Making Others Rich
Nairobi – Viewers of CNN on the weekend of July 27-28, 2013, might have been stunned at the gigantic amount of wealth Africa possesses. Not only that; but also how much of the gadgets of everyday life depend on resources from Africa.
The CNN broadcast was titled “How Africa’s minerals fuel your world” and it sourced its data from British Geological Survey, America’s CIA, and the World Bank among others.
Naturally, the documentary generated many comments: with the general theme being if Africa is so rich in resources, why are millions of its people living in poverty?
Others delved into how Africa can better harness its wealth to benefit its own people.
Michael Ian Wright was stunned: “Wow, with all those fantastic resources, one would expect that folks living there would have outrun Europe in progress a thousand years ago at least. They should have colonised Mars by the time we had the Renaissance.”
Timothy44 remarked, “Indeed, Africa is full of resources and should not be a destitute continent. The problem is, Africa's resources are in the hands of foreign companies and corrupt African leaders. The benefit of these resources never go to Africa's people. Furthermore, the root cause of most of the continent's problems ‑ wars and corrupt governments ‑ is arbitrarily drawn colonial boundaries that divide a people in some areas, and group together competing tribes in other countries.
“In such instances, all you get is constant tribal competition, nepotism, corruption, hatred and war. The underlying problems of Africa cannot be addressed without resolving its politics. Africa has enough resources and can grow enough food to feed everybody.
Michael Blackmoon: “Everything the West used was stolen … ask china, india, africa, s.america, etc … lucky the black plague didn't finish us off. remember the dark ages?”
Fungal Spawl weighed in: “West/East stealing from Africa. End of Story,” while Mr Robert said, “Africa: the richest and poorest continent. Rich in terms of natural resources, poor in terms of life standards. But from laptops to cellular phones, cars to airplanes, all kinds of everyday items are made using minerals that come from Africa.
It is no exaggeration to say that the world depends on Africa.
How Africa fuels the world:
Catalytic converters are fitted to cars to reduce pollution, and platinum and rhodium are key components. Africa produces most of the world's platinum and rhodium for this purpose.
In 2012, South Africa produced 128 tonnes of platinum, 170 tonnes of gold, 8.2 million carats of diamonds (2011), and 255 million tonnes of coal (2011).
As well as platinum and rhodium, South Africa is a major producer of gold, diamonds, coal and iron ore.
Over the past 10 years, the mining industry has contributed around US$200 billion to the country's GDP and export earnings, in real terms.
In all, 513 000 people were employed in extractive industries in 2011 and the sector contributed US$408 billion to South Africa’s total national GDP that year.
Cellular phones, laptops and other small electronic devices use parts made from tantalum. It is a key export of several African countries ‑ but has been implicated in funding conflict in the DRC.
Mozambique produces 24 percent of the world’s tantalum, followed by Rwanda (20 percent), the DRC (11 percent) and Ethiopia (nine percent). Other African countries account for seven percent of global production combined.
The market price for tantalite ore in July 2013 was US$262/kg.
Mozambique produced as much as 260 tonnes of tantalum in 2011, in addition to 500kg of gold.
Despite increases in tantalum output, agriculture is currently far more important than mining for Mozambique.
The country also has huge coal reserves and a large field was discovered off its northern coast in 2011.
They have brought significant foreign investment that could have a huge effect on Mozambique’s economy.
It is estimated that 60 000 artisanal miners were employed in gold mining in Mozambique in 2011, and that mining contributed US$12.8b to GDP.
In 2011, Africa produced more than half of the world’s diamonds, nearly three-quarters of its platinum and a fifth of its gold.
The major producers of gemstones and precious metals were Botswana, Zimbabwe, the DRC, South Africa and Angola.
Away from the glam of gem production, Africa is also vital to production of the mundane but extremely necessary item called a battery.
Rechargeable batteries often use cobalt in their electrodes and demand for portable electronic devices has created a huge market for the mineral.
Africa accounts for 58 percent of the world’s cobalt; with the DRC shipping off 48 percent of global requirements in 2011, followed by Zimbabwe (five percent), Botswana (two percent), South Africa (two percent) and other African countries accounting one percent.
As at July 2013, cobalt was selling for US$13.50 per pound.
The mining and minerals processing sector accounted for 15 percent of the DRC’s GDP in 2010, with mining exports valued at an estimated US$8.48b ‑ nearly half of that coming from cobalt.
And while Africa complains about the poor state of its air transport industry, it is providing the resources used by other countries to make airplanes.
Jet engines use super alloys that often contain cobalt and chromium.
Many aircrafts parts are made from aluminium alloys, which can account for up to 80 percent of a passenger jet’s weight.
Of the global production of chromite, South Africa accounted for 47 percent. Guinea provided eight percent of the bauxite the world needs for the air transport industry.
Guinea has almost half of the world bauxite reserves, as well as important iron ore, gold and diamond reserves.
Minerals accounted for a quarter of the country’s GDP and about 95 percent of export earnings in 2011. In the next decade, Guinea is predicted to become a leading producer of iron ore.
Electricity and Oil
Africa produces coal, gas and uranium.
Uranium is the source of nuclear fuel which provides almost 14 percent of the world’s electricity – and 16 percent of the world’s uranium comes from Africa.
Niger accounts for eight percent of this, followed by Namibia at six percent and Malawi with two percent.
Namibia’s economy is heavily dependent on mineral exports, and uranium production – as well as that of zinc and diamonds – is critical.
In 2011, its diamond exports were worth US$714m and its uranium exports stood at about US$558m.
In total the mining industry contributed eight percent of GDP (US$12.5b) and employed 14 300 people.
In 2012, Africa produced a tenth of the entire world’s oil – around 9.4 million barrels per day – up nearly eight percent on 2011 production figures.
The leading contributors to global supply from this continent are Nigeria (three percent), Angola (two percent), Algeria (two percent), Libya (two percent), and Egypt (one percent).
In 2011 the hydrocarbon sector – including production of crude oil, natural gas and refined petroleum product – made up 15 percent of Nigeria’s real GDP.
Nigeria has 37 billion barrels of proven reserves of oil – enough to keep oil supply at 2011 levels for 40 years. Some 80 percent of government revenue came from oil, which also accounted for 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings in 2011.