As the international community threatened sanctions, Guinea’s junta leaked the China deal to the press as if to say, ‘we don’t need you, world.’ The investors were reported to be the China International Fund Ltd (CIFL), a Hong-Kong-based firm.
Yet many have doubted the veracity of the deal, given the timing, and the fact that $7 billion is almost twice Guinea’s GDP. The Chinese Embassy in Guinea denied the project. And other skeptics cried fowl. “China has a reputation of ignoring a lot of things, but they do want to protect their investments,” an international NGO worker told me when the deal was announced (she could not be identified for her safety in Guinea). “I know the Chinese ambassador and I think he would agree with me.”
Turns out, what is likely the contract for the deal was posted online back in June, meaning that the deal has been in the works for years, not months or even days, as the Guinean announcement this month seemed to suggest. The contract, between the Guinean government and the CIFL, lays out conditions for the creation of a “Chinese-Guinean Development Organization” (my translation from French), which would oversee investments and development in the energy, water treatment, electricity, road, airline, habitat and aluminum mineral extraction sectors. The organization would be funded mostly by CIFL up front, to be reimbursed in part by the Guinean government when profits began to turn. The accord is dated June 12, 2009.
Whether this is in fact the deal, it is being treated as such, says Congressional Research Service analyst Alexis Arieff, who recently wrote a report on the situation in Guinea. The details also align with the statements of Guinean ministers who have spoken about the contract to the press.
Why does this matter? The implications are several fold.