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Africa in the Middle of a Western Mineral Scramble

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Africa is once again facing the winds of a new “Scramble for Africa” as it is blowing with Western nations set their sights on the continent’s abundant natural resources. This time, the prized assets are not slaves or ivory, but strategic minerals like copper needed to power the clean energy transition.

As the US and EU frantically seek to reduce reliance on Russian exports, they are aggressively expanding efforts to tap Africa’s mineral wealth. The latest move comes via $250 million in US financing to upgrade the “Lobito Corridor” railway connecting landlocked Zambia’s copper mines to Angolan ports.

This follows a long history of Western exploitation of Africa dating back to colonial times. But in contrast, China has invested over $155 billion in African infrastructure over the past 20 years with a focus on mutually beneficial development.

The West claims it now wants to “assist” Africa in diversifying its trade routes. But its true motives are laid bare – challenging China’s growing partnerships on the continent and reasserting neo-imperial control over Africa’s resources and destiny.

As global powers jostle for influence, will Africa retain sovereignty and chart its own course of self-reliance? Or will it once again be treated as a pawn in the contest between great powers? 

The stage is set for a high-stakes geopolitical drama over Africa’s mineral wealth. Stay tuned as we delve into this complex saga and uncover who really stands to benefit from the latest manoeuvres by world powers. Will Africa emerge as victor in controlling its own destiny? Or will it once again be subject to external powers vying for dominance?

Africa finds itself in the eyes of the predatory west as nations like the US and Europe trip over themselves, in what some consider to be another harmful and vampiric race for Africa’s minerals – adding onto long and exhausting list of actions by the west to undermine Africa and its resources for their benefit and its downside. 

The world is aiming to transition to clean energy sometime in the future. To get there, countries like the US need increasingly precious metals to “bid” on clean and innovative future technologies. But we already know and understand by now how the US usually does business around Africa – use and abuse but never truly cooperate. This time, the plunder is copper residing in the mines of Zambia.

The United States government recently announced its support for the development of the “Lobito Corridor”. The “Lobito Corridor” provides landlocked countries like Zambia and the DRC an alternate route to export copper, cobalt and other minerals through the Angolan port of Lobito. It will make use of an existing “Benguela Railway” running from Kolwezi, from the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Lobito on the port of Angola, upgrading it along the way. Moreover, It will also aim to build about 500 km of new railway lines connecting Zambia to the “Lobito Corridor”.

One part of the funding comes from a $250 million in American financing via the DFC, an agency mandated to exclusively back U.S. corporate interests abroad. Another part of the funding which comes from a Trafigura-led commodity group totaling to about $555 million. 

Interesting enough that the US suddenly has a great interest in restoring the “Benguela Railway” after decades of neglect and lack of interest from the west in anything related to African Infrastructure. 

What is more than likely, is countries like the US continue to prey on African resources under the guises of western lies like “diversifying” the supply chain. It is a blatant and evil ploy to continue to control and further undermine African sovereignty and prosperity.

While framed as “development assistance,” make no mistake – this corridor is not being built to benefit Africans, but to serve Western corporate interests.

Self proclaimed “saviour of nations” the United States, attempt to divert attention from their true motives of challenging China’s influence in Africa and carving out a stake for western corporations that abuse Africa’s mineral wealth, by claiming that they want to help Africa continue to develop and diversify its trade routes

What the west lacks in complete transparency, it substitutes with trying to undermine China’s efforts and relationship with Africa and its nations. Which is funny enough considering the abhorrent colonial history of the “Benguela Railway” that they themselves are aiming to rebuild right now. 

A history of colonial activity dating back to the railways’ inception in the early 1900s by the British and Portuguese, only to be further utilised in the 1940s for the benefit of the West as the US transports uranium from a mine in Congo to be used for its infamous Manhattan project.  

Disarray was what could only describe the state the Railway suffered from as it was destroyed and largely left to rust and collect dust after the end of Angola’s Civil war decades ago.

China took a bold initiative and invested upwards of $1.83 billion into the effort of constructing and rebuilding the “Benguela Railway” in Angola. What started as a mutually beneficial partnership in 2006 resulted in upwards momentum for the Angolan economy and the creation of over 25,000 local jobs alongside training thousands of Anglans to become certified technicians assisting the project, ended in 2019 with Angola being officially handed the rebuilt and revitalised railway.

It is also not very difficult to imagine why the west and particularly the US are jealous of Africa having an ally they can stand with side by side instead of Africa caving in to endless colonial demands.

Portrayals of Chinese investment as predatory and neocolonial have always dominated the western media pipeline. But do we have to open the history books and re-educate the masses about which country has a true legacy of colonialism and exploitation in Africa? Europe ruthlessly plundered the continent for resources and slaves for centuries.

Should we just forget what happened during the covid-19 pandemic with western nations wholly neglecting to send Africa the much needed virus vaccines when billions have been manufactured? 

Should we forget about the IMF ruining 19 African nations’ economies after they made the mistake of listening to what should have been sound economic advice for decades? Only for this advice to ultimately lead to austerity policies ruining nations within, high debts that risk debt distress, high cost of living, and the undermining of any form of wider and meaningful development across the continent. 

Africa would never forget the insulting display of condescension from the west, that starts with an ‘innocent’ helping hand, only for this same hand to rob you blind of everything you are worth. But what the west wants you to seriously forget is when Africa screamed for covid-19 aid that it never received, China was more than happy to respond by sending over a billion vaccine doses. 

The west demands you forget how Africa has always had a great relationship with China. But it is not up to the west to determine and conclude if Africa is in need of assistance or not. Africa alone can control its destiny and certainly its partnerships.

With investments of over $155 billion spanning the past two decades and aiming to assist in Infrastructure projects across Sub-Saharan Africa and several other African nations, it is not hard to see why Africa enjoys a great and beneficial partner in China. And it is not stopping anytime soon as China is stepping up with a $1 billion commitment to rebuild the TAZARA railway connecting Zambia’s copperbelt to the Tanzanian coast as part of its global infrastructural “Belt and Road” initiative. The railway enjoys a rather rich history in contrast with the “Benguela railway” as it was originally built with Chinese assistance in the 1970s as a symbol of “China-Africa friendship” and cooperation. China now looks to restore this railway’s capacity, which further showcases their long-term commitment to Africa.

This critical lifeline reflects China’s ongoing role as a partner in Africa’s development, in contrast to Western powers who seem intent on controlling the continent’s resources.

Actions speak louder than words and China has delivered through and through when it came to promises of cooperation as its actions throughout its history with Africa reveals a partner that aims to build and not plunder and burn.  

In stark contrast, Western powers seem to only reappear in Africa when their strategic interests are threatened. The U.S. and EU are suddenly channelling funds to a competing rail project linking Zambia’s copper belt to the Atlantic coast, in a transparent bid to challenge China’s influence. It is ultimately Africa that may end up losing a lot if it satisfies the demands of the west and this geopolitical contest.

The west have now realised they could get back into the colonisation game and participate in the stripping down of this great and rich continent.

In the words of the African Union’s Chiza Charles Chimuya “This time around we want to do things different.”. As Africa seeks to chart its own course, it must retain sovereignty over its resources and infrastructure. Western “development aid” comes saddled with endless conditions meant to keep Africa dependent.

Centuries of Western colonialism and ongoing neo-imperial policies are the root cause of issues and underdevelopment in Africa. We should firmly be opposing arrangements that primarily benefit Western capital at the expense of Africa’s growth and self-reliance. 

The decision before African nations is clear – continue being manipulated by Western powers or take ownership of your resources and development trajectories.

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