DRC, Chekinah Olivier: “Africa must empower itself for growth”

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Chekinah OLIVIER
Chekinah OLIVIER, founder of OL Mining Inc and OL Consult Inc.

Congolese native and Canadian businessman, Chekinah Olivier, is the founder of OL Mining Inc and OL Consult Inc, two consulting companies, one of which specializes in the mining sector. For Afrik-News.com, he agreed to share the lessons from his experience in Africa and his vision of the continent’s economic future.

What do you see as Africa’s strengths today?
Africa has tremendous assets, which it often fails to fully exploit. The first of these assets is its natural resources. The African continent is a vast reservoir of raw materials that we need to build the future of a new model of economic growth based on renewable energy use and rare minerals, some of which are uniquely found in African soil. It’s a significant advantage in a globalized economy to possess the primary reserves of cobalt, for instance, essential for batteries, or coltan, crucial for the entire value chain of digital industries and mobile phones.

Beyond these two flagship minerals of the 21st century, the DRC, for example, has copper, silver, uranium, lead, zinc, cadmium, diamond, gold, tin, tantalum, tungsten, manganese mines… It’s enormous.

How can we best leverage these resources?
By ensuring a perfect understanding of Africa’s underground wealth, so that states are in a strong position when negotiating their exploitation with major global mining companies. This is precisely where OL Mining Inc operates: unlocking and opening up African and developing countries’ potential by conducting the most comprehensive inventory possible of what is available and exploitable. On all continents, in order to carry out this mineral and energy resources survey, including oil, we collaborate with a Spanish company, Xcalibur Multiphysics, the world leader in the field. Our goal is to map out all the natural resources that African countries abound in, so that governments have all the cards in hand to negotiate with mining or energy multinationals. We also offer this indispensable service to private groups, eager to invest securely in extractive activities, that require massive investments.

Among the countries we prioritize is, of course, the DRC, which has tremendous potential, but the only reliable information and surveys we still have today date back to the colonial era and are obviously incomplete. Yet, we need to quantify the resources to negotiate better. The tragedy is that this major mapping enterprise, essential to the DRC, is struggling to make progress today because we lack sufficient support from local authorities. Government directives are slow to materialize because the services do not understand the importance of this essential project for the country. Reluctance, suspicions, and sometimes simply incompetence hinder the progress of surveying and data collection work.

How does this research on such a vast territory like the Democratic Republic of Congo happen in practice?
This is precisely Xcalibur Multiphysics’ expertise: it involves precisely cross-referencing the data provided by the observation of the Earth’s surface by satellites and geological surveys dating back to the Belgian Congo era. We bridge the gap in methodology between mapping done on the ground by Belgian geologists in the first half of the 20th century and photographic analysis of identified sites conducted through satellites. Then, once the “critical” areas are identified, we have specially equipped aircrafts that fly over the area concerned to collect data, particularly underground physical irregularities. When there are the most anomalies, hence the greatest potential, on-site investigations are conducted in the subsoil to confirm, or refute, and finally certify, the existence of a deposit and its extent.

It is from this point onwards that governments can negotiate contracts with investors with certainty. And at the same time, this initial prospecting and certification work attracts capital that can invest in the mining sector, natural resources, and hydrocarbons, oil, gas. The goal is also to identify mineral resources such as copper, diamond, gold, cobalt, coltan, and rare earths, which are strategic today.

We have completed the work in Angola, which has allowed this country to discover copper and cobalt deposits and develop mines, notably by the British mining group Anglo-American. The aim of our action is to unlock previously unknown potentials. We could also talk about Zambia…

Are you also interested in renewable energy resources, such as hydroelectricity?
Absolutely! Africa struggles to develop its energy potential, and the DRC has a colossal resource: the power of the Congo River. To realize this potential, I introduced to Kinshasa the largest Australian mining company, Fortescue Future Industries, highly invested in renewable energy development, with the aim of developing the strategic Grand Inga project. An MOU has been concluded, pre-feasibility work is underway, but the contract has not yet been signed. In reality, the Australian partner we motivated to come and invest in the DRC, is the most serious and pragmatic, with the financial and technical means to develop this major energy project. And it’s clean energy, naturally non-carbonated and renewable indefinitely, which is a decisive issue for electricity production in Central Africa, not just for the DRC. It is essential for the Region that this immense project starts quickly.

Beyond mining and energy issues, what do you think are the key milestones that Africa must not miss?
I am a strong supporter of the AfCFTA, the African Continental Free Trade Area : Africa has enormous economic potential, and it is strategic to develop intra-African trade by establishing this Continental Free Trade Area. The first hindrance to African growth is protectionism. If we look at the European model, we can do even better than the European Union in Africa by breaking down customs barriers and developing trade that fuels growth. It’s the African internal market that can be the internal engine for improving living conditions in Africa through the continent’s endogenous enrichment.

An integrated Africa will experience faster growth and become a significant player in global economic development. When you look at the United States, you see that a state like New Mexico is recognized for its oil and petrochemical industry, even though it doesn’t produce oil, but it just refines it. The whole country benefits from the oil economy because oil is extracted in Texas, while it is refined in New Mexico. The same in Africa : some regions have great natural potential, others do not, but their development can be mutually beneficial if it is thought out coherently and integrated, moving away from a logic of conflict.

Instead of maintaining protectionist barriers and internal divisions that force it to look outward for external deals, Africa must empower itself for growth by developing free trade within itself!

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By Khaled Elraz, journalist specializing in African societies (communities, rites and traditions). A passionate photographer, he has been traveling the continent for 20 years.
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