Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
I was left somewhat traumatised after going to see a screening of a controversial new Hollywood-backed short released this week, aimed at highlighting the link between minerals mined for British mobile phones and the use of rape and murder as weapons of war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The highly graphic campaign video – appropriately called Unwatchable – starts with a little English girl picking flowers in the garden of her family’s multi-million pound mansion in a picturesque Cotswolds village.
This tranquil scene is shattered in an instant when armed men descend on the house, gang-rape her sister on the kitchen table and then murder her parents. It ends five minutes later with the girl running for her life.
Is the soaring gold price a ticket to a better life for struggling freelance miners in Burkina Faso?The impoverished West African country is trying to revive its gold mining industry, spurred by the global financial crisis and the need to reduce the economy’s dependence on cotton.Near the village of Mogen in northeastern Burkina Faso, artisanal miners are engaged in a dangerous hunt for gold in hand-dug pits.Landslips kill miners almost every year, although mostly during the rainy season. When it’s dry, children help sift the soil in search of the nuggets that pay for food and school fees.On a good day, a miner will unearth around five milligrams of gold, which earns about $10. But often they come up empty.Jeremi Nacanabo, who helps run an association of informal gold miners, told Reuters Africa Journal: “We don’t have the technology to take out the gold. Right now we’re working in a traditional way, which creates enormous problems and causes many accidents.”But gold mining in Burkina Faso is experiencing a revival after a halt in the late 1990s caused by poor management and inadequate capital.Analysts say poor prices for cotton, the country’s main export, have rekindled interest in mining. The financial crisis is tempting investors to buy low-risk assets such as gold, which is now selling for about $1,000 per ounce.Burkina Faso revised its mining codes in 2003 to attract foreign investors with tax breaks.The goal is to join the ranks of Africa’s top producers — South Africa, Ghana and Mali — within the next three years.In the dusty northeast of the country, the Taparko-Somita mine, which is run by theCanadian-listed, Russian-controlled company High River Gold, is the first of four gold mines that have begun operating in the past two years.Together they produced 5.5 tonnes in 2008 and they are heading for more than that this year. The government takes a 10 percent free stake in each mine.Local miners, who once worked for themselves, are finding jobs with the mining companies. They earn a salary, work in safer conditions and are given training.But even with the recent gold rush, Burkina Faso is still struggling to revive its economy and provide basic services for its 13 million people.Of course everyone can’t be part of the gold mining revival, but global demand for Burkina Faso’s natural resources could at least provide some trickle-down benefit for the economy.
She was greeted by headlines from the country’s newspapers, expressing collective national pride for her achievement. “Welcome home, Caster, our champ. Caster, this nation is proud of you and we stand behind you, from Cape Town to Musina.”, screamed the Johannesburg-based The Times Newspaper.
Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki has guarded his country jealousy since independence, pushing a self-reliant attitude that encourages Eritreans to rebuild Eritrea for themselves.
But in order to develop the potentially lucrative mining and trade sectors, he will have to open up the country more to foreign money and therefore possible foreign influence.
Before the G20 meeting, there was a lot of talk inside and outside Africa about making sure the continent did not get left out while the world’s richest and most powerful set out plans to save their own economies.******So how did Africa fare?******On the face of things, perhaps not too badly.******“Our global plan for recovery must have at its heart the needs and jobs of hard-working families, not just in developed countries but in emerging markets and the poorest countries of the world too,” the communique says in paragraph 3.******In concrete terms:******• Resources available to the IMF will be trebled to $750 billion.***• There will be support for a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights of $250 billion – something that could help poor countries***• There will be support for $100 billion more lending by Multilateral Development Banks (those include the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank)***• There will be $250 billion support for trade finance.***• Use will be made of resources from IMF gold sales “for concessional finance for the poorest countries”.***• Global financial institutions will be strengthened and reformed, ensuring that emerging and developing economies, including the poorest, must have greater voice and representation.”******The point on the gold sales was something for which Africa, represented at the summit by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, had made a particular push.******But not all appeared so impressed. In East Africa based Business Daily, Allan Odhiambo’s piece was headlined “Africa thrown to back burner at G20 meeting.”******According to Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper, President Umaru Yar’Adua’s main lament was the fact that Africa’s most populous country was not there (South Africa, with the continent’s biggest economy, was represented).******South Africa’s President Kgalema Motlanthe was quoted as saying he was “quite pleased” with the results of the summit.******How well do you think the G20 did for Africa? Will Africa really have a bigger say over the global financial system in future? Will that help?