Exclusive interview with Serge Bilambo, Head: Client Coverage, Standard Bank DRC, is the returning, Diamond Plus sponsor at the upcoming DRC Mining Week in Lubumbashi from 7-9 October 2020.
Why has Standard Bank chosen to partner with DRC Mining Week again in 2020?
Standard Bank has taken on the opportunity to invest resources once again in a partnership with DRC Mining Week, by sponsoring in the Diamond Plus sponsor category. This is because our consideration for mining as an extremely important sector for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has not wavered in the least.
Standard Bank continues to invest huge amounts of capital to back organisations that do business in the mining sector, whether multinational or local corporates. DRC Mining Week provides one of the unique platforms to engage clients and key stakeholders in the DRC’s resources sector.
What in your view were important developments in the mining sector during the last year?
Following the discussions on the new Mining Code seven operators decided to leave the Chamber of Commerce and its Mining Chamber. Three operators have decided to come back and to continue the discussions with the DRC Government. This is a positive development in the DRC mining sector.
Two mining operators, Lualaba Copper Smelter (LCS) and Deziwa, have commissioned their plants and have started producing copper at the end of last year. This is an additional 160 thousand tonnes of copper to be produced in 2020.
Can we talk about Standard Bank’s activities in the DRC? There is a proud history there.
Standard Bank has been involved in the DRC for over 20 years, funding operations and managing banking for a range of clients, from established developed-world players to newer Chinese clients. Standard Bank has developed a broad client ecosystem in the DRC, including mining and resources players as well as the wider services, supplier and support industries associated with the country’s diverse and rich resource endowment.
Beyond Standard Bank’s developed resources sector expertise, the bank’s presence and capability in the country plays a critical role in supporting all our clients’ efforts and their day-to-day banking and transaction needs on the ground in the DRC. Combined with Standard Bank’s global presence and capability, this is especially significant for large foreign investors as Standard Bank is also equipped to manage their daily transaction flow in the DRC from anywhere in the world.
Are there any mining projects that your organisation is involved with that you are particularly excited about?
The DRC is blessed with large volumes of high-quality grades across a range of strategically and commercially important resources. Standard Bank remains excited about the opportunities and prospects offered by this important mining investment destination and key global resources supplier.
Kamoto Copper Company, the other Glencore entity, in partnership with Gecamines, is ramping up this year. We have a historic relationship with this entity, and we are particularly proud of this development.
What are the main challenges facing Africa’s mining sector? And the DRC in particular?
Things have not changed much. The mining sector in the DRC faces the same challenges as the sector globally, namely; cost containment pressures in a volatile commodity price market. Policy clarity, certainty and predictability are also a challenge for the industry the world over. Those destinations able to provide long-term policy predictability and efficient implementation have been more successful at sustaining and growing capital investment over time.
What is your message to prospective investors about the opportunities in the DRC mining sector?
The DRC remains a bedrock of mining activities in the region, one that is critical to the development of this country. As an organisation with huge resource mining financing capabilities, this is where we need to be.
What is your vision for the sector?
Through the consistent application of clear and rational mining policy, the DRC has the potential to become the world’s largest copper producer. This would be a game changer for the economy, placing the DRC in a position to transform into a middle-income country by 2050.
How important is Lubumbashi as a mining hub for the sector, providing an example for the rest of the country?
Lubumbashi has the great advantage of being close to the DRC’s main copper assets, close to the border enabling ease of export, as well as being located on a major regional water way. Much of Lubumbashi’s strategic importance derives from its geographic position as gateway to the DRC’s copper belt and hub of the DRC’s global copper production and export industry. Lubumbashi demonstrates the importance of supporting global connectivity that enables exports through regionally integrated infrastructure linking strategic assets to global markets.