International campaign group Global Witness said Wednesday that the Democratic Republic of Congo urgently needs transparency reforms in its mining and oil sectors.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund decided last week to forgive $12.3 billion of the DRC's debt. Lizzie Parsons, a campaigner with London-based Global Witness, says that debt relief will not help the country unless its mining and oil sectors are reformed.
"The country is one of the richest in the world in terms of its timber, minerals and oil," said Parsons. "But so far, widespread corruption means that Congolese people haven't benefited. And so, if this debt relief is really going to be meaningful, then big changes need to happen in the way that the natural resources sectors are managed in the country."
She says major deals have been signed in DRC in recent months without public scrutiny and without clear international bidding; that, she says, raises questions about respect for due process.
"There's no public scrutiny of the agreements, and the ownership of the companies are kept hidden behind offshore companies," she said. "A number of companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands, and that really means it's nearly impossible to know the individuals behind these companies gaining access to incredibly lucrative mineral and oil rights."
It is important, she says, for Congolese citizens to know who is investing in their country's resources.
"It's important that people involved and investing in the mineral and oil sectors, they have a clean bill of health," said Parsons. "They really are able to provide good investment and are able to follow due process in order to really maximize their involvement in the sector."
The Minister of Mines in the DRC was not available to comment on the remarks from Global Witness.
Earlier this month, the World Bank approved a $50-million grant to help Congo improve governance in its mining sector.