 70 percent of the world’s Cobalt, but 80% of its industrial cobalt mines are owned or financed by Chinese companies. This dynamic has disproportionately favored China and has led to hostility among the Congolese government and its domestic mining companies.
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The Democratic Republic of Congo has faced years of harsh wars leaving the country deeply stricken by poverty, but now the country moves forward and has its eyes on recovery. A large scale plan to build a hydropower dam capable of producing enough electricity for the entire country has kept hopes high in Congo. If constructed the Inga Three dam in Congo would be Africa’s largest hydropower dam and would produce twice as much electricity as the major Three Gorges dam in China. The country’s multitude of rivers offer enormous potential for hydropower but Congo faces many difficulties if it wants to accomplish its energy goals.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s largest tin producer and accounts for 5-7% of the world output. However, recent campaigns from rights groups and governments claiming that conflict minerals are being traded have adversely affected sales in the region. The Congolese government has dealt with this by withdrawing their military from the Bisie mine, the nation’s largest tin mine. Removing military units allows the North Kivu provincial mining department to take control of the mine in order to increase the amount of conflict-free minerals.
A massive project to renovate the Democratic Republic of Congo’s broken-down railway network has been launched in the capital city of Kinshasa. Most of the rail track in Congo was laid more than 100 years ago, so repairs and improvements are huge necessities. Costing a total of $600 million, this project is being backed by China and the World Bank with an estimated completion time of four years. The major goal for the revamped rail system is to restore services to provinces where rail is the only connection to the rest of the world in the absence of roadway and river transportation. This project has huge implications for businesses and bordering countries looking to trade with the Democratic Republic of Congo.