By Pam Riungu
There is no disputing that Africa is endowed with diverse resources. In fact, majority of its natural resources are undiscovered or barely harnessed. Unfortunately, it is this endowment with the largest quantities of raw materials that has put Africa under heavy pressure and tensions as a different players (politicians) compete to plunder the resources-so much so that these raw materials have earned the distinction of being a “scourge of raw materials.”
Africa is a rich, yet it is still the poorest continent. How could that be? The scramble for Africa’s resources has often created problems rather than created prosperity. The rich continent that comprises 54 countries boasts of: petroleum, platinum, iron ore, oil, Gold, Diamond, salt, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, cocoa, silver, wood, tropical fruits and many other precious metals. The top ten oil producing countries are: South African (10), Gabon (9), The Republic of Congo (8), Equatorial Guinea (7), Sudan (6), Egypt (5), Libya (4), Angola (3), Algeria (2), Nigeria (1).
When it comes to Ores nothing comes close to the copper belt in Katanga in the the Republic of Congo. The diamond mines in Sierra Leone, Angola, and Botswana are also worth a mention.
Africa remains poor despite the abundance of this wealth because for one, only a few of countries process or add value to their own raw materials. Companies that extract the raw materials in Africa are often critized for providing little in the way of local employment and hence local economies do not benefit. Further more, the profits from these raw materials remain in the hands of foreign owned companies who exploit these nations and pay very low rates in taxes.
Why are the majority of the African countries failing to turn their natural riches into benefits for their own countries?
The first steps should include renegotiating contracts, better transparency, higher taxes imposed on the foreign companies, nationalism of resources, and strong checks and balances in government to ensure there is accountability.
Will Africa ever benefit from its natural riches? Here is a country doing it right-Botswana; a country rich with diamond that has managed to retain some of the profits by processing its raw material, something most African countries fail to do. As a result, Botswana has experienced a relatively stable and transparent economic growth for decades.
As the Swahili proverb goes, “the lion that moves silently is the one that eats meat”