Mining&Business Magazine: Hello, Mr Ambassador, could you introduce yourself?
Jean-Marc Châtaigner: I am the new EU Ambassador to the DRC. I come from the French diplomatic service, where I was Ambassador to Madagascar and France’s Special Envoy for the Sahel. I was also Deputy Director General of the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) in Marseille. I have devoted most of my career since the early 1990s to Africa; my first stay was in Niger. I am passionate about sustainable development, multilateralism and collective security, the challenges of better global governance and the proper management of our common goods, such as climate, biodiversity, water and forests, which are so important in the great country that is the DRC.
M&B: Are you married, do you have children?
JMC: I am married, I have two children who are unfortunately too old to accompany me to Kinshasa. The first is 27 years old and is pursuing his doctorate in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The second, who is 25 years old, is finishing his master’s degree in France in Aix-en-Provence.
M&B: How many people does the European Union in the DRC represent? What is the EU budget in the DRC?
JMC: The EU in the DRC, beyond the delegation I have the honour to lead (nearly 80 people, Europeans and Congolese) and the European institutions I represent, is of course the action of our Member States – Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom (until 31 October) – which have embassies in Kinshasa. The EU in the DRC is also a formidable instrument of cooperation and partnership, the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). The EDF represents a commitment of €620 million for the country for the period 2014-2020, with additional resources for regional or emergency programmes, such as the response to Ebola. It comprises four main sectors of concentration that have been chosen jointly with the Congolese Government: first, the strengthening of democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law, and the transparency of public finances; second, health; third, the environment, sustainable agriculture and food security, and finally, infrastructure, including the rehabilitation of National Road No. 1, the backbone linking the west to the east of the DRC. These are projects carried out throughout the country with Congolese partners to serve the population.
M&B: Could you give us some concrete examples of projects?
JMC: I will take as an example only one sector, health, where, thanks to the funding of the European Union delegation, 8.6 million people in the DRC now have access to better quality care and essential medicines. We support 43 general reference hospitals and have succeeded, with our Congolese partners, in significantly reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. Women and children are saved every day, through the support we have been able to provide for high-risk pregnancies and the establishment of assisted childbirth. This is a truly concrete action of which we can be collectively proud.
M&B: Are there other offices in the country?
JMC: We do not have provincial offices, but of course there are technical institutions working on different projects that are funded by the EU. There may also be expatriates who perform functions on behalf of the EU. I am thinking in particular of the response against Ebola in the east of the country where we have mobilized many specialists from our ECHO humanitarian department on the front line in the field. I can only salute their extraordinary dedication and courage, as well as that of all Congolese and international health workers who are engaged in the fight against the spread of this terrible disease.
M&B: After one month in the country, what are your first impressions?
JMC: What strikes me is that the DRC is a country with exceptional opportunities and potential in all areas. I am often told about the mining sector or possible oil prospects, but for me, that is not really where the country’s future is at stake. What matters are the men and women of Congo, whose ideas, energy and intelligence are just waiting to be released and expressed. There are prospects for innovation, companies to be created, agri-food sectors to be set up. I recently visited Ntsio on the Batéké plateau, where I was able to see the prospects for developing agroforestry and promoting beekeeping. We must break the bureaucratic shackles that prevent all these initiatives from flourishing. Hence the importance, for me, of all the actions announced by President Tshisekedi in favour of a better business climate, and the need for the administration not to control but to take an active role in supporting the ongoing dynamics and projects of entrepreneurs, even the smallest, especially the smallest. Congo has the full potential of the world’s emerging countries.
It only wants to develop – if we release its creative energy.