Africa's Resources Must Benefit Africans
Recently, I received an email from Joseph Chinedu, a Nigerian ardent reader of my articles, currently living in Australia in response to my article titled, Africa Must Say No to Dictatorship which was first published in The African Executive magazine. "Moses," he said, " Africa needs bravery and courageous people who without fear or favour, are truly committed to the cause of dismantling dictatorship in Africa." The struggle against bad leadership in Africa should not be left to a few people. Bad leadership is stifling the economic development of our continent. We should all join the struggle geared towards dismantling it.
For decades, African leaders have made secret deals and connived with foreign companies to exploit and benefit from Africa’s natural resources as if the resources solely belong to them. African citizens must say enough is enough. Resources in our countries must be used to benefit all the citizens. Look at the scenario of Equatorial Guinea. With a small population of just above 500,000 people and annual earnings of $2 billion dollars from oil exports, one may ordinarily assume that, every citizen in that country has decent accommodation, studies up to university for free, accesses quality medical care, is gainfully employed and travels on well made roads, among other factors.
When you go to Equatorial Guinea, you will come face to face with dismal infrastructural facilities, if any. Its citizens are among the poorest people in Africa, with majority of them surviving on less than $1 dollar a day. As this is going on, its leader Theodore Nguema, his family members and loyalists are using the country’s resources to amass wealth and stash millions of dollars in western capitals. They own expensive residential and commercial property in cities such as Paris, London and Washington D.C, in addition to leading extravagant lifestyles. Citizens from Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Nigeria, Uganda, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, among others, must rise against this tendency.
The abundant natural resources like gold, copper, uranium, timber, and zinc that DRC is endowed with, have for decades been exploited and used to benefit its political leaders, their families and their loyalists as opposed to improving the living standards of the congolese people. Mobutu Sese Seko, a former leader of the region amassed so much wealth that he was in the list of ten richest leaders in the world. As this was happening, infrastructural facilities in his country such as roads, schools, clean water, hospitals, people’s accommodation, were in a sorry state. Joseph Kabila has not done any better as regrads improving the living standards of people in DR Congo.
We must reject the continued practice of foreign mining companies extracting our minerals and shipping them to their mother countries in raw form. We are being denied a lot of revenue through this practice. We must demand of these companies that they establish processing, smelting and refining centres in our countries where our minerals, will be processed, smelted and refined before they are exported. This will expand our tax base and create more jobs in Africa.
Today, 4200 British troops are present in Sierra Leone purportedly to help in rebuilding the country after its emergence from the long civil war. Do you think that their solo mission is to rebuild Siera Leone? Nay! These troops are simply protecting and patronising the various diamond deposits that Sierra Leone is richly endowed with, to pave way for British firms to come and exploit. Sierra Leonians should force their leadership to openly disclose the mining deals their country has signed with foreign companies and demand for transparency and equitable benefits from their mineral resource usage.
Chinese state owned and private companies as well some companies from the western world are buying vast tracts of land in countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and DRC to grow food for their own people and for commercial benefit. Why should we lease out our land for other people to grow food for their nationals while our people are going hungry? Can’t African governments empower their people financially to enable them utilize their lands? What is the use of having a leadership that fails to properly plan for its people? Soon, millions of hectares of African lands are going to be in the hands of foreign companies and millions of Africans will be landless and turned into slaves in their own countries. Foreigners should only be allowed to buy land not exceeding 50 hectares and should only be given lease renewable every after 10 years.
As Africans, we must rise up and demand total transparency, accountability and equitable sharing of benefits arising from natural resource usage in our countries from our leaders and companies operating from our countries. Our natural resources must also be used sustainably both for present and future generations
By Moses Hategeka.
The author firstname.lastname@example.org is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer.
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