By Kelechi Deca
Of Afripessimists, Afriskeptics and Afrirealists. And there are Afrioptimists too. They are the ones dreaming of Africa Agenda 2063.
In their minds, it would take Africa 100 years, from 1963 when the OAU was established to 2063 when they will achieve “The Africa We Want”
I have been all. And I don’t know where I belong again.
Before Dipo Faloyin wrote that beautiful book titled Africa Is Not A Country, I have read an equally engaging book with similar title originally published in 2000 by Margy Burns Knight, Mark Melnicove.
And traversing 48 out of 54 African countries is enough to know that Africa is not a country. But I also know where the confusion might have originated from.
Africa is nicknamed the “Mother Continent” due to its being the oldest inhabited continent on Earth. Humans and human ancestors have lived in Africa for more than 5 million years, so says archeologists..
The word ‘Africa’ is said to have been first used by the Romans to describe that part of the Carthaginian Empire which lies in present day Tunisia.
Massey, in 1881, stated that Africa is derived from the Egyptian af-rui-ka, meaning “to turn toward the opening of the Ka.” The Ka is the energetic double of every person and the “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa would be, for the Egyptians, “the birthplace.”
However, renown scholar Cheikh Anta Diop in his book, Kemetic History of Africa argued that Africa was initially named Alkebulan and was widely referred to as Alkebulan before the name Africa was birthed..
As at today, Africa is annoyingly annoying.
Few days ago, I sat and listened to leaders from North, East, West and South of Africa reel out the continents problems and challenges, apportioned blames to everyone but themselves.
Interestingly, whenever (as I always do), with most Africans and their Ostriched leaders, demanding they acknowledge their own contributions in underdevelopment of the continent, they say that I am mole of the West. We hate to take responsibility for anything.
Why should Africa remain poor?
A cursory look at the policy directions of over 70% of the countries especially in critical areas such as the social sectors would tell you all you need to know. Not to talk of unimaginable corruption and profligacy in managing scarce resources.
Africa has 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, an abundance of fresh water and about 300 days of sunshine each year. More than 60% of Africa’s working population is engaged in agriculture, and the soil across most of the continent is rich and fertile. Yet we can’t even feed ourselves.
Africa is home to some 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 8% of its natural gas reserves, and 12% of its oil reserves. But from Nigeria to South Africa is replete with disheartening stories of energy crises.
Africa has 40% of the world’s gold, up to 90% of its chromium and platinum, and the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium in the world. Yet Hong Kong has more influence and control over the global gold market than Africa, while Indian housewives hold 11% of the World’s gold. That is more than the reserves of USA, IMF, Switzerland and Germany put together.
Africa is home to some of the critical minerals that would play major role in the manufacture of everything from solar panels to wind turbines and electric vehicles. A fact that outsiders have positioned themselves for the next scramble for Africa.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, produces over 70% of the world’s cobalt. The DRC and Zambia together supply 10% of global copper, while Mozambique and South Africa hold significant reserves of graphite, platinum metals, lithium and more.
DRC has comparative advantage in the production of sustainable battery materials for high-nickel batteries due to its abundant cobalt resources and access to hydroelectric power. And it would be far cheaper to produce in Africa than in China, the US and Europe, yet Africans are neither ready nor thinking in that direction.
Africa has a pole position in six or seven of the metals essential for energy transition, including cobalt, lithium and platinum metals. Instead of investing in massive human capital development with aim to position for the impending boom and use it to solve the continent’s energy needs first, we are negotiating for sale of the lands that hold the treasures.
Africa accounts for over 40% of global reserves of cobalt, manganese and platinum – key minerals for batteries and hydrogen technologies.
But China is the dominant player in the processing of mineral ores, refining 73% of cobalt, 40% of copper, 59% of lithium, and 67% of nickel. China also dominates green technology value chains, producing over 80% of the world’s solar panels, and over 70% of the world’s lithium-ion battery cells. So it is understandable that China would continue to see and keep Africa as just a mining ground. That is the plank of the ChinAfrique relationship.
And it would remain so unless efforts are made to explore the downstream development, or beneficiation from these opportunities would lift a larger percentage of the population out of poverty through.
Beneficiation is the transformation of a mineral, or a combination of minerals, into a higher-value product, which can either be consumed locally or exported.
But without human capital development which would in turn help develop the much needed infrastructure to drive these projects, Africa would remain a pawn on the chessboard of the global power players.
Moreso, efforts must be made to ensure that resource-rich developing countries also benefit from the new mineral demand by de-risking investments using sustainable and responsible resource development strategies.
While we acknowledge the wrongs that were done to you yesterday which we can’t undo, but the wrongs you are doing to yourselves today are unbelievable.
Happy Africa Day.
Kelechi Deca is Editor-in-chief of The Economy Magazine.