War on Want: UK looking at Africa as a low cost resources supplier

“The continent of Africa is today facing a new colonial invasion, no less devastating in scale and impact than that which it suffered during the nineteenth century.”Thus, the executive director of War on Want, John Hilary, introduces “The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources”, the latest report published by the NGO based in London and edited by Mark Curtis, historian and expert of development policies.

Photo credits mgafrica.com

The study has been realized with the intent to demonstrate how the major British companies, helped and backed by the British government, are at the forefront of a new ‘scramble for Africa’ with the aim of securing the control of raw materials.
In his investigation, War on Want has identified 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange that control resources in Africa which include 6.6 billion barrels of oil; 3.6 billion tons of coal and about 2.254 tons of gold, worth a total of at least 1.05 trillion (810 billion pounds), equivalent to the GDP of Mexico.
Research has found that 36 of the 101 companies listed in Paternoster Square exercising control of mineral resources in sub-Saharan Africa on a surface larger Germany-wide. These included some of the leaders in the sector such as Rio Tinto, BP, BHP Billiton and Glencore, the largest trading company of raw materials in the world headquartered in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The profits made by British companies and their shareholders through the exploitation of Africa’s key raw materials (oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum), are not equitably shared with the countries of origin and that is why the British government is encouraging a sort of neo-colonialism.
While the last decade attention has been paid to China and the rapid expansion of its influence in Africa, the report reveals that in the same period the UK has used his authority to guarantee British business an increasing share of the riches of continent.
The report notes that the interested companies would benefit far more revenue to the funds that the region receives in the form of development aid. The Sub-Saharan Africa collects 103 billion pounds a year in aid, loans and foreign investment, counter records an output of 148 billion pounds in lost revenue, evaded tax revenues and costs involved, achieving a net loss of 45 billion pounds a year.
The collaboration between the companies and the British government is facilitated by what researchers critically define the system of 'revolving doors', referring to the passage of officials with public duties to private companies, with a high risk of creating conflicts of interest.
Among the 'revolving doors' that facilitate relations between Whitehall and British mining companies operating in Africa, there are plenty of famous names, such as Baroness Shriti Vadera, appointed in 2007 Minister for International Development by the then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
After the experience of government, which ended in September 2009, the Baroness of Indian origin will become director of BHP Billiton, the largest mining company in the world. Among the ‘revolving door’ it is also mentioned Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a UK diplomat for 36 years before a stint as a non-executive director at Rio Tinto, the third largest mining group in the world.
The same group, in agreement with the government of Madagascar, for many years is exploiting the deposits of ilmenite (titanium oxide) of Fort Dauphin region, located on the southeastern tip of the large African island.
The report certifies as Rio Tinto through QIT Madagascar Minerals Project (QMM) has turned Fort Dauphin in a dramatic example of environmental devastation, with serious impacts on the lives and access to resources of the communities in the area.
However, almost all the English companies cited in the report have always claimed to have put in place social responsibility policies, which before the actual start of a project ensure that local communities are adequately consulted and environmental impact it is minimized.
The corporate also remember how commercial enterprises produce income in developing countries, as an alternative to foreign aid.
The study, however, denies these claims noting that a significant number of British companies invested in Africa through subsidiaries, blamed for causing ecological damage, perpetuating territorial disputes and striking disadvantageous deals for host governments and their citizens.

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