There is no doubt that the African continent is rich in natural resources.
The continent with an estimated over one billion population is rich in renewable and non-renewable natural resources, however, there is general agreement that the continent does not benefit from its vast resources. These resources are mined and exported in their raw form.
Africa produces more than 60 metal and mineral products and is a major producer of several of the world’s most important minerals and metals. But issues about Africa’s natural resources are vexatious.
Some of the minerals mined out of Africa include gold, diamond, PGE’s, silver, iron, uranium, bauxite, manganese, chromium, nickel, bauxite, cobalt and copper. Platinum, coal, and phosphates are also mined on the continent.
Africa also has rich forests, marine and aquatic resources that have been exploited for years, but Africa’s share of the revenues, “have been miniscule compared to what the mining companies have realised,” said Dr. Stephen Karingi, the Director, Regional Integration, Infrastructure at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 2011.
Dr. Karingi has also said the top 40 mining companies operating in Africa reportedly made net profits of about $110 billion in 2010 alone. And these companies have a net asset base which exceeds $1trillion.
Information available also indicates that mining has come to dominate the export earnings of many African countries. In 2005 minerals accounted for more than 80% of exports in Botswana, Congo, DRC, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and more than 50% in Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. By 2008 sustained demand from a burgeoning Chinese economy had seen prices for minerals reach new heights.
Jean Noel Francois, the Acting Director, Department of Trade and Industry at the African Union (AU) Commission has also said in 2011 that even though Africa’s mineral resources are fuelling growth and development in many industrialised and emerging economies of the world, Africa still remains poor, under-developed and dependent on donor assistance for national budget support.
He further reiterated the fact that Africa consumes very little of its own mineral resources and exports most of it as raw materials, “with little or no local value addition and beneficiation.”
The Eighth African Development Forum (ADF VIII) held from October 23 to 25, 2012 sought to discuss these issues and chart the way on how Africa can harness it’s natural resources to benefit its people.
The conference jointly organised by the UNECA, the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank is under the theme “Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development”.
“The ADF, an ECA) flagship biennial event created in 1999, is a multi-stakeholder platform for discussing the effectiveness of Africa’s development policies and strategies…. It is to establish an African-driven development agenda that reflects consensus, and has the potential to yield specific programmes for implementation,” the conference concept paper has said.
The Concept paper further states that the Forum will build on the outcome of the Fifth Joint African Union (AU) Conference of African Ministers of Economy and Finance and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in March 2012 in Addis Ababa under the theme “Unleashing Africa’s potential as a pole of global growth” and the analytical work carried out in the Economic Report on Africa 2012 under the same theme.
It adds, the platform offers as much an opportunity to build partnerships as for the occasion to further deepen discussions on implementation of: the Africa Mining Vision (AMV); the AU Declaration on Land; the Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy in Africa (F&G); the Implementation Strategy for the Accelerated Industrialization Development for Africa (AIDA); Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests; and other frameworks for best practices in the management of mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources.
The overall objectives of the Forum are to raise awareness and cultivate deeper understanding of the role of Africa’s natural resource governance in its economic transformation. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss frameworks, policy options and strategies to better integrate mineral, land, fisheries and forest management into national resource management programmes, strategies and policies.
And some of the specific objectives include to demonstrate the role that Africa’s mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources could play in its broad social and economic development; Deliberate on the challenges that mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources mismanagement pose to Africa’s development, and offer governance and management models that can best support the continent’s transformation; and promote sharing of models, experiences, best practices and lessons learned in enhancing the role of natural resources in development in Africa among others.
Some of the expected outcomes include the following; Better-informed stakeholders about the role of natural resources in Africa’s development; Deeper understanding of stakeholders on how to translate frameworks and visions for natural resources management into practical policies and actions; and Strengthened capacity of stakeholders to advocate for prudent management of minerals, land, fisheries and forest resources to enhance their contribution to development.
African countries must go beyond talk to action. The global economic crisis and the eurozone crisis are enough evidence for action now.
The citizens of Africa have waited long enough. The teeming youth of Africa need jobs.
The 2012 African Economic Outlook (AEO) argues that youth unemployment figures will increase unless African countries move swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.
The AEO has also warned of looming domestic and external risks posed by the continued economic crisis in the eurozone.
This crisis, according to the AEO, threatens to constrain growth by lowering the demand for Africa’s exports, reduce tourism earnings and financial flows from foreign direct investments, Official Development Assistance and remittances.
Dr. Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Director of Economic Development and NEPAD Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has also argued that, “Exporting raw materials is equal to exporting your jobs.” He indicated that, processing those raw materials on the continent would offer jobs to citizens and add value to exports.
According to him, it is important to get Africans into the global value chain. He said that can be done through natural resource governance, knowledge and human resource development and growth that is strong and broad-based.