We cannot let DRC fail

In his memoirs, “The Great Betrayal”, the Rhodesia’s last Prime Minister, Ian Douglas Smith speaks of receiving “an interesting briefing” in 1967.
The briefing was from Rhodesia’s Security Council and was about “the communist plan for Africa, as part of their overall scheme for world domination”.
Smith said a map was produced that showed the “communists had firmly established themselves in a number of countries in North Africa, methodically moving on to new ground once a base had been secured”.
He wrote: “The ultimate target was South Africa, which was not only the industrial giant of Africa, but was one of the most richly mineralized parts of our world…
“It was a few years later that I was pleased to receive a report that the United States had been alerted to this development and, as a result, their Congress Committee on Strategic Minerals and Mining had sent a mission to investigate.
“After visiting Zaire (now the DRC), Zambia, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, they produced a commendable report and in most expressive language termed the area ‘the Persian Gulf of strategic minerals of our earth’.
“Apart from the greatest world deposits of gold, diamonds, platinum and chrome, they itemized a list of other strategic minerals in which many countries, including the USA and Canada, are deficient.
“The only other country where one could find a similar conglomerate of these minerals was the USSR (now Russia); if the Soviets could have gained control of this area, therefore, they would have had a virtual world monopoly.
“The report warned the American Congress and the nation of this potential danger, and urged them to rouse themselves from their complacency.”
It is now well-known that the DRC holds some of the most valuable minerals on Earth, and that it is control of these resources that has seen the country experience very little peace since King Leopold cast a lustful eye on that vast expanse of land.
A recent Post-Conflict Assessment of the DRC by the United Nations Environment Programme outlines the potential that this country has to become a global economic powerhouse.
The key findings of that study, conducted in conjunction with the DRC’s Environment Ministry are:
–       The DRC has the highest level of biodiversity in Africa
–       The DRC’s tropical rainforests extend over 1.55 million square km and account for more than half of Africa’s forest resources – making them a critical global ecosystem service provider and a potential source of up to US$900 million in annual revenue
–       Its untapped mineral reserves are of global importance and are estimated to be worth US$24 trillion
–       The Congo River Basin supports Africa’s largest inland fisheries with an estimated production potential of 520 000 tonnes per year
–       Entrepreneurship is on the rise and there is a huge market for financial services, ICTs and other support services and infrastructure, including energy
Commenting on the study, the DRC’s Environment Minister José Endundo said, “We know from this two-year joint study that the DRC’s vast mineral reserves are again the object of intense foreign competition and that this is placing great pressures on our forests, wildlife and water resources.” Minister Endundo said.
UNEP’s executive director, Acgim Steiner added: “This assessment confirms the DRC’s unique endowment of natural resources and how they can contribute to sustainable economic growth, but also reveals the legacy of using these resources in fuelling much of the conflict and human tragedy that has plagued its people for too long.”
Yes, the DRC’s story is a one of a tragedy.
But that should not remain the case.
The country held its second elections since the fall of Mobutu this past week and there have been many predictions of a return to war.
That need not happen.
Southern and Central Africa in particular and the rest of the continent in general have an obligation to make the DRC succeed.
Peace and economic growth in the DRC will provide the largest post-colonial dividend Africa has ever witnessed.
Look at it this way: the world was so concerned with the unrest in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire but the DRC is five times these countries area combined, has twice their collective population and has nine nieghbours.
It has 50 percent of the continent’s forests (including 80 million hectares of arable land!) and a river, Inga, that can conceivably provide hydroelectricity to the whole of Southern Africa, at the very least.
There is no need to talk again about its mineral reserves and huge human capacity potential.
A prosperous DRC is good for Africa.
We should not let the DRC fail!
 

December 2011
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