Natural riches

Why doesn’t Africa fully benefit from its natural riches?

 The African continent is a paradox. According to a UN report in 2021, 490 million people in Africa live in extreme poverty. This figure continues to rise with economic problems and food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine respectively. However, the UN has also stated that Africa has abundant natural resources, holding 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 8% of the world’s natural gas and 12% of the world’s oil reserves. So why is the wealth of the continent’s resources not reflected in the wealth of its people? 

A continent rich in natural resources 

Africa has many highly valuable natural resources; not only can the continent sell energy resources that have traditionally been in demand – 90% of African countries are producing or searching for oil – but the sunny arid climate means that many countries are able to harness solar power to sell as a renewable energy source. In addition, Africa is a major producer of many key mineral and metal commodities such as 73% of the world’s diamonds and 89% of the world’s gold.

From colonialism to neocolonialism 

Since the beginning of the colonisation of Africa by non-African countries in the 16th century, the continent has been continually exploited for its natural resources by outside powers. Historians believe that the pressure of this exploitation has led to wars and slowed economic development, resulting in higher levels of poverty amongst the African people. Even after the independence of African countries from their former European colonists, foreign investors continue to own much of the land and mines as a perpetuation of colonialism. This deprives the local communities of the full benefits of their natural resources; local workers are often paid poorly and are subject to dangerous working conditions.

A break in history?

In recent years there has been a growing awareness of the unfair distribution of wealth from these natural resources. Some measures have been put in place to prevent exploitation: these include renegotiating financial obligations to ex-colonial powers and establishing systems to ensure that Africans receive a fair price for their commodities. However, because most of the continent’s exports are natural resources, Africa remains exposed to external factors such as global demand and volatile commodity prices on the international market.

In the future, African countries will therefore need to look beyond their natural resources to ensure the stable prosperity of their people.

Esmé Layton


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *