Western mining companies and resource-hungry Asian states are desperate to get their hands on Congo’s mineral riches, but doing business there entails big risks. It is, according to the World Bank, one of the most corrupt countries on the planet.
Yet a fierce landgrab has developed as rival mining groups battle each other — and China — and bribe-taking officials subvert a minority striving to convert the country’s astonishing natural endowments into schools, roads and the other basics of a functioning state.
Once a week, a controversial Israeli tycoon at the heart of the scramble touches down in his Gulfstream G5 jet to tend to his empire. Dan Gertler is Congo’s biggest investor. He arrived when few western investors dared to and has built a sprawling operation that began with diamonds and now spans copper and cobalt mining, banks and even a safari park.
At 36, his net worth is at least $750m (£460m), based on publicly-available information, and he is the partner of choice in the country to some of the biggest resources firms in the world, such as ENRC, the FTSE 100 miner, and Glencore, the secretive commodities giant.
The City of London has played a critical role in his empire building, having handed over hundreds of millions to finance his exploits.