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The real challenge for Africa

Over the last century Africa has furnished parliaments, palaces and homes with a wealth of treasures.

It should now be a strong position to trade its rich mineral resources with the rest of the world.

But, on a recent visit to the Ivory Coast, Catherine Bearder MEP discovered how Africa is still struggling to develop a sustainable economy...

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Much of the infrastructure of Europe was obtained from the African continent.

It is no accident the diamond capital of the world is in Amsterdam, or the world's gold and silversmiths and the markets are located in London.

Over the last centuries Europeans have been gilding their parliament, furnishing their homes and palaces with the treasures of Africa.

And extracting Africa's wealth is still continuing.

Access to raw materials is a global challenge. But there are now new players on the world markets other than Europe and America, with China, India and others now looking to feed their insatiable desire for raw materials.

We should remember whilst we talk about minerals what the world is consuming is not just raw minerals.

It includes fish, timber and meat from Africa and the seas that surround it, and these can be better managed to deliver a sustainable source of income for Africa, but the evidence is that this is not happening.

Africa should be in a very good position to trade with all of these countries, but this is being abused.

This is the real challenge for Africa: How to get a more developed and sustainable economy for their people.

These raw materials can only be sold once, and once removed in its raw state the people are deprived not only of a sustainable future, but of the work and skills that they could be using now to grow.

It is worth noting the EU is dependent for the standard of living that it enjoys on resources that it imports.

This is not sustainable and Europe must look to reducing our impact on the planet and live within the world's limits.

The EU's dependency on raw materials is a problem for Europeans, but it also falls short of taking on the long term challenges of overconsumption or the best use of the minerals that they use.

But in Europe we like to think we have laws that enshrine ethical behaviour and respect for Human Rights, but the evidence is that we are failing our trading partners.

Corruption is rife in Africa and much of it is done with the collusion of multi-national companies, take for example the fact that although many international companies have signed up to eradicating child labour in the production of chocolate, it is still being reported 10 years later.

In Tanzania, it has been reported companies pay less in corporation tax and royalties than their worker's pay in PAYE and national insurance contributions.

So, it is not all down to Europe to change our ways. Africa has a responsibility to value its resources and share its benefits with its citizens.

There are some good examples now emerging. While in Abidjan we visited a cocoa processing plant where the processes are clean and efficient and the staff welfare high.

key_cbafricaboat.pngIn Botswana, there are now local people being trained in the art of cutting diamonds, so the product of Botswana is earning high revenues for the people of Botswana and giving employment to local people.

Eco-tourism is one area where the product of Africa, in the form of its wildlife, has always eared money from overseas and this has been reliant on good management of the fragile ecosystem.

These are good examples, but too few and far between. Why is this?

The EU and USA are evolving legislation to bring clarity to the financial transactions involved in mineral extraction, this is in its infancy but should bring more knowledge to local communities who can in turn put pressure on governments to tackle corruption and raise local investment.

Real investment in local businesses and training will also allow local people to reap the rewards of the wealth that belongs to them.

The EU together with African states, in a democratic, fair and transparent way, must work towards the goal of sustainable development by fair and transparent means together.

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