PARADOXICALLY, despite the prospect of wealth that accompany the discovery of natural resources in Africa, such endowments all too often impede than rather than accelerate development. Zimbabwe is no exception.
Natural resources have been shown to play a key role in the conflicts that have plagued a number of African countries over the last decade, both motivating and fuelling armed conflicts. Revenues from the exploitation of natural resources are not only used for sustaining armies, but also for personal enrichment and building political support. As a result, they can become obstacles where predatory coalitions involved in exploitation of mineral resources are unwilling to give up control over these resources.
As long as the majority of African communities face poverty with increasing unequal distribution of income that is fuelled by skewed ownership of mining resources, Africa will continue to be underdeveloped.
In the case of Zimbabwe, although the country is at “peace”, the exploitation of mineral resources continues to be used by the ruling ZANU-PF party’s predatory cabal as a source for self-enrichment and patronage at the expense of development.
The African Development Bank estimated in the last decade, Zimbabwe has lost close to US$12 billion worth of mining revenue that have found their way out of the country through illicit financial flows ranging from secret financial deals, tax avoidance and illegal commercial activities. It is also estimated that Zimbabwe loses close to US$50 million a month in smuggled gold.
The Zimbabwean mining sector is technically classified into three classes: Large-scale, small-scale and artisanal mining. Zimbabwean legislation recognises large-scale and small-scale mining but does not differentiate between the two. Of the three classes of mining, artisanal mining employs by far the most people: 500 000 (or 10 times the number of people employed by large-scale mines). Small-scale and artisanal miners produce a third of Zimbabwe’s total gold output. Most of this gold is smuggled out of Zimbabwe resulting in massive illicit financial flows (IFFs).
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