Locally-processing Africa’s Natural Resources!

Cameroon’s Head of State, Paul Biya, has added his voice to those of other leaders and development experts on the urgent need for Africa to add value to its numerous natural resources before export. The ongoing Second US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC is an opportunity for the continent, on one hand, and the host US government, on the other, to jointly seek ways of improving the lives of their peoples.
A side-line roundtable forum which held on Monday, prior to yesterday’s official opening of the summit, was an avenue for participants, mostly government officials, investors, business leaders, and members of the civil society interested in partnering with Africa to encourage economic growth, to examine the stakes and challenges and chart the way forward. “Advancing impact and innovation on the continent while addressing global challenges and achieving shared global goals,” as the theme of the gathering suggested, paved the way for frank discussions on how a continent lavishly ‘spoiled’ with natural resources, but ironically wallowing in poverty and underdevelopment could be bailed out of the quagmire. In fact, like President Biya bluntly put it, “…Africa is endowed with a huge natural resource potential. The said potential is either under-tapped or tapped to the exclusion of local processing that would generate value added and wealth on the continent.” A real picture on the ground!
In his remarks, Cameroon’s first citizen made it loud and clear that, “One solution is to finance the exploitation and processing of Africa's natural resources on its own soil.” In other words, locally processing the natural endowments so as to add value to them before exporting to needy countries at least after meeting local demand.  A dream, which if realized, would turn the current trend of Africa exporting almost all of its natural resources in raw form and at no substantial amount only to import finished products at almost cut-throat prices. The case of the export of crude oil and the import of finished petroleum products speaks volumes of a continent vastly blessed but whose populations and economies almost beg to live. To say the least, what Africa harvests from the shipment of her raw materials is paltry compared to what she spends on the importation of almost everything she consumes. Wood is exported in logs and furniture imported; same as cocoa beans, coffee, rubber and a host more other raw materials. The vexing situation even worsens the already bad trade balance whose deficit, at varying proportions, is almost a common phenomenon in Africa. Needless saying that with the hike in the main foreign trade currencies: the Dollar and Euro, importers are now carrying sacks of scarce liquidity to exchange for imported goods. The situation even become...



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