Natural resources have always not improved lives in Africa – Diop

Makhtar Diop
Makhtar Diop

Natural resources such as oil, gold among others found in Africa have not been used in order to transform the lives of people living on the continent, a top World Bank official has said.

Mr Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa observed that economic growth in most resource-rich African countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people. He however, made an exception to Botswana.

“So far, with one of few exceptions being Botswana, natural resources haven’t always improved the lives of people and their families,” Mr Diop wrote in his recent blog post titled “The case for sharing Africa’s new minerals wealth with all Africans”.

He added that “From what I see on my constant travels to the continent, economic growth in most resource-rich countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people.”

Giving details of resources find, Diop indicated that in country after country in sub-Saharan Africa, new discoveries of oil, natural gas and mineral deposits have been making headlines every other week it seems.

“When Ghana’s Jubilee oil field hits peak production in 2013, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day. Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin fields could potentially produce even greater quantities. Billions of dollars a year could flow into Mozambique and Tanzania thanks to natural gas findings. And in Sierra Leone, mining iron ore in Tonkolili could boost GDP by a remarkable 25% in 2012,” he wrote.

According to him, many resource-rich countries tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the global Human Development Index, which is a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income.

Mr Diop in strong terms hoped that “all the people living in these resource-rich African countries also get to share in this new oil and mineral wealth.”

In order to effectively make sure that all people, especially the poorest, share in the new minerals prosperity, Mr Diop urged governments to embark on safety nets and social protection programmes. According to him, these (safety nets) are designed to protect vulnerable families and promote job opportunities among poor people who are able to work adding that “this in turn makes communities stronger and more secure, while reducing painful inequalities between people”.

In Diop’s view, social protection programmes are already central to poverty-fighting, higher growth national strategies across Africa, and have played a significant role reducing chronic poverty and helping families become more resilient in the face of setbacks such as unemployment, sudden illness, or natural disasters such as droughts or floods.

Social protection is a smart, strategic, and proven means to sustaining the remarkable economic and social transformation underway across many countries in Africa today, he wrote.

By Ekow Quandzie

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