afrol News, 29 March - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is looking to Asia for spontaneous development partnerships, while at the same time struggling to meet deadlines and conditions from Western donors to be considered for debt relief under the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) status programme.
Today, President Joseph Kabila, who is on a three-day official visit to South Korea, has signed a number of agreements that include a deal to modernise industrial infrastructure and develop rural areas through sharing of experiences as well as technical and financial support.
The DRC, with over an US$ 11 billion debt to settle, stays with a hope that it would be slashed by a sizeable amount by June this year, to be able to float above the storms of its development and economic reforms.
Still recovering from years of internal warring, unending destabilisation of rebels' germination and natural disasters, Mr Kabila's administration has had little luck to attract major funding for its economic programmes, despite its mineral wealth.
Last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) insisted on the meeting of the HIPC conditionalities before the country could be recommended for substantial debt relief.
"The mission, in collaboration with World Bank staff, reviewed the status of the HIPC triggers, whose observance is a condition for reaching the completion point and receiving substantial debt relief from external creditors," said the IMF mission at the end of their visit in Kinshasa.
The mission said while there has been good progress on all fronts, the need for the observance of the seven triggers would require steadfast actions by the Kinshasa government, further adding that this would be facilitated by the monitoring committee which has been created under the authority of the Prime Minister.
"If all goes well on the authorities' part, the IMF and World Bank staffs expect to submit the request for debt relief under the HIPC Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative to their r
DRC President Joseph Kabila and Korean President Lee Myung-bak signing cooperation agreements in Seoul
espective Boards before end-June. Looking ahead, additional donor budget support would help maintain macroeconomic stability and protect pro-poor spending," stated the IMF mission.
But it may take time before the DRC meets all the demands by the IMF and thus will get access to Western aid and debt relief. Meanwhile, it is easier to turn to Asia for economic aid. Being immensely rich in minerals that are scarce in Asia, the DRC has already attracted investments from China, Japan and other Asian economies, most of which do not set as many conditions as the IMF and the West.
A journey to Korea was therefore timely. While in South Korea, President Kabila would also be looking at possible funding initiatives for his country, through bilateral cooperation in the energy, resources and construction sectors.
It was also revealed that South Korea planned to participate in the DR Congo's projects to build seaports, highways, power plants and other industrial infrastructure as part of the long term discussions.
President Kabila has also reportedly asked his counterpart, President Lee Myung-bak, to help bring to DRC the experiences of South Korea, once one of the poorest nations, but now an economic power in its own right. The Korean model has become a popular school for African developing nations, with the Seoul development agency sending trainers around the continent.
During his stay in South Korea, President Kabila is also scheduled to meet with the business leaders, receive an honorary doctorate from Hanyang University and tour southern industrial cities.
The DRC and South Korea established diplomatic ties in 1963 and this was Mr Kabila's second trip to South Korea, the first being in 2005.
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