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The African continent teems with valuable natural resources, but its people are not getting a fair share from this rich bounty.
This was a problem discussed during a three-day mission from the UN University Institute of Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) to the African Development Bank (AfDB) between July22 and 24.
The Institute’s Director, Elias Ayuk, held talks with the AfDB’s Senior Management during the visit to the Bank’s temporary relocation agency in Tunis, Tunisia, and gave a presentation to the Bank’s staff.
In his presentation, entitled “Enhancing Capacities for Managing Africa’s Natural Resources”, Ayuk described UNU-INRA’s work and how it could collaborate with the AfDB in boosting the returns that Africa and its peoples receive from the wealth generated from the continent’s natural resources.
Founded in 1985, the Institute is one of 15 institutes of the United Nations University and is the only one based in Africa. Its headquarters are in Accra, Ghana, and it has five operating units in African universities in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Namibia, Senegal and Zambia.
Through its close collaboration with Africa’s leading universities and research bodies, the Institute contributes to the sustainable development of the continent’s natural resources. Its work helps maintain the quality of the natural environment and to mitigating the effects of climate change.
The African Development Institute (EADI) at the Bank has been working closely with the UN-INRA since 2012 on capacity-building activities.
The director of EADI, Victor Murinde, opened the presentation by welcoming Ayuk and described UNU-INRA as a “long-standing friend” of the Bank.
Ayuk said: “Africa’s natural resources are not being used as an engine of growth on the continent.”
Not only that, he continued, these natural resources are under threat from the extractive industries. For instance, outsiders were coming to Africa and “digging [for valuable and rare earth elements] and not restoring the top soil”.
Africa needs to grow, but the growth should be “green growth”, said Ayuk, and this was an extremely important area of work within UNU-INRA.
His institute has just received funding which will “allow us to have 30 scholars to work on green growth over three years, [to discover] hard facts about how green growth will improve rural areas and bring jobs, income and economic growth.”
The aim is to “unleash the potential of African rural economies through green growth.”
So much of the natural resources that the modern world needs is found in Africa, some of them almost exclusively. Africa possesses 97% of the chrome in the world, 85% of the platinum and 64% of the manganese, Ayuk explained.
Much more remains to be found. Ayuk said that the resources currently known about are “probably only 20% of available resources.”
Ayuk explained the importance of governing and managing the extractive industries in Africa. He listed the four main areas of work done by UNU-INRA when it came to this issue.
The first was understanding and managing the conflicts that arise from mineral extraction.
The second was carrying out needs assessments and capacity development for negotiations, and implementing natural resources-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
Thirdly, his institute encourage large and sustained investment from the private sector in the extraction and value addition to Africa’s agro-minerals such as local phosphate rocks and rare elements.