Resource curse still haunts SADC

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Despite the rich endowment of natural resources, in particular minerals in the SADC region, southern Africa is still however haunted by the resources curse, where with an abundance of natural resources, the region continues to be poor. This was the finding of a report released in Parliament this week on a workshop on the natural resources governance in southern Africa that was held at the end of last year in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The report states that southern Africa is endowed with considerable amounts of mineral resources and ranks among the top 10 in terms of their quantities, quality and variety. “In fact, the region’s mineral sector contributes 72 percent of the world’s platinum group metals, 55 percent of diamonds, 41 percent of chromite, 26 percent of gold and 21 percent of zinc,” the report notes.

According to the report, despite the huge abundance of mineral resources and despite the intensified global scramble for access to, and exploitation of its mineral resources, mineral resource-driven, broad-based development remains a farfetched dream for southern Africa.

The rising demand for southern Africa’s mineral resources from emerging economies like South Africa, Brazil, Russia, China and India, is not yet fully exploited for the development of the nations and for the benefit of the people of the SADC region, the report states.

The report says the time has come for southern Africa to realise and utilize the potential that exists for industrialisation through beneficiation and value addition of mineral and other resources for the benefit of SADC countries and their citizens.

“Natural resources are the wealth upon which economies worldwide, including those in the SADC region, are built. Globally, the scramble for access to natural resources has intensified, mainly due to the demand emanating from the emerging economies. This has opened up an opportunity for resource rich countries, such as those in southern Africa, to utilize their natural resources to drive their socio-economic development agenda,” the report says.

This sentiment has been shared many times by Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein, who stressed the importance of value addition of Namibian minerals in the quest for Namibia to become an industrialised country by 2030.

The report says it was agreed during the workshop that the industrialisation strategy for SADC must be positioned within the global and regional context of economic development in the 21st century. It was recognised that industry is becoming increasingly skills-, technology- and capital intensive and less labour intensive. There is premature de-industrialisation and also a shift from stand-alone factory location to clusters. Trade, investment and service are key for the value chain.

The report notes six quantitative strategic goals which include lifting the regional growth rate of real GDP from 4 percent annually to a minimum of 7 percent a year. The aim is also to double the share of mineral value addition in GDP to 30 percent by 2030 and to 40 percent by 2050. The report also recommends the increase of the share of medium and high technology production in total mineral value addition from less than 15 percent at present to 30 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.

Manufacturing exports must also be increased to at least 50 percent of total exports by 2030 from less than 20 percent at present and market share must be built in the global market from the export of intermediate products to East Asian levels of around 60 percent of total manufactured exports.