At the recent Heritage Foundation event, “Shattering China’s Energy Dominance in African Minerals,” Thierry Tanoh, Cote d’Ivoire’s former Minister of Oil and Energy, and Francois Baird, founder and chairman of Baird CMC and founder of Fair Play Trade Movement, spoke about the issues facing Africa, as the world looks to its rich deposits of minerals to fill future energy needs.
The speakers stressed the importance of a strategic partnership, in which the U.S. first invests in Africa and its development, and then tries to make business deals that are a win- win for both it and the African continent. They believe such an approach would not only benefit the two parties involved, but also the world.
As the presentations underlined, the people of Africa need to have something to gain from their own mineral richness, or they will simply use the resources for themselves, driving out the forces looking to only profit off of them.
Both Thierry and Francois emphasized the importance of the rule of law on the continent and the need to create a stable environment for business and investment.
Francois Baird laid out a plan for those seeking African minerals, especially the U.S., with its powerful economy. He noted that investing in the education of Africa’s youth, the rule of law on the continent, independent court systems, and freedom of the press, was the way to go about it. In other words, help Africa build itself up, then invest in business there. Thus, everyone wins.
He also noted that addressing hunger in Africa through charity has not helped much in the past, as the people’s real needs are political stability and food security provided by a strong economy, which can only exist if it is based on a solid rule of law.
The two speakers noted that by 2100 Africa will be the continent with the largest and youngest population, and that investing in that great future potential starts now.
Francois’ encouragement was to plan for the long term in all areas, including security. He noted that, as the springboard to the Antarctic -- another important, disputed and sought-after area of the world -- Africa would welcome a stronger naval capacity on its shores and training for its people. But most importantly it is in need of help to stamp out corruption, since, as Francois noted, “Nothing withstands bad political leadership.” Only then can solid and worthwhile investments in the continent be made.
He observed that the full force of the powerhouse which is the American economy can be put to great use for now and for the future in this region. But, importantly, the message was that the work needs to begin now, as later will be too late. Those betting on Africa’s riches are not waiting. They are taking action now.
But some, such as China, are already too deep in the wrong type of approach, trying to force their way into the continent to benefit itself. If this is done at the detriment of the native population, then it is not sustainable.
The only way to long-term sustainability is a mutually beneficial association. This is where the U.S. can shine, bringing to the forefront not only its business acumen and talent in creating and nurturing relationships, but also its desire to help both the people of Africa and its own citizens.