Editorial from ROAPE Volume 35 Number 117
Scrambling to Bottom? Mining/Resources/Underdevelopment
The 21st century race for resources and territory has simultaneously induced cries of optimism from donors and the international agencies, but there is despair from critics and many on the continent: that plunder and looting continues in a manner reminiscent of the colonial past. But is the current scramble similar to the previous looting of African resources? Are there no benefits from the demand for Africa’s resources? Can the current dynamic be characterised as a scramble or, is it simply ‘business as usual’ for the good of civil society?
Africa holds 42% of the world’s share of bauxite; 38% of its uranium; 42% of the world’s reserves of gold; 73% of its platinum; 88% of diamonds. The continent also has enormous reserves of non-ferrous metals like chromite (44%), manganese (82%), vanadium (95%) and cobalt (55%). Despite this abundance of resource wealth – and these figures probably underestimate resource availability because of limited surveying – there is little evidence that raw materials are translated into growth with justice and equality. And there is only limited evidence that strategies to convert local resources nationally, or to pool them regionally, will generate real value added for Africans. For while the continent’s average economic growth rates have been high since 2000 compared with previous decades due almost entirely to the unprecedented price of crude oil and metals, African raw material producers do not benefit from the resource scramble.