According to the 2013 Africa Progress Report convened by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Africa has three critical issues that must be handled to ensure the continent’s economic growth: 1) African governments must improve governance and strengthen national capacity to manage extractive industries. 2) African governments should put transparency and accountability at the heart of natural resource policies, secure a fair share . . . for their citizens and spread the benefits of this revenue via equitable public spending. 3) International businesses should follow best practices on transparency, help build national capacity, procure more products and services locally. One country in particular was researched for these problems.
Examining the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report specifically stated with, “some of the world’s richest mineral resources, the DRC appears to be losing out because state companies are systematically undervaluing assets.” Between 2010 and 2012, the Congo lost over $1.4 billion due to under pricing of mining assets sold to offshore companies. In five business deals, assets valued at $1.6 billion were sold for only $275 million, while the offshore companies were able to achieve an average rate of return of 512%. It is interesting to note this report did not examine the weight of political, corporate or individual corruption, so those numbers will not be discussed here. Another obstacle to African progress is the first critical issue of governments improving their national capacity.
The ability of the African continent is only as strong as the willingness of the people to develop a group collective purpose from their own group experience. This group identity must transcend tribal commitments and geographical boundaries. The history of African colonization by European and Western nations has made these boundaries insignificant when generating this group collective commitment. Since all regions of Africa were carved for 19th century exploitation after the slave trade was in full swing, the African continent can no longer afford to see itself as a body of independent nation states with natural resources. It must instead envision itself as one people who have systematically been undervalued while possessing some of the most valuable commodities in the world. It must pursue economic trade within its own borders and solemnly commit to engage in business with itself to all ends of its continent. This would foster the economic strength that Japan, and many Latin American countries are beginning to bolster. This would insulate the international community from taking advantage of tribal divisions amongst many African nations.
The uniqueness of surviving colonization must be the foundation of this unbreakable, inherent bond. From this, must emerge a value and appreciation for the African continent which sadly many do not have. Once this priceless value has spread throughout, the undervaluation of its assets in the case of the DRC will no longer occur. This would in turn resolve the inability of African governments to share the wealth with the general public.
Building a group collective identity reinforced through the African experience of colonial survival, encourages all participants to develop a “for us by us” attitude rather than a “me for me” mindset. This would effectively prevent any foreigner from exercising group exploitation strategies in any border state and compel multinational companies to respect the continent in manners similarly shown to a formerly disliked country called China. This must happen now as the future of African development and people depend on it.
Amir Makin is an activist, analyst and author of A Worthy Muslim. He regularly writes on many things from politics to race relations. His newsletter and more of his writings can be found at http://IslamAndRace.com