Could the world’s smallest state, the Vatican, effectively put pressure on the world’s two leading superpowers, China and the United States, during Pope Francis’ three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo? Yes — hopefully — according to some of the country’s Catholic leaders who are also environmental experts and advocates.
“There’s a race between China and the U.S. because of critical natural resources like lithium, cobalt and copper,” said Congolese Jesuit Fr. Jacques Nzumbu. “To win the competition, you need these minerals. And Congo is suffering because of this competition.”
The natural resources in the Congo are nearly unrivaled in the world, with its strategic minerals essential to the transition to green energy in the Global North. The forests of the Congo Basin are known as the second largest lung of the planet, after the Amazon, and together with its carbon sink — the largest in the world — are viewed as essential for fighting climate change.
Despite such treasures, Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries, where more than 77 percent of the population live below the international poverty line. Over the last three decades, an estimated 10 million Congolese have died due to ongoing wars and armed conflict, including over the country’s minerals.