Zim, Africa mineral resource curse


Africa is cursed with abundant mineral re-sources.

In an era of surging commodity and pe-troleum prices on account of high demand in emerging na-tions like China, Brazil and In-dia which are going through an unprecedented phase in indus-trial expansion, African mineral wherewithal are drawing new interest from major companies around the globe.

ey see the continent as the most promising place in the world for new production. It doesnt have the huge deposits that the Middle East and Russia have, but what it does have is accessible and largely unexploited ones.

And the minerals and oils high quality makes it relatively inexpensive to refine. So it is not surprising min-ing has come to dominate the export earnings of many African countries.

In 2005, minerals ac-counted for more than 80% of ex-ports in Botswana, Congo, Demo-cratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and more than 50% in Mali, Mauritania, Mozam-bique, Namibia and Zambia.

Yet, Africa has not really ben-efited from these high prices due to a number of structural weak-nesses in its mineral sector across the continent.
If Africa is so resource-rich, how come most of its citizens are so very poor?

Most Africans are reaping lit-tle benefits from this influx of oil drillers and investment. In fact, because of an economic paradox probably the resource curse they are often hurt by exports of their countries mineral base, the continent has become import-dependent and that decimates the 54-member nations agriculture and traditional industries.

One of the reasons, for Africas failure to fully utilise its minerals resource base is its leaders have reportedly signed mineral devel-opment agreements that provided far more incentives and benefits to mining firms than locals.

The continental mass is a treasury of bauxite, uranium, gold, platinum, cobalt, diamonds, chromium, manganese, coal and phosphates to name but a few.

A good example is Zimba-bwe whose platinum reserves is the second largest in Africa be-hind South Africa which has the worlds largest platinum base.

The country also has the largest diamond reserves since the dis-covery in Marange, with indica-tions it has capacity to mine gems worth over $2 billion annually. Nothing so far could be far from the truth the country has dis-mally failed to award salary in-crease to civil servants despite all these resources apart from gold, copper, chrome and other min-eral resources.

In addition, gems tend to corrupt politicians. ey end up vying to pocket a share of the finite mineral resource riches, rather than looking for ways to in-vest in their countrys long-term prosperity.

e State isnt an engineer of economic growth, but a gravy train. None of the money gets down to the people. It is only when a nation begins to think that it becomes prosperous.

When we use our brains rather than our sinew, progress comes. Hard work pays, but not hard work of backbreaking toil rather hard work of burning the midnight oil ie using our brains.

The brain is only 2% of our body weight based on the standard body mass index; yet, it consumes 20% of the total nutritional intake into our body.

Proportionally, the brain should do more work than other parts of the body, but cur-rently on the average its the other way round.

One of the most promising policies could be the African Min-ing Vision (AMV).

The vision was adopted after the very first meet-ing of African mineral resource development ministers in Addis Ababa in 2008 and was subse-quently endorsed by the African heads of state and government at the February 2009 African Union Summit.

As such, it is Africas own take on the problem. Recently the Mines ministers adopted the AMV action plan expected to be endorsed by African Union (AU) leaders at their summit next February.

What sets the AMV apart is that it extends policy beyond a narrow focus on mining itself. For the AMV there is more to it than simply managing the extrac-tion of resources and then find-ing optimal ways to collect and apportion the revenue.

But, the AMV approaches the issue di er-ently, and central to its approach is development outcomes at the heart of mineral regimes. A key point is the AMV is applicable at many levels.

If mining is to be the motor of development, it means thinking big. e AMV encour-ages synergy between mining and other sectors. Development rarely comes from exploiting a single re-source in fact this leads to de-pendency. Development is about leveraging one profitable business so that it helps another.

One of the main reasons why Africa has been held back from developing through industrialisa-tion is that its national markets are relatively small and there is insuf-ficient demand in a poor country to merit major manufacturing or even much mineral processing.

That is why the AUs Nepad initiative has set out plans for promoting corridors of develop-ment that span nation states and link up major transport routes with mines, power and ports.

AMV embraces formation of cor-ridors, clusters and linkages, and it calls for mining integration into trade and industrial policies.

Mining could uniquely become the driver of African development because it is only this industry that can raise the kinds of money for infrastructure development.

So when African mining experts, joined African Mines Ministers to discuss the implementation of the AMV recently, they agreed on an action plan that will help lift Af-rica from the doldrums.

It is hoped their report will become the standard reference on which to base templates, toolkits, guidelines and briefing notes for African policymakers, govern-ment and other stakeholders involved in formulating and im-plementing new developmental mineral regimes.

With the clock ticking and both the AMV and Africas future on the line, now is the time for the continent to tilt decisively towards development.

It is clear that its not what we have on the ground that matters, but what we do with it. It should therefore not come as a surprise that we are still languishing on an economic desert of existence.

We should be able to stand at the cusp of an explosive economic devel-opment if we take the opportu-nity that presents itself now.