Africa’s riches trigger new strategic scramble
Soldiers parade during the closing ceremony of a joint military exercise between African, US and European troops, known as Flintlock, last year in Saint Louis, United States. (AFP)
2017/10/22 Issue: 128 Page: 11
The Arab Weekly
Beirut- Africa has been battered by war and instability for decades, a situation that seriously impeded its economic and political development.
However, it remains strategic — witness the formation of the US Africa Command, or Africom — because it contains approximately 30% of the planet’s mineral resources, including oil and gas as well as uranium, cobalt, coltan, gold and copper.
The semi-arid Sahel, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east, is a key region in this quest for vital resources, the same imperative that led to the scramble for Africa in the 19th century by Europe’s imperial powers.
“Whoever controls Mali, controls West Africa, if not the whole of Africa,” observed Doulaye Konate of the Association of African Historians. “That’s why this region has become so coveted.”
Investment in African oil and gas alone is expected to reach $2 trillion over the next two decades.
US intervention in Africa was not just an extension of America’s war against global terrorism, it was to consolidate US interests in the continent.
Arab North Africa, particularly Algeria, Egypt and Libya, plus Nigeria, contain 91.5% of Africa’s proven oil reserves, estimated at 117.2 billion barrels, nearly 10% of the world total. There are large deposits in Tanzania, Uganda and Western Ghana, with potentially large reservoirs in South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Developing such resources depends on stability and that seems to be a distant prospect, with indications that the terrorism threat is growing.
Africa, a proxy battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, looks like it is becoming the venue for intense economic rivalry between Washington and Moscow.
The prospects of an economic boom are endangered by the deep-rooted culture of corruption and human rights abuses by Africa’s ruling elites that foster terrorism and are likely to intensify once oil revenues start to flow.