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Cleansing Zambia, DRC of the curse of resources

President Hakainde Hichilema says Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are positioning themselves to provide raw materials for the electric car industry.

“…To talk about trade and investment, I think that story you know it very well. And the new issue is with regard to climate change. There’s a move away from fossil fuel to electric cars. And one of the things we are discussing with President Tshisekedi is to use our resources for our countries. Copper, cobalt, tanzanite, lithium, in the electric car business which is the future for motor vehicles,” says President Hichilema. “And these two countries have a lot of resources endowed between us – Congo DR and ourselves. So, we will organise ourselves so that we can start bringing investments that will allow us to take our place in the new electric car industry as the gravitation process begins. Wonderful, isn’t it? We want to establish electric car batteries right here in our countries, the two countries. So, we are talking. I’m sure the official business is that about electric cars, electric batteries.”
There’s need to cleanse Zambia and more importantly the DRC of the curse of natural resources. It’s critical that our countries start not only adding value to their extractive resources – minerals – but getting the right value in terms of revenue.
But doing so requires focused leaders. A leadership that champions national good, places value on sovereignty. A leadership that recognises Zambia’s right to its natural resources for equitable national development. We say so because for decades our natural resources have, by and large, enriched multinational corporations and also lined our politicians’ pockets leaving our communities with nothing except pollution – environmental degradation. In the case of the DRC, it’s not only poverty, squalor but unending conflict. War in DRC is a result of the abundance of essential minerals that propel the Western economies – the industrial complexes of the rich North.

During her trip to the DRC, then as US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton recalled that, “At a town hall meeting at St Joseph’s School, I encountered an air of sullen resignation among the young people of Kinshasa. They had reason to feel hopeless. The government was feckless and corrupt, roads were non-existent or barely passable, hospitals and schools were woefully inadequate. For generations their country’s rich resources had been plundered, first by the Belgians, then by the notorious dictator Mobutu [Sese Seko] (whom, I am sorry to say, profited extensively from his manipulation of US aid), and then by the rulers who succeeded him.”

Further, on resource Africa, Clinton noted that, “Many countries in this situation have fallen victim to the ‘resource curse,’ squandering their potential windfalls due to corruption and poor governance. Leaders have lined their own pockets or grasped for short-term profits at the expense of long-term sustainability. Foreign governments and corporations have exploited weak institutions while leaving most people as poor as before. But not in Botswana. Its leaders set up a national trust fund that invests diamond revenues in the country’s people and infrastructure. As a result, Botswana has thrived. USAID and the Peace Corps were able to pack up shop and go home. Democracy took root, with regular, free, and fair elections and a strong human rights record…If more African nations followed the example of Botswana, many of Africa’s challenges could finally be surmounted. Africa’s best days can be ahead if we get a hold of this whole question of the use of natural resources and who benefits and where the revenues go.”

Going by Hakainde’s words, Zambia and the DRC should indeed position themselves to supply raw materials to the electric car industry worldwide. These two nations have suffered economic degradation for a long time, chiefly caused by both local and international economic saboteurs. We hope that this is the beginning of a renaissance for the economies of the two neighbours. The vision should not end at intention, words!

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