Countless everyday appliances and gadgets would not exist if it were not for the minerals that come from Africa. From cars to cell phones, laptops, airplanes and batteries, much of what makes the world go round depends on resource-rich African nations that are being fueled by a global commodities boom.
Although much can be said of whether the rising demand for these minerals is actually benefiting those at the bottom of the pyramid, it is certain that emergent African economies are growing thanks to these raw materials. If well-managed, Africa’s mineral resources can lift the continent out of poverty and catapult it toward growth and prosperity for all.
Here are some of the everyday objects that are created with African natural resources.
The catalytic converters in cars that are made to reduce pollution are made with platinum and rhodium. South Africa alone produces 72% of the world’s platinum and 83% of the world’s rhodium.
Devices such as cell phones, laptops, and other electronic gadgets are made from tantalum. Africa provides 71% of the world’s tantalum, with Mozambique leading the region as the source of 24% of the global production of the mineral, followed by Rwanda with 20% of the production.
In 2011, more than 57% of the world’s diamonds, nearly 75% of the world’s platinum and 20% of the world’s gold was found in Africa. Botswana is the world’s second largest producer of gem diamonds, and in 2011, the diamond industry accounted for half of the government revenue.
The cobalt used in the electrodes of rechargeable batteries is growing rapidly in demand due to the use of portable electronic devices. In 2011, Africa accounted for 58% of the global production of cobalt, while the Democratic Republic of Congo alone represented 48% of this supply. Mineral mining, however, has been implicated in funding conflict in the country.
Many aircraft parts are made with aluminum alloys, which can account for up to 80% of the jet’s weight. Jet engines also use superalloys that contain cobalt and chromium. South Africa represents 47% of the global production of chromite – used to produce chromium -, while Guinea represents 8% of the world’s production of bauxite, used to make aluminum. Guinea has almost half of the world’s bauxite reserves and is predicted to become a world-leading producer of iron ore in the next decade.
Besides coal and gas, Africa produces 16% of the world’s uranium, which is the source of the nuclear fuel that provides 14% of the world’s electricity.
Last year, Africa produced 10% of all the world’s oil – nearly 9.4 million barrels per day. Leading this production is Nigeria, with 37 billion barrels of proven reserves of oil – enough to keep supplying oil at 2011 levels for the next 40 years.