Kabila's roots snake deep in Congo

Doing business means wangling a deal with the president's kids, writes Tom Wilson

20 July 2017 - 07:34
By Tom Wilson
Congo's President Joseph Kabila
Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo Congo's President Joseph Kabila

Zoe Kabila, the brother of Congolese President Joseph Kabila, owns a business empire encompassing everything from tourism to mining.

His companies have sold diamonds, owned a luxury hotel, built roads, invested in farming, set up a fast-food franchise and printed driver's licences. That's in addition to contracts and partnerships with Ivanhoe Mines and Nzuri Copper.

Zoe's businesses, with those of his siblings, have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kabila clan, His father and former Congolese president, Laurent-Desire Kabila, fathered at least 25 children.

As of last year one sibling, Jaynet, an MP like Zoe, owned a stake in the local unit of Vodacom. Gloria, another sister and a fashion designer, held a 40% share in one of the country's largest banks.

The commercial interests extend across the economy, making it difficult for corporations to operate without coming into contact with the family.

Congolese law doesn't prohibit members of the president's family from engaging in private business.

LUXURY HOTEL

While Zoe publicises some of his commercial holdings, like the luxury hotel owned by his Cosha Investment, his commercial dealings with some of Congo's biggest investors have been uncovered for the first time.

Difficult for corporations to operate without coming into contact with the family

One business, which he exited in November, works from a dusty government building in Kinshasa, where the company's logo, ISIS-Congo, is printed on the faded entrance. The company won the state contract in 2007 to print 25000 biometric driving licences, but began providing the permits only in 2012. The deal was part of a $15-million government contract ISIS-Congo won with a French partner.

Through his 90% shareholding in Cosha, Zoe has also owned stakes in an airline, the Congolese franchise of fast-food chain Nando's and controlled a further eight mining licences for diamonds, gold and limestone.

INTERNATIONAL FORAY

In an early foray into the international mining industry, Cosha took a 90% stake in Congo-registered La Generale Industrielle et Commerciale au Congo, or GICC, in June 2007. Six months later Toronto-listed Moto Goldmines contracted GICC to help obtain "all relevant government approvals and consents to enable the development" of the 11million-ounce Kibali gold deposit in Congo's northeast.

At the time Moto was engaged in a complicated contract-review process led by the Congolese government, in which it revisited more than 60 mining agreements.

After Moto's rights were upheld, it was required to pay GICC $2-million in cash and in March 2009 issued GICC with shares equivalent to a 1.11% stake. That stake was worth as much as $4.4-million when Randgold Resources and AngloGold Ashanti bought Moto seven months later.

Moto did not disclose the beneficial owners of GICC, neither did it report Zoe's ties to the company.

GICC and another of Zoe's businesses, Tanga Logistics and Mining SA, have worked with at least three other international mining companies: Toronto-listed Ivanhoe, Australia-listed Nzuri Copper and the China-Congo partnership Sicomines.

BIGGEST INVESTMENT

Sicomines is a venture on a 6.8 million ton copper deposit. Its partners are China Railway Construction, Sinohydro, and Congo, represented by state-owned Gecamines SA and Société Nationale d'Electricité.

It's the single largest investment in Congo's history - a $3.2-billion mining project from which Zoe's company directly profits.

- Bloomberg