Freeway nightmare: DR Congo’s export route for high-value metals

LUBUMBASHI, DR Congo: The 27 tons of copper slabs are securely lashed down on the again of Omar Rachidi’s tractor-trailer. Now all he has to do is drive the cargo to its vacation spot. However that’s simpler mentioned than accomplished. Two thousand kilometers (1,200 miles) of street lie between southeast DR Congo’s mineral belt and the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, from the place the copper can be shipped to Asia. And that freeway is tough graft. “Typically it takes two weeks to do the journey,” says Rachidi, a 57-year-old Tanzanian, on the Chemaf metallic processing plant at Lubumbashi in Haut-Katanga province.

“There are many queues, numerous tolls, numerous ready on the border.” The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s greatest producer of cobalt-the key ingredient in trendy batteries-and Africa’s greatest producer of copper. And the freeway is the essential however slender hyperlink in getting that wealth to market. On Rachidi’s truck, the copper plates, referred to as cathodes, are loaded in bundles that weigh 2.3 tonnes a bit. Each is chained down “to stop theft”, says Chemaf’s copper supervisor Eric Tshinkobo.

With copper reaching round $10,000 (9,200 euros) a ton on the London Steel Trade, the automobile is thus hauling a load price greater than 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 {dollars}. “Robbers assault us, particularly on the street that goes round Lubumbashi,” says Katema. Jacob Daoudi, 45, one other Tanzanian trucker who’s hauling 30 tons of cobalt hydroxide, says the 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the Zambian border is fraught with danger. “Bandits assault us, they rip the tarps, they seize our cash,” he says.

Toll stations

Assaults have turn out to be so unhealthy that an increasing number of trucking firms use a system of advance cost to cowl street tolls on the DR Congo a part of the journey, reasonably than have truckers carry a considerable amount of money. Six toll stations dot the 400 kilometers on Nationwide Freeway 1 from Kolwezi in neighboring Lualaba province, to Kasumbalesa, on the border with Zambia. The queues there are infamous. The tolls “impede site visitors move and profitability,” mentioned Lambert Tshisueka Mutondo, president of the federation of worldwide freight firms in Haut-Katanga.

He needs extra police patrols to dissuade robbers and for the variety of toll stations to be halved. Vans pay about $500 to cowl the 400 kilometers, which makes the price of a return journey to Dar es Salaam rise to $1,000 in tolls alone. The cash goes to a Chinese language agency that underneath a contract with the state builds and maintains roads-an association that routinely attracts flak.

Congo ‘hassles’

Nationwide Freeway 1 is clean and tarmacked, which makes it a relative pleasure to drive on in contrast with DR Congo’s sometimes pot-holed roads. Nevertheless it has solely two lanes, every flowing within the reverse direction-the nation nonetheless has no motorway. At Kanyaka, midway between Lubumbashi and the Zambian border, greater than 200 vehicles are ready to get via a toll sales space. Truckers say driving in Zambia and Tanzania is much from excellent, however the tolls there are far decrease than in DR Congo and queues and paperwork much less onerous.

“There are hassles on a regular basis in Congo,” says Maniasi Djuma Makweba, 50, heading for Dar with 35 tons of cobalt he loaded at Tenke Fungurume Mining SA, positioned within the coronary heart of the mineral belt. Like different drivers, he complains concerning the thieves, but additionally concerning the safety forces. “If you go to the police to declare a theft, they begin by desirous to shake you down” for a bribe. – AFP

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