Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aid Money Received is a Fraction of Resources Stolen from Africa

Articles about new oil, gold, coal or other mineral discoveries in Tanzania and other developing countries are frequent enough. But few of the articles look too closely at what such discoveries mean to the country where the discovery is made, as opposed to the country or multinational that will exploit the discovery and will, ultimately, benefit.

If having massive natural resource potential made a country rich, quite a few African countries would be very rich indeed. Tanzania has more gold than most countries, more uranium, lots of nickel, coal and various other resources. But it's one of the poorest countries in the world. No amount of discovery will make it richer, and may make it poorer.

This is for the simple reason that their resources are systematically stolen by other countries and multinationals. The process is not called stealing, it is called 'partnership', 'investment', etc, even 'development'. But the vast majority of Tanzanian people, and the country as a whole, gain little or nothing from their resources and they lose almost everything that should belong to them.

This is not just because of corruption in the Tanzanian government or anything else like that, though corrupt governments are common in many countries and certainly do a lot of damage. It is because those who are in the best position to get their hands on natural resources are assisted in doing so by international laws and practices. National laws usually grant considerable benefits to the theives and fail to protect its own citizens.

Barrick Gold and AngloGold Ashanti currently get hold of most of Tanzania's gold (and most gold from other African countries) and they pay hardly any tax or royalties. They are perfectly entitled to cook their books under international law, which they do, with a lot of whinging about how much they have invested, how much gets stolen, how hard it is for them to make money and the like.

Several articles rant on about coal but only 12% of Tanzanians have access to electricity. The country is no more likely to see a rapid increase in access to affordable electricity as a result of coal mining that they were likely to see economic improvements when foreign companies came in to mine gold. Earnings from gold exports continue to rise, but it is not Tanzania that is earning much.

Meanwhile, a handful of Tanzanians may be getting rich (or richer), while tens of thousands of artisanal miners are put out of their jobs. Even indigenous companies who would like to mine gold, coal, uranium or anything else are unlikely to be able to compete with the benefits that foreign companies receive.

Research into these practices has been going on for a long time and there is some interesting research into gold mining, in particular. This research exposes the many social and economic problems that have been caused and exacerbated by big international mining operators, who have the 'rights' to much of Tanzania's wealth, that which hasn't already been stolen (entire 'Golden Opportunity' report).

This phenomenon is not confined to well known minerals and power sources such as coal and oil. Demand for some resources have only started to increase as a result of measures to reduce the effects of climate change. One example is biofuels, which require huge tracts of fertile land, massive quantities of water and the reduction of employment opportunities to a fraction of that arising from less exploitative ways of using land.

Lithium, used in batteries for electric cars, is needed in increasing quantities. Many of these attempts to reduce carbon emissions in rich countries will increase carbon emissions in poor countries, perhaps even resulting in a net increase, globally. And environments in countries that are rich in resources will also be seriously threatened.

Calling for Tanzanians, and the country as a whole, to be allowed to benefit from the exploitation of their natural resources is not a call for exploitation to cease. It is a call for large scale, internationally sanctioned theft to cease and for Tanzanians and other Africans to benefit from what is, after all, their property.



sara said...
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Simon said...

Mandela and Zuma gold mine 'not paying workers

Simon said...

Barrick Gold Revenues Increase

How much did Tanzania receive? Presumably their usual 1%, once figures have been doctored.