The Raw Figures: How Africa Is Making Others Rich

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Strategic Trends Africa's Resource Wealth
Africa’s resource wealth is still in the hands of foreign companies

AFRICANGLOBE – 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 ethnic groups in other countries.

“In such instances, all you get is constant ethnic 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, South America, among others . . . 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.

Bling Bling

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. Any 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.[/sociallocker]