Rui Namorado Rosa: Resource Wars menace Africa

2008-01-09

Richard Moore

Original source URL:
http://www.sandersresearch.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1329

Africa under further menace of Resource Wars

By Rui Namorado Rosa
Jan/07/2008

Africa is eyed by imperialism as being simultaneously very rich (in natural 
resources) and extremely poor (in people¹s living standard), thereby releasing 
surpluses to be exported to the world market, satisfying the egotism of rich 
countries and feeding the profits of trans-national corporations, compromising 
the future industrialization of the continent at the expense of present level of
living of Africans.

I

Africa supports a population of about 900 million people, living in about 50 
countries, many of which are somewhat artificial constructions inherited from 
the European colonial administrations set up in the XIX century.

The social structure of the Continent is one of extremes, from deprived 
populations, many facing famine, disease and war, to the wealthy elites and war 
lords supported by colonial or neo-colonial economic or military connections,

whose income they derive from the exploitation of natural resources from which 
huge profits are extracted by trans-national corporations.

Africa is a prime producer of raw minerals of great industrial importance. To 
name just a few of those with the greatest economic and technological value and 
their producers: hydrocarbons (in Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola); diamonds 
(in Botswana, R.D. Congo, R. South Africa and Angola); gold (R South Africa, 
Ghana, Mali, Tanzania); platinum group metals (R. South Africa); tantalum and 
niobium (R. South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda); uranium (Niger, Namibia); 
phosphate (Morocco, R. South Africa, Tunisia); copper (Zambia, R. South Africa, 
R.D. Congo, Botswana).

II

Africa holds about one tenth of the world¹s reserves of petroleum and natural 
gas and is currently delivering nearly one tenth of the world¹s annual 
production. The past and forecast production of conventional oil in the African 
continent add up to an ultimate oil production estimated of nearly 180 Gb 
(billion barrels)‹of which nearly half has been produced up to now‹leaving the 
remaining half to be extracted in the future. The four principal producers are 
Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola, which are all members of OPEC, together 
holding more than 80% of the estimated future production of the continent. Other
producers, in decreasing order of shares, are Egypt, Gabon,  Congo, Sudan, 
Tunisia, Chad and Cameron.

Production commenced in the 1930s and grew rapidly in the 1960s as major fields 
in Libya came on stream. Production was then reinforced by Nigeria and Algeria, 
supplemented by smaller producers, in the 1970s. There was an overall early peak
of production in 1979 of 6.7 Mb/day (million barrels a day), then production 
fell sharply in the wake of the second oil shock, due to OPEC quota constraints,
before recovering and attaining an overall peak of 7.8 Mb/day in 2006. Future 
production is expected to decline at about 3% a year, to about half that level 
by 2025.

Africa also holds substantial additional deepwater resources in the Guinea Gulf,
especially off the coasts of Angola and Nigeria, which are at an early stage of 
depletion. This production is expected to grow rapidly to peak around 2012 at 4 
Mb/day, and decline steeply afterwards to near exhaustion by 2030.

Africa also holds substantial natural gas deposits in Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt 
and Lybia, plus some minor reservoirs elsewhere. Total gas reserves are 
equivalent to about 46 Gb, the larger in Algeria, which currently produces at a 
rate of 560 Mb/year. The related production from gas liquefaction plants (LNG) 
is expected to increase from about 500 kb/day in 2005 to attain a plateau of 
about 1.3 Mb/day from 2020 onwards.

Taken together, the total production of all liquids (conventional and deepwater 
oil and liquefied natural gas) is expected to reach a peak of about 12 Mb/day 
around 2012, but then fall rapidly to about half that level by 2025.

As to oil consumption, it has grown five-fold from 530 kb/day in 1965 to almost 
2.5 Mb/day in 2006. Per capita consumption stands at about one barrel per year, 
which is extremely low when compared with industrialized countries (that is at 
least ten times higher). Accordingly, excluding a rapid increase in domestic 
consumption, one expects Africa will go on being a net exporter until 2030, 
albeit at an ever decreasing rate. As such, Africa attracts the eager attention 
of oil dependent powers, namely the European Union, the USA and P.R. China.

On the other hand, African oil-importing countries face mounting challenges as a
result of the world¹s dwindling oil supplies and growing oil prices. The hardest
hit are the poorest. For instance, Senegal's budget deficit doubled in 2006, 
inflation accelerated and growth slowed as oil prices increased in the 
international market and the state-owned petrochemical industry had to shut down
for long periods.

Were Africa to attain a fourfold increase of its present average income level‹to
reach a middle income level by world standards‹it would absorb all its 
hydrocarbon production capacity, becoming unable to export them to the world 
market. Africa is eyed by the world capitalist system as being simultaneously 
very rich (in natural resources) and extremely poor (in people¹s living 
standard), a regrettable combination that nevertheless is the origin of the 
surpluses that are exported to the world market, feeding the consumerism of rich
countries and the profits of the trans-national corporations at the expense of 
present standard of living of Africans and compromising the future 
industrialization of the continent.

III

Between 1965 and 1999 there were seventy-three civil wars in the world, almost 
all driven by the struggle to control natural resources such as oil, diamonds 
and copper. It is a fact that countries relying on one or two major export have 
more than a one-in-five chance of civil war, a proportion far higher than in 
countries with a broad spectrum of foreign trade. Highly specialized economies, 
based on either intensive or mono-cultural agriculture or over-exploitation of a
few mineral resources and focused on serving foreign interests, tend to corrupt 
ruling elites and divert human and material resources from the economic 
activities that satisfy social necessities, depriving the population at large 
from their basic needs. Resource wars with their devastating impacts on 
civilians became common in the twentieth century. Many of these were in Africa.

Oil rich countries of Africa (namely Nigeria, Gabon, Sudan, Congo, Equatorial 
Africa, and Chad) have long histories of coups, military rule and dictatorship. 
Millions have died of hunger, disease and murder while wars over oil, diamonds, 
copper, and other mineral resources made life-generating economic activity 
difficult or impossible to proceed.

Consider Congo, one of the resource-richest countries on the planet: a half 
dozen foreign countries have armies deployed there, supporting countless rebel 
groups who fight to control rich deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and 
tantalum/niobium. Despite its riches, Congo carries ominous foreign debts.

Angola, the fifth largest oil producer in the continent, only recently is 
recovering from a long civil war, backed by foreign powers, during which war 
factions brutally looted huge amounts of diamonds, ivory, and other resources to
be sold abroad in exchange for weapons. In Angola, a million people died in the 
civil war, and 40 percent of the population has been displaced. Only a small 
fraction of the current income from the state-owned oil company is actually 
applied to develop the country to the benefit of its population.

In Nigeria, exceptionally rich in oil and gas, the environment of the Niger 
Delta is being destroyed beyond recovery and the resources are being depleted, 
while people are killed by army mercenaries protecting Shell oil.

Equatorial Guinea, where a third of the population has been killed or driven 
into exile, receives half a billion in oil revenues, thereby ranking sixth in 
the world in terms of per capita income, nevertheless ranking third from the 
bottom in the human development index scale.

Newly oil-exporting countries such as Sudan and Chad are under threat of 
becoming new business opportunities for the International Oil Corporations and 
foreign National Oil Corporations to take handsome profits.

Sudan¹s capital Khartoum is booming with skyscrapers and luxury hotels financed 
by the oil revenues, whereas, well short of the most basic needs, equity and 
reconciliation is still to be attained in the western Darfur region. This 
happens in parallel with so-called sanctions imposed by the USA and European 
Union, officially aimed at pressing the local government to promote peace, but 
in fact ³justify² foreign military intervention in the conflict, to create 
favourable conditions for the exploration of the underground mineral resources 
(including water).

Across the border, Chad's government has applied part of its oil revenue to buy 
weapons rather than develop the country's bare infrastructures.

Nearly every country in Africa is a case study in this list of sinister 
examples. Africa bleeds, notwithstanding its abundant wealth, constrained by the
world financial institutions¹ rulings, explored and looted by neo-colonial 
foreign investment, by open or disguised interference in the form of foreign 
humanitarian aid or aid for development, or straight on violence fed by foreign 
weapons in exchange for essential raw-materials or precious materials.

IV

Africa is likely to suffer continued conflict in the short term, given Africa's 
undeveloped reserves of a number of highly prized mineral commodities. Moves by 
a number of outside political powers, beyond the ex-colonial European countries,
have developed within the last decade in an accelerated fashion. The evolving 
African map of external connections and investment deals shows clearly the rate 
at which the world¹s main protagonists have begun playing the end game for oil 
and other scarce raw materials, on which the modern global economy is most 
dependent.

Explored and neglected Africa still appears as an open continent in the eyes of 
the world powers. It has been relatively free of the USA¹s hegemonic control so 
far. A recent tour by the Iranian President to seven African countries, followed
by the announcement of oil development agreements between the National Iranian 
Oil Company (NIOC) with the Nigeria counterpart (NNPC) and the Ivory Coast, are 
a sign of this. As it is, the active economic cooperation policy entertained by 
China in developing infrastructures and resources in several countries, on 
bilateral basis and via the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, convened by China 
and the African Union. But the USA designated West African oil resources as 
constituting a national strategic interest in 2001. And the European Union is 
attempting to strengthen its economic links to the continent, profiting from the
foothold acquired by the former colonial powers there, of which the November 
2007 summit between the European and the African Unions was a token but also a 
sign of growing African assertiveness, for which the broadening global 
competition for investment and trade added support.

China pays billions of dollars from its bank reserves through the China National
Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) to acquire stakes in promising oilfields, as it 
recently did in Nigeria for developing offshore blocks. Command over highly 
specialized technological means are becoming vital to attain access and 
productive advantage over rival partners, particularly in Africa where 
geological settings are demanding and oil resources are diffuse. Chinese 
corporations, backed by universities and subsidiaries, are investing heavily in 
research and development, thereby earning recognition across the world. 
Meanwhile, China is in terms with Nigeria, Sudan, Chad and Angola to take shares
in developing their oil reserves, in order to increase the supply of African oil
for its fast growing home economy.

The recently announced United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is a new military 
headquarters devoted solely to Africa, the result of an internal reorganization 
of the USA military command structure. It officially will be responsible for the
military relations with the African countries. Some African leaderships were led
to view AFRICOM as an opportunity. The USA has already been offered Liberia to 
host AFRICOM, and is looking at Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya,
Djibouti, and Ethiopia as possible locations, while having secured access 
agreements with Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Gabon and Namibia. In the front and wake 
of this imperialist move, some African nations are receiving significant 
military aid and weapons sales; most of this has gone to oil-rich and compliant 
states.

Accordingly, during the last decade several US Special Forces bases have been 
erected in several parts of the continent, from the Horn of Africa in Djibouti 
and Somalia through West Africa where their presence is growing rapidly. Thus 
AFRICOM has already secured a foothold in the East, close to the oil 
transportation lanes exiting the Persian Gulf. In Djibouti, at a former Foreign 
Legion base, Djiboutians as well as elements of the Ethiopian, Ugandan and 
Kenyan armed forces have been receiving training on small naval patrol tactics 
and ³counter terrorism² operations. However, the Gulf of Guinea in the West, 
having developed later but holding its own prize, cannot be neglected. There are
now launch-pads in Ghana, Mali and Senegal; mini-bases were installed in Gabon; 
maritime control patrol commands were anchored off the coast of Nigeria; and a 
major naval base in the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe is at advanced stage 
of construction.

AFRICOM is the official acknowledgement by the USA of Africa¹s growing strategic
importance; it also demonstrates the way ageing hegemonic power sees the 
exercise of its influence in attaining its economic and geo-strategic 
objectives. Financial and technological competition can both serve the capital 
interests of all parties and exasperate their inherent contradictions, bringing 
in the menace of ³military solutions². What part will the multitude of military 
installations and combat groups play to secure the capital interests of the USA 
and the EU? What part will proxy warfare play on African soil? The competition 
for resources is unfolding across Africa as in the past, but the depletion and 
upcoming scarcity of energy, soil and water, and essential commodities for 
sustaining the ³economic growth² in the ³developed world², threatens anew with 
old and novel fashions of resource wars.

The present rush for African natural resources to be exported might turn out to 
be a path of no return for Africa, given that Africa will thus become 
dispossessed of those scarce resources that would be essential to its future 
economical development, such as hydrocarbons‹crude oil and natural gas. African 
countries see the viability of evolving to higher stages of development, 
including added industrial value to their own raw-materials, becoming strongly 
undermined. There was a window of opportunity that opened with the national 
liberation and de-colonization, but that is now about to close again. Will 
Africa have its future denied?

Source: Regional Assessment ­ Africa, ASPO Newsletter, n.º 68, August 2006

The Beginning of the Oil End Game featuring original FTW maps, Michael C. 
Ruppert, From the Wilderness, January 25, 2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Regional Assessment ­ Africa, ASPO Newsletter, n.º 68, August 2006.

Oil Price Rise Causes Global Shift in Wealth, Steven Mufson, Washington Post 
Staff Writer, November 10, 2007.

The Beginning of the Oil End Game featuring original FTW maps, Michael C. 
Ruppert, From the Wilderness, January 25, 2005.

The Coming Resource Wars, Michael T. Klare, TomPaine.commonsense March 07, 2006.

Resource Wars, William K. Tabb, Monthly Review, January 2007, Volume 58, Number 
7.

Titans make Africa their stomping ground, Bright B Simons, Evans Lartey and 
Franklin Cudjoe, Asian Times, March 13th, 2007.

"The Legacy of Odious Debt and the Future of the Congo", William Minter, Editor 
of Africa Focus Bulletin, in The American Friends Service Committee, 2006.

China in Africa: A relationship still in the making, Nick Young, China 
Development Brief, 2007.
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