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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Africa`s riches must be a blessing, not a curse

15th February 2012
Editorial Cartoon

There is no doubt that Africa’s mineral wealth has yet to positively touch the lives of its poor majority.

If anything, it has in most cases been the source of more suffering for the poor, who sometimes face the wrath of their governments when they put up a fight for a share of those resources.

Indeed a number of the civil wars that have been fought or going on the continent revolve around the fight for its mineral resources.

This is the scenario that has led to some analysts describing the continent’s mineral wealth as its curse. Instead of improvement in their standards of living, the majority of the continent’s citizens have either remained mired in poverty or been killed in the ensuing civil wars.

The intensified rush for the continent’s resources, termed the second scramble for Africa could end up being another missed opportunity, if there is no change to the way the mineral resources are managed.

That is why we take a lot of interest in the meeting of the inter-governmental experts being held in Dar es Salaam whose main focus is governance of Africa’s mineral resources.

In his opening speech to the committee of experts meeting, Finance Minister Mustafa Mkulo said: “Many African countries are endowed with abundant mineral resources, but despite their richness the continent plays an insignificant role in the global economy".

This observation begs the question: “Has the continent conducted its due diligence to establish the true value of its resources and use the findings to leverage its position in the global economy?”

Experts have argued for this approach, so that in any negotiation for the exploitation of those resources, Africa will get a fair return and that the benefits will flow down to the majority population.

The experts meeting in Dar have defined their goal as ensuring the continent is better able to efficiently use its resources.

Soteri Gatera, Senior economic affairs officer and head of infrastructure & natural resources development, sub-region office for eastern Africa (SRO-EA) said the meeting will address modern principles that can be used to benefit the communities with minerals, noting: “There have been underground perceptions that the mining sector is poorly handled and so performing below expectations.

But we want to learn how to benefit from the resources by taking a close look at the procedures of extraction and processing of these minerals so that we can help the ordinary people benefit from them.”

Hopefully the experts will craft an approach that will make Africa more prepared and shrewd than it was when the first scramble happened. This time circumstances demand that the continent negotiate only the deals that are most beneficial to the interests and the prosperity of its people.

It is encouraging that more citizens of the continent are demanding that they be fully involved in deciding how their resources are being disposed of by their governments.

It will be most helpful for African leaders to listen carefully and quickly adopt measures that will ensure the continent’s resources are properly used to advance their people, if they are truly committed to a more peaceful continent.

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