Why are the G8 bothered about Africa? A report by the Council on Foreign Relations (a right-wing US think-tank) published last year sheds light on the real issues involved.
The report, Freedom, Prosperity and Security, aptly sums up the interests of G8 governments and their business supporters.
It says: “Africa’s poverty, marginalisation and security all impinge on the well being and security of the G8 countries”.
Security is a primary motive. The report says: “Security concerns are becoming especially important in Africa”. It points to terrorist attacks in 1998 on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the presence of al-Qaida training camps in the Sahel region as matters that “should engage” G8 members.
And the costs of security are highlighted. “UN peace keeping costs in Africa [are] nearly $4 billion… posing serious budget problems for G8 members”. The report points to troops from G8 countries for Sierra Leone in 2000, Ivory Coast in 2002 and Congo in 2003.
Economic reasons are also paramount. The report says: “Africa is also fast emerging as a significant supplier of US energy needs… Central and West Africa will account for one in four new barrels of oil to come on the global market in the next five years.” In fact over the next decade Africa will probably become the US’s second-most important supplier of oil and natural gas after the Middle East.
In addition Zaire and Zambia have 50% of the world’s cobalt reserves and Zimbabwe and South Africa 98% of the world’s chrome reserves. South Africa also has 90% of reserves of platinum.
And most members of the G8 are dependent on other raw materials from Africa such as manganese, vanadium, gold, antimony, fluorspar and germanium and diamonds.
The costs of aid are also a factor. “The continent is currently the largest beneficiary of assistance from the IMF” and “G8 countries already provide up to three-quarters of all overseas aid to Africa.”