10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa
Many are moving to eradicate child labor in Africa by 2025. According to The International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO), child labor defines any hazardous work depriving children of their childhood and their education. Africa is the continent with the highest child labor rates at 72.1 million children to date. However, it has also seen an increase in awareness and a shift toward eradicating the practice. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Africa and the progress people are making to eradicate it.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Africa

  1. Eradicating Child Labor: One in five children is employed against their will in quarries, farms and mines. However, efforts to eradicate child labor have been valiant in areas such as building schools, supporting agricultural cooperatives, advising farmers on better production methods and paying farmers more for production.
  2. Child Labor End Date: Sub-Saharan Africa employs 59 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, according to the ILO. Eradication initiatives such as Alliance 8.7 proposed 2025 as the desired end date of child labor in Africa. For example, Uganda, Tanzania and Togo have made progress by training 25 child ambassadors and providing education to child labor employers on the negative impacts of employing children.
  3. Hazardous Work: In Africa, 31.4 million children are in hazardous work including forced labor, prostitution and working in mines. There are 168 million children globally in farm labor, 98 million in agriculture and 12 million in manufacturing. The largest commodities that child labor produces are gold, tobacco, banana, sugarcane, cotton, rubber and cocoa.
  4. The Cocoa Industry: In 2015, the U.S. Labor Department reported that over 2 million children worked on cocoa farms in West Africa. Chocolate companies like Mars, Hershey and Nestle have signed a deal to end the use of child labor in their chocolate production. Additionally, Fairtrade America offered farmers more money for certified cocoa, cocoa that farmers produce without child labor, to prevent child labor and alleviate poverty.
  5. The Harkin-Engel Protocol: According to Fairtrade and World Bank, farmers in Africa receive $1,900 and that amount is well below the poverty line for a typical family. Moreover, 60 percent lack access to electricity and UNESCO states that the literacy rate is only 44 percent. The Ivory Coast signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol to monitor and account for people involved in child trafficking, and eliminate child labor in the cocoa industry.
  6. Child Labor and Crises: Countries experiencing crises have the highest number of child laborers. These countries might experience challenging circumstances such as unemployment, lack of social services and extreme poverty. Alliance 8.7 elects the efforts and focus that delegates of the African Union, U.N. agencies and government officials’ support in combating social and economic issues.
  7. Child Labor and Family: Most child laborers do not receive pay and many often work on family-owned farms or companies because their families cannot afford to send them to school. Children often must work in communities suffering conflict, especially in the case where the main breadwinner dies. The Foreign Affairs Committee is working on legislation to address child labor and supply chains.
  8. Child Labor Ages: Fifty-nine percent of child laborers are between the ages of 5 and 11, 26 percent are between 12 and 14 and 15 percent are between 15 and 17. In a 2018 survey, a Tulane University Researcher found that people who were not the children’s parents brought at least 16,000 children to West African farms. Reports also stated that 40 percent of Burkina Faso children are without proper birth records and for that reason, no one has been able to identify them.
  9. Child Laborers Under 5-Years-Old: Child laborers under the age of 5 have also grown in number and they face hazardous work conditions as well. For example, they might spend the day doing hard manual labor such as swinging machetes, carrying heavy loads and spraying pesticides.
  10. Solutions: A better understanding of how people should implement policies and revise them are among the discussions taking place toward ending child labor. The Harkin-Engel Protocol, The United Nations, the United Kingdom Modern Act, Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, Anti-Slavery International and the African Union Action Plan are all commitments in place to end child labor and modern-day child slavery. Barack Obama’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act is to prevent imports from entering the U.S. that child labor has produced, while the African Union Action Plan aims to eliminate child labor in Africa altogether.

These 10 facts on child labor in Africa are examples of the progress toward eliminating child labor by 2025. Continued efforts in preserving the well being of children in Africa shows the nation’s determination in the total eradication of child laborers. Oversight and accountability will continue to play an integral part in its success.

– Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

The Power of Mining and the Future of Eritrea

Eritrea is a poor country located in the horn of Africa. Its high poverty rate of 50 percent is a burden on Eritreans seeking greater well-being. Although the country is poor, the mining sector has shown considerable promise for the future of Eritrea. The GDP growth rate increase from 2.2 percent in 2010 to 8.7 percent in 2011, which made it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world at the time. Its current GDP growth rate is high at about 4 percent. One reason for its high average growth is the mining sector.

Abundant Natural Resources

Eritrea has many natural resources that account for its growth, such as copper, granite, potash, gold and marble. The United Nations Development Programme believes the Colluli Mining Share’s potash project in Eritrea has the potential to boost its economy while also appealing to the country’s sustainability agenda. The Australian mining company Danakali and the Eritrean government share the project 50-50.

The largest known deposit of potash or SOP in the world exists in Eritrea. Globally, SOP is currently consumed at a rate of seven million tonnes annually. Seamus Cornelius, the Colluli company director, said that Eritrea could meet that demand for at least 30 years. With the implementation of the project, locals could find work at the mines, especially those in poverty.

Economic Effects

The U.N. report also reported the impact of the Colluli mine. Reports showed that SOP could make up to 50 percent of exports in Eritrean by 2030 and comprise at least 3 percent of Eritrean GDP by 2021. It could also have a strong impact on agriculture productivity, indirectly employing upwards of 10,000 people by 2026. Another positive aspect of the project is that it will not affect any animals or plants because the mine is located in an uninhabited salt basin.

China’s Sichuan Road & Bridge Mining Investment Development Corp. is also seeing potential in Eritrea, particularly in copper, gold, silver and zinc. Estimates determine that more than 574,000 tons of copper, 930,000 ounces of gold and 1.2 million tons of zinc could be found in four deposits near the city, Asmara. July 9, 2018, marked the end of Eritrea’s conflict with Ethiopia, which increased notice from foreign investors interested in Eritrea’s mines such as China. Due to peace between the two nations, the future of Eritrea appears optimistic.

The Ports Rehabilitation Project

The World Bank upgraded and rehabilitated two major ports in Eritrea, Massawa and Assab through a $30 million project that was approved in 2011. Results were substantial, particularly for the Massawa port. Bulk cargo handling exceeded the original target of 1,100 tonnes by hitting 1,457. This was a 71 percent increase from 850 tonnes per ship per day in 1997. Natural resources are a top exporter and the Ports Rehabilitation Project exponentially improved productivity and efficiency. It especially enabled easier access for petroleum imports into Eritrea.

Corruption and Privatization

Canadian mining company Nevsun Resource had a 60 percent stake in the Bisha Mine, which mines zinc and copper. Accusations of forced labor caused the company to appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court in January 2019. One of the largest gold producers in the world, Zijin Mining Group Company, acquired Nevsun. After the human rights incident, Nevsun began training its employees on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and now has an ongoing presence in infrastructure projects including water accessibility and supply in Eritrea.

Eritrea has one of the fastest-growing economies due to the strength of its mining sector. With the help of nongovernment organizations, external companies and other parties, the economy could become stronger. Growth from not just from the mining sector but also the agriculture sector would increase possibilities for the future of Eritrea.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Sierra Leone
Child labor is defined as work that harms children mentally and physically and deprives them of their childhood. Child labor is illegal in many countries, but some countries have found loopholes in their legal frameworks which enables the use of children in some of the toughest work environments. Sierra Leone‘s minimum employment age is 18, but it lacks the ability to enforce its laws. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Sierra Leone.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Sierra Leone

  1. Child labor affects 72 percent of children in Sierra Leone making the grand total almost 900,000. The children are between the ages of five and 14, and most are young boys. Employers put them to work in alluvial diamond mines and tunnels, which the world knows as the blood diamond industry. They often work in the agricultural industry harvesting coffee, cocoa and palm oil as well.
  2. Since the majority of parents cannot afford to send their children to school due to distance, costs of school uniforms and books, teen pregnancy or fear of sexual abuse from teachers, some parents put their children to work in mines, plantations and farms. In worst-case scenarios, parents may even sell their children into child labor because of poverty.
  3. Children working in diamond mines typically only make $0.15- $0.60 per day if they do not have a contract. If an employer does contract them, a child’s limit is $2.10 per day. They do not fare well as rebel groups own most of these mines and they threaten children with violence if they do not work.
  4. Pools of muddy sludgy water or puddles infest most diamond mines which attract mosquitos carrying deadly mosquito airborne diseases such as malaria. The potential medical complications for these children do not stop there. Many suffer respiratory issues, malnutrition, starvation, headaches, eyestrain, dysentery, dehydration, diarrhea, cholera and sexually transmitted diseases from their involvement in the fishing and mining industries, and sexual exploitation.
  5. The amount of child trafficking, sexual abuse and rape in Sierra Leone has provoked President Julius Maada to declare that Sierra Leone is in a state of emergency. In 2018, people reported 8,500 instances, and a third of these cases involved minors. Sierra Leone’s First Lady and other activists have suggested that that number may be higher because people do not report all instances.
  6. Sierra Leone’s economic growth heavily depends on diamond mining, which amounts to approximately half of its international exports.
  7. In the year 2013 and 2014, Tulane University’s study determined that there was a 51 percent rise in the illegal use of children working in the cocoa industry. Child labor drives the cocoa industry not only in Sierra Leone but also Cameroon, Guinea and Ghana. Some industry members claim that approximately 99.5 percent of child labor happens because of families rather than large corporations.
  8. Many disadvantages plague the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. Once a case enters to the criminal justice system for further exploration, they do not resolve. In 2017, Sierra Leone’s government identified 34 victims of sex trafficking and it did not bring the culprits forth to justice.
  9. The National Child Rights Bill has been working hard since 2007 to exterminate child trafficking, early marriages for children and enlistment in armed forces to name just a few. It has done this by providing a framework for how to care for children.
  10. Children enlisted in labor often emerge with psychological illnesses due to danger and abuse. Mental disorder is often associated with disgrace or dishonor in Sierra Leone which affects all child laborers seeking help or guidance. Lawfully adequate mental health care services are tremendously scarce resulting in a 99.8 percent treatment gap.

Hope for Lives

Ending child labor in Sierra Leone will take more than just a village. Thomas Bobby Smith, a Sierra Leone native, founded Hope for Lives, a successful nonprofit. This organization delivered seven donated hematology and immunoassay machines to a local clinic and installed them. In 2013, it revealed the Hope for Lives Library at St. Anthony’s Primary School in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. The library included 15-20 computers, open to 3,000 students upon fair rotation. It also offered constant computer lessons taught by a tech leader and computer and printing services for public use. Hope for Lives is doing all it can to give Sierra Leone’s children and youth options for success. Thomas Bobby Smith kept his momentum strict and faithful by sending another 50 computers to Sierra Leone’s remote areas in hope of creating successful computer labs.

The implementation of the National Child Rights Bill and work from Sierra Leone’s very own President, Julius Maada, are making strides to end child labor. Organizations like Hope for Lives should help revitalize the spirits of children and youth as well.

– Niesha Braggs
Photo: Flickr

illegal mica minesIf you’ve ever used glittery lipstick or eyeshadow, there’s a good chance the products used contained mica, a brittle, shiny mineral which creates a glittering effect in everything from makeup to paint to toothpaste. According to the Responsible Mica Initiative, there’s a one in four chance that the glitter in that makeup came from an illegal mine that supported child labor.

Where does Mica come from?

Approximately 90 percent of the world’s mica comes from India, particularly from region of Jharkhand where the world’s largest mica deposits can be found. Despite its mineral wealth, the region is plagued by poverty and hunger. Of the 33 million people who live in Jharkhand, 13 million are living below the poverty line. This makes Jharkhand one of the poorest regions in India.

Almost half of the children there are underweight while nearly half of its children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth. In addition, illiteracy is also common. In the rural areas of Jharkhand, the percentage of women who are literate is barely more than 45 percent. Because of this poverty, child labor has become common. Having no other options, many families allow their children to find work instead of going to school.

The mica mines in the region, many of which are run by cartels, are more than willing to take advantage of this. While employing miners under the age of eighteen is illegal, it is estimated that around 20,000 children and teenagers in Jharkhand are working for mica mines. However, it’s hard to say if this is the true number, given that all of these children are working for mines that do not officially exist.

The Dangers of Mica Mining

Some of these children are as young as five, and the nature of their work leaves them completely unprotected from the danger of the mines. These “ghost” mines, as the illegal mines are sometimes called, operate without any sort of safety regulations. The hollowed-out caves often collapse, frequently crushing miners or trapping them underground.

While the true number can’t be found, some estimates claim that at least two to five children die in the mica mines each month. Many of these deaths are never reported because of the risk they would pose to the mica industry. One mica miner recalled the story of a woman who had fallen into the mines and died, but her death certificate claimed that the cause of death was a fall from a two-story building.

Even without that risk, other dangers include the risk of being stung by scorpions that hide under the rocks and cutting themselves. In addition, many miners end up breathing in silica dust, which can lead to silicosis, a chronic respiratory condition that leads to breathing difficulties and eventual scarring in the lungs. Many workers also run a high risk of contracting asthma or black lung disease.

To add insult to injury, miners usually receive a pittance for their work, especially underage miners. One child reported that his usual daily pay was about 50 rupees or less than $1. Worst of all, reports on illegal mica mining show that ghost mines aren’t an anomaly in Jharkhand. Some claim that at least 70 percent of the region’s exported mica is illegally mined.

The Solution

How will the makeup industry and makeup buyers distance themselves from the cruelty and corruption that supplies so much mica? One answer is to stop using mica or to ensure that the mica they use is ethically sourced. As the world becomes aware of the plight of the Jharkhand miners, this is what many makeup companies are doing. In January 2018, the company Lush began using synthetic mica, which is produced in a lab.

Other companies are calling for a more ethical supply chain. The Responsible Mica Initiative, an alliance formed between cosmetics companies including l’Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder, has the goal of eradicating child labor in mica production within the next five years. Along with their efforts to ensure that their companies only use ethically sourced mica, the Initiative is working with the Indian government and local authorities to empower communities in the Jharkhand region in hopes of cutting off the region’s dependence on predatory mica mines.

Cracking Down on Illigal Mines

Meanwhile, the Indian government has been doing what they can to crack down on illegal mines. After an ongoing investigation, including the investigation of several unreported deaths in the Jharkhand region, the Indian government has begun pushing to legalize mica mining again. If more mines become legal, the logic goes, they would have to allow for accountability regarding how they treat their workers and they wouldn’t be able to employ children or teenagers.

Many experts agree, however, that the key to stopping predatory illegal mines is ensuring that the people of Jharkhand do not have to depend on those mines to survive. This is what the Responsible Mica Initiative is aiming to do by empowering villages in rural Jharkhand. Its empowerment programs involve efforts to have more children enrolled in school, to educate people on alternate sources of income, to improve healthcare in villages and to strengthen local institutions.

In a region afflicted with poverty and crippled by its dependence on mica, the issue goes far deeper than simply eradicating illegal mines. However, with the persistance of makeup companies and organizations like the Responsible Mica Initiative, the region may be able to climb out of poverty and break the cycle of child exploitation that has plagued it for so long.

– Keira Charles

Photo: Flickr

 

Artisanal Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo is both one of the world’s most mineral-rich countries and consistently one of the poorest. The mining industry makes up a significant part of the country’s economy with over 90 percent of its revenue coming from the export of these minerals. Many of these mines in Congo are artisanal mining operations; small-scale entrepreneurial operations that often exist in a legal and economic gray zone.

The Dangers of Artisanal Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo

While mining is a dangerous job, the conditions of artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular, are problematic. These conditions include unsafe mining conditions for the workers, a lack of rights for those employed in many of Congo’s mines, as well as permanent environmental damage coming from mining methods. Further, the unregulated nature of the artisanal and small scale mining industry can lead to the proliferation of issues like child labor and conflict resources.

A lack of appropriate safety equipment is an endemic issue in many mines. Many of the resources that miners extract is toxic. Air quality is a consistent issue and face masks are rarely available. Gold, copper, cobalt and other dust pose numerous health issues. Heavy metal dust can lead to respiratory issues, and one can easily absorb the fine particles of these toxic metals through the skin, causing numerous problems. Mine conditions are also dark and dangerous. Long hours and a lack of structural reinforcement in the mines mean that accidents are common and tunnel collapses are not infrequent.

Artisanal Mining Impacts the Environment

Environmental issues are also a great concern. Chinese mining companies are particularly egregious when it comes to a lack of environmental awareness. Many companies make promises to pay for environmental restoration for the area when a mining operation shuts down. Wastewater runoff, heavy with toxic minerals, often destroys the livelihoods of those that originally lived near a mining site. The environmental destruction turns once arable land fallow. Moreover, some companies intentionally mislead local communities about their impact, both environmentally as well as economically.

Can Artisanal Mining Help People?

However, one should note that artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not inherently problematic all on its own. Small-scale mines can help pull people out of poverty when they function properly and regulate efficiently.

An International Conference on Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining and Quarrying occurred in Livingstone, Zambia, in September 2018. One of the key things that came out of the three-day event was the Mosi-oa-Tunya Declaration at the end of the conference, which called for the recognition and regulation of artisanal mines. The declaration stated that improvements must happen in general regulation to formalize and stabilize the artisanal mining industry. Amongst these reforms, a call for the improvement of the status of women in mines and for the reduction of child labor stood out. These reforms need to also consider the economic, societal and regulatory realities. The Mosi-oa-Tunya Declaration also called for supply chain integration to occur to help highlight the opportunities to eliminate money laundering and the exploitation of workers through conflict resources. Resource scarcity and ever-increasing prices for minerals also help drive reforms. The German automaker BMW partnered with the Swedish chemical company BASF, as well as Korean electronics firm Samsung and GIZ GmbH, a German aid and development organization. The companies engaged in a pilot program to push for mine reforms at a cobalt mine in Congo in order to improve efficiencies and consolidate BMW’s cobalt supply chain. If the program succeeds, it will expand to other mines and other materials.

The US Makes Legislative Moves

The U.S. made significant legislative moves to help combat the most abusive practices in artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While people mostly know the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act for its Wall Street reforms and various consumer protections in the financial services sector, it also has provisions surrounding the tracing of the most common conflict materials: columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, gold and wolframite, which are metals key to tech and jewelry manufacturing. While companies do not have to proactively and publicly make a declaration about the status of the sourcing resources, they must track the sourcing of these materials. If the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) request it, companies must also be able to provide proof that they did their due diligence to ensure that the resources used were conflict-free.

There is no penalty for the use of conflict resources, however, nor is there a ban from the use of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some believed that this disclosure alone would create public pressure to move away from conflict resources from the region. However, after a 2012 ruling in a case brought by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable against the SEC, the original mandatory disclosures significantly changed after it found that it violated the First Amendment. Indeed, manufacturers have to disclose that their products are DRC conflict-free if they cannot ensure a conflict-free status proactively.

Further, there are many academics and think tanks that study this issue. Tom Burgis, for instance, suggests that to fix the problems in artisanal mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other underdeveloped countries, Congo has to stop exporting its resources. He believes that only by keeping the resources within the country and shifting the country’s economy toward manufacturing goods made of those extracted resources, can the so-called resource curse break so that the lives of those working in the mines can become better.

John Dolan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Consequences of Interconnected Poverty: Angola and The DRC
The latest story in a seemingly endless news cycle about violence and mining in central Africa focuses on the neighboring countries of Angola and The DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Both countries are mineral rich, but this story, along with many others, is rooted in the poverty that resulted from the exploitation of these resources by Western countries. 

The Violence Between Angola and the DRC

How did Angola come to host such vast numbers of DRC migrants and refugees that a humanitarian crisis was possible? In recent years, many Congolese diamond miners have crossed the border between Angola and the DRC to take advantage of Angola’s mining industry. In the DRC, the supply chain and mines are more government regulated, creating a lower profit margin for miners. Apparently, Angola’s president, João Lourenço, recently decided that, because the government was not financially benefitting from these migrations, the Congolese must leave.

This has catalyzed a series of violent expulsions by Angola’s military and police about which The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNCHR) has expressed concern. Congolese have been murdered, raped, looted, burned out of their homes, separated from their children and stranded. The Kasai Province of the DRC, which is on the country’s northeastern border with Angola, has become overcrowded with more than 200,00 of expelled migrants. The UNCHR cautions that such an influx to an already unstable region could cause a humanitarian crisis.

A Brief History of Angola

Angola and the DRC have similar, intertwined stories of colonial rule, civil wars and poverty that have been integral in creating the current problem. The Portuguese established a settlement at Luanda Bay in 1576, which eventually became the colony of Angola. Wealth from natural resources desired in the West and the Portuguese involvement in the Atlantic slave trade fueled the colony at the expense of its native people.

A revolution in Portugal allowed Angolans to gain its independence in 1975. However, leaders of different nationalist movements within Angola clashed, leading to a civil war that, with some interludes, ravished the country from 1975 to 2002 with an estimated 1.5 million Angolan lives lost and another 4 million Angolans displaced.

While the end of the civil war allowed Angola to focus on harnessing its natural resources, the country’s history still manifests in extreme poverty. The improving economy has mostly benefitted the wealthy while 20 percent of the population remains unemployed and five million Angolans live in slum conditions.

The diamond mining industry that the economy depends on was originally created for European gain, meaning that safety standards for Angolans were never established. In Africa as a whole, an estimated one million miners earn less than one dollar a day, a wage below the extreme poverty line. Besides having few wage or labor regulations in Angola, an estimated 46 percent of miners are between the ages of five and 16. It is a sad irony that the industry the economy needs fuels poverty and oppression.

A Brief History of the DRC

Angola and the DRC have followed a similar developmental pattern, and therefore, experience poverty similarly. The DRC has also progressed from colonial rule to civil wars and violence, creating poverty that manifests in a growing gap between the rich and poor and an economy based on unjust mining conditions. This led to the violence and conflict between the two countries that are so prevalent in the current news cycle.

The area that now constitutes the DRC dates back to The Berlin West African Conference in 1884-45, where the Great Powers of Europe at the time officially divided the land, making their own colonial boundaries that ignored tribal and ethnic distinctions. After the division, Belgium’s King Leopold II officially began exploiting the DRC’s natural resources and its inhabitants with slave labor.

The DRC became independent in 1960. However, the instability of the new government and continued attempts of outside involvement from Belgium led to the Congo Crisis, essentially five years of violence and political instability. Another civil war, involving Angola and most of the surrounding area in what some term Africa’s World War, consumed the region from 1997-2003.

Because these wars were rooted in the colonial past, infrastructure and stability were lacking. An estimated six out of seven people in the DRC live on less than $1.25 a day. Approximately 2.9 million Congolese have been internally displaced by the violence. Since Belgium focused on the abundant natural resources, jobs like mining became the main vocation for Congolese. Additionally, Belgium neglected to oversee education in the DRC, leaving many unequipped for jobs outside the mines. The DRC once supplied a fourth of the world’s diamond supply, but that number has dropped significantly in recent years, in favor of other resources like cobalt, leaving the remaining diamond miners even less prosperous.

Interconnected Poverty Between Angola and the DRC

Angola and the DRC have become linked as these DRC miners seek opportunities across the border. The countries’ colonial pasts have made them dependent on natural resources as part of their attempts to combat poverty and recover from civil war. But, in this case, attempts to financially recover have led to more violence as both the Angolan government and the DRC’s miners strive to earn enough money from diamond sales.

There is a political undercurrent as well due to the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down since his maximum constitutional mandate ended in 2016. Interconnected government concerns due to the close proximity and a historical tendency for government conflict to become violent have been part of Angola and the DRC’s relationship for years.

In Africa’s World War, Angola supported a rebel coalition that removed DRC military dictator Mobutu Sese Seko from power in 1997, assisted the DRC in combating rebel movements from Rwanda and Uganda in 1998 and supported President Joseph Kabila at the start of his term. This war caused many refugees to seek asylum in Angola in the first place, and fear of another such conflict if Kabila does not step down, seems to be reverberating in the current violent expulsion.

However, based on the economic growth seen since the war’s end, the potential exists for two countries to improve their poverty rates. Angola has seen an average annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase of 8.68 percent with the help of foreign investment and high oil prices. Although in the past two years there have been GDP decreases, the overall trend is positive. The DRC’s GDP has also averaged increases since 2002, although it has fluctuated more. These growth rates reveal hope for those living in poverty in Angola and the DRC if the governments can avoid further violence and instability and begin to combat gaps between the rich and poor.

– Charlotte Preston

Photo: Flickr

the Economy of the Republic of BuryatiaIn the Far East of the Russian Federation lies a vast region characterized by a diversity of topographical features and a rich ancient history. The remote Republic of Buryatia increasingly serves as a regional economic powerhouse, rich in natural resources and human capital. Below are 10 facts about the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.

10 Facts About the Economy of the Republic of Buryatia

  1. The Republic of Buryatia is seeing a gradual decline in absolute population numbers. A 2016 census recorded 983,209 people in the republic in 2017. This is down from a total population of 1.02 million in 1997. A shrinking population may lead to adverse consequences for the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  2. Both industrial and agrarian means of production are well represented in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Forestry, food production, fuel and power, construction, the paper industry and the processing of both metal and wood account for the vast majority of industrial production. Mining operations explore, develop and extract coal, gold and non-magnetic metals. Agricultural operations feed much of the Russian Far East by producing dairy, meat, flour, cereals and animal feed.
  3. The cumulative value of exports from the Republic of Buryatia for the second quarter of 2017 measured approximately $374 million. A persistent decline in revenues from total exports began in 2012 though it has been subject to significant oscillations. In contrast, the republic imports $28 million worth of goods. The value of imports year to year exhibits some instability but still indicates a general decline over five successive years.
  4. The energy sector of the Republic of Buryatia relies greatly upon the region’s abundant coal reserves. Balance reserves totaling approximately 2.6 billion tons alongside deposit reserves of more than 1.1 billion tons may adequately supply the regional economy for another half-century. The government’s asset records attest to 13 brown and hard coal deposits subject to processing with another six undergoing development. 
  5. Despite the vitality of the coal sector, a decline in the demand for electricity may hinder the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Power plants satisfy local requirements so much so that the republic exports electricity to neighboring regions like Mongolia. However, electricity consumption by the republic’s forestry and agricultural sectors remains low compared to the transport, communications and power plant sectors. Electricity use in 2017 was substantially lower than in the 1990s.
  6. In 2017, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent of the population in Russia. That same year, unemployment in the Republic of Buryatia affected 9.6 percent of the region’s population. But this most recent statistic is part of a systematic downward trend in the region’s unemployment rate. From a high of 17.8 percent unemployment in 2003, the decline to a 9.6 percent employment rate in 2017 attests to a steady improvement in this sphere of the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  7. The poverty rate in the Republic of Buryatia significantly oscillates year to year, yet data indicates a general decline in poverty. In 2015, 17.9 percent of the republic’s population lived beneath the poverty line. According to data collected in 2014, the average impoverished person in the Republic of Buryatia requires an income increase of 1.9 percent to meet minimum subsistence levels. 
  8. The freshwater reservoir Lake Baikal plays an essential role in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Measuring 636 kilometers across and 80 kilometers wide, Lake Baikal hosts an estimated 250 unique animal species out of an approximate total of 2,500 local species. Besides the diverse biome, rich mineral deposits abound. Half a century of development in the Lake Baikal region yielded more than 700 mineral reserves. 
  9. Individually-owned farms comprise 83 percent of the Republic of Buryatia’s total crop production. By contrast, only 57 percent of the total crop production of the Russian Federation emerges from farm households. However, only 11 percent of the total land of the republic belongs to individually-owned agricultural operations.
  10. In 2015, the rural demographic of the Republic of Buryatia numbered 402,520 people. The following year, the rural demographic rose 0.29 percent to 403,698 people. The urban demographic consisted of 579,511 people in 2016, a 0.28 percent increase from the previous year. Though comprising 58.9 percent of the republic’s population, data indicates a steady decline in the urban population from 1997 onward.

Though some data indicates that the economy of the Republic of Buryatia faces considerable obstacles, the general picture of the region is one of economic vitality. As a resource-rich region with a productive population, the future may bode well for this remote corner of the Russian Federation.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Drones improving South Africas mines
Toward the end of the 19th century, explorers found diamonds near South Africa’s Orange River.

This marked the beginning of the chain of events that helped turn South Africa into a mining juggernaut.

Despite the danger associated with the work in this industry, it remains crucial to the nation in terms of employment and gross domestic product.

Today, advanced technology, especially drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have the potential to transform South Africa’s mining economy.

The nation has high unemployment and poverty rate and it remains to be seen if drones in South Africa have the power to help or hurt poverty in the nation.

Mining and South Africa’s Economy

Mining industry accounts for the biggest industry in South Africa and mined goods are the country’s biggest exports.

This industry is a large part of South Africa’s economy as the country is rich in coal, diamonds, gold and platinum.

In regards to this, South Africa has attracted large foreign direct investments in the local mining industry.

Nearly 500,000 South Africans worked in the sector and this contributed to around $22 billion in country’s GDP in 2017.

Drones in South Africa’s Mining Industry

Commercial drone use is gaining popularity in South Africa so much that Engineering News has declared 2018 as the year of the drone.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has regulated drone use since 2015 and currently allows 24 companies to incorporate UAVs in business operations.

There are somewhere from 30,000 to 50,000 drones in the country, but more the potential for the increase is present.

Almost 340 applicants are waiting for approval of drone-use. For one of the nation’s largest iron ore producers, Kumba Iron Ore, drones are a large part of the business and drilling is high-tech.

The company uses drones and machines to drill holes and drop explosives for excavation.

In previous times, miners would spend long days sitting on construction machines for the excavation process, but drones have sped up and simplified it.

Kumba also uses autonomous drills and is one of only two companies to adopt this technology worldwide.

Drones are also being used to monitor drilling sites, keeping humans away from dangerous working conditions.

The drones outfitted with cameras and scanners can provide data on operations and current conditions in the mine.

Another company that is using for drones in mining is Exxaro Resources Group in partnership with Rocketmine.

Rocketmine uses UAVs for terrain surveying, stockpile inspection, blast monitoring and mapping services and contracts out drones throughout Africa.

Exxaro’s Grootegeluk coal mine is taking advantage of drones for surveying and mapping in order to increase production through better efficiency.

Effects on Human Jobs

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the market value of drone-powered solutions is over $127 billion.

Drones are revolutionizing mining and keeping more people away from dangerous working conditions.

Unfortunately, men and women in this sector are this could potentially be even worse in the future.

“The sad reality is,” writes Robert J. Traydon for news24 “there will be fewer and fewer jobs available in large mining operations as robots continue to take over.”

That sentiment is hardly universal. The drone industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for qualified drone pilots.

More specifically, this sector could create more than 30,000 jobs yearly. A rather large caveat is that workers will need to be experienced or high-potential drone pilots. Unskilled laborers may receive no benefit from drone mining.

Mining Drones in South Africa and Poverty in the Country

Poverty is a huge issue for the people of South Africa as the nation faces both unemployment and persistent poverty levels.

Over 25 percent of the workforce is unemployed and almost half of South Africa’s people are chronically poor.

South African men and women need real solutions. Mining is a huge part of the economy and any changes in this industry will have dramatic effects on the South African workers.

If mining drones in South Africa can provide more jobs this could be a good thing for the nation.

Unfortunately, the drones could take human jobs and negatively impact poverty and unemployment. It is still unclear how changes in the mining sector will play out overall for South Africa’s economy and people in general.

There is no doubt that drones in South Africa can make working conditions safer and more efficient for miners in the country.

The only question is the real effect drones will have on South African unemployment and poverty.

Drones take away manpower at dangerous mining sites, but also create jobs for drone pilots and others through the supply chain.

It remains to be seen how this resource-rich nation fully incorporates drones and whether these tools ultimately increase or decrease poverty in the country.

Just like the case in many other sectors, the effect of mining drones in South Africa is neither black nor white when it comes to alleviating poverty.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Child Miners
An estimated 1 million children worldwide work as miners. These are 10 facts about child miners in the world today.

Key Child Miners Facts

  1. Child miners can be found in parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Most of these children, from economically downtrodden backgrounds, are either uneducated or school-dropouts, with the exception of a few who attend both work and school. They work in inhumane and dangerous conditions to extract minerals and ores in high demand in the global market.
  2. Mining is considered one of the worst forms of child labor as the hazardous working conditions in mines adversely affect the safety and health of children.
  3. One of the facts about child miners working in the artisanal mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is they contribute to the production of cobalt, coltan, copper and tin. These materials are used in the fabrication processes of modern electronics like laptops and cell phones. Of the 2 million miners in DRC’s artisanal mines, 40 percent are children and their earnings range from $0.75 to $3 a day. In 2017, Amnesty International warned the world of the use of child labor in cobalt mining and urged large companies to be wary of purchasing unethically mined cobalt.
  4. Poverty, lack of educational and economic opportunities, corruption, lenient law-enforcement and the soaring demands for mined materials in the global market are primary reasons for the prevalence of child labor in mines.
  5. Cobalt mining often involves injuries, death and health hazards. Stone mining causes dehydration, respiratory infections and accidents. Gold mining exposes children to toxic vapors and mercury-poisoning, and mining salt exposes child miners to dizziness, skin problems and iris discoloration.
  6. Stone quarries in Guatemala are often found along public shores, where poor families set up camps to mine volcanic river rocks. These are then sold to construction companies at low prices. According to reports by the International Labour Organization (ILO), it takes three days for a 13-year-old boy to produce one cubic meter of gravel that sells for $7.50. Children as young as five are found collecting and breaking rocks with hammers in these mines. Both adults and children work eight hours a day, six to seven days a week. The quarries in Nepal are reported to have child miners between ages 10 to 12. Girls and boys in Madagascar’s stone quarries also work long hours collecting and crushing blocks of stones.
  7. Of the 10 facts about child miners in the world, gold mining deserves a special mention as it exposes children to mercury-poisoning, which is extremely likely due to the nature of gold extraction. Child gold miners are often found in the Sahel region of Africa (mainly in Burkina Faso and Niger). High levels of poverty in the region forces families to send children under 18 to work in the mines. They constitute 30 to 50 percent of the entire gold-mining workforce. These children work with heavy and primitive equipment to break rocks and transport them to washing, crushing and mineral processing. Children often work underground in narrow shafts and galleries.
  8. The ILO estimates 10,000 children are involved in gold mining in Ghana and more than 65,000 children work in the mines of Bolivia, Peru and Equador. According to a study by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), many instances of illegal mining occur in Côte d’Ivoire, where children are often trafficked from neighboring areas and held in slavery-like conditions. Mongolia and the Philippines are some of the other countries with child miners.
  9. IPEC has been working hard to ensure that children in areas like Niger and Senegal are protected from joining the salt mining business. A highly labor-intensive process, mining salt includes harvesting (digging pits, filling and lifting sacks) and distilling salt alongside transporting ore and fuel to aid the process. Children participate in all stages of salt mining.
  10. Child labor is also widely used in the mica mining industry in India and Madagascar; talc mining in Brazil; coal, salt and gemstone mining in Pakistan; gold mining in China; gem mining in Sri Lanka.

Most countries in the world have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes the right to protect children from economic exploitation. Human Rights Watch believes boycotting goods produced from these mines is not the solution, as it would adversely affect the economy of these nations. Instead, in accord with U.N. Guiding Principles, it proposes that international companies that buy these products initiate programs to ensure they do not benefit from child labor in any manner. Consumers from developed nations like the U.S. and the U.K., which provide the main markets for these products, should also become more aware of where the products come from. These 10 facts about child miners do not represent all the complexities that involve the lives of child miners. International nonprofit organizations are still working to create awareness and acquire more data on the use of children in the mining industry.

– Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Child Laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mineral resources abound in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, yet this apparent blessing has caused the problematic use of child labor in mines. The UNICEF estimates 40,000 child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) mine for the resources enjoyed by the rest of the world.

Recently, human rights activists have protested the employment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s artisanal miners because of reports of extremely poor working conditions. Additionally, the artisanal miners produce an estimated 10 to 25 percent of the world’s supply of cobalt, a mineral necessary for many electronic devices.

The issue of child laborers in the DRC is connected to the country’s poverty in nine ways:

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s colonial past has caused enduring conflict and political stratification, creating avenues for the exploitation of children. The distance between those in power and the Congolese has persisted over the years. King Leopold of Belgium never visited his territory, yet used its resources. Joseph Kabila has been president since 2001 and has refused to leave office. In 2016, he banned public protests to restrict the voice of most Congolese. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s colonial roots have led to unrest, like the civil war from 1997 to 2003. Improving the lives of its citizens has not been a priority, and they remain in poverty and in underpaid, brutal working conditions. In 2014, the country had the highest rate of extreme poverty in the world due in large part to instability from political clashes and the abuse of children.
  1. Current exploitation of children for the world’s supply of cobalt is only the newest indignity in a long history of misuse. Beginning with colonization, this naturally rich country has become poor because so many countries have simply taken what they wanted. For example, its rubber trees fueled the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What basically constituted slave labor accomplished the extraction of rubber, a precursor to today’s exploitation of child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fuel technological innovation.
  1. When the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a colony, Belgium failed to regulate education. This left the country undeveloped and at the mercy of exploitative, low paying jobs. Belgium left education to missionaries, whose numbers were too few to educate the majority. Out of a population of 13 million, there were 16 university graduates by 1960, allowing very few Congolese the opportunity to break the cycle of exploitation.
  1. In independence, The Democratic Republic of the Congo still has not prioritized education, funneling more children into the mines. The country’s constitution guarantees a free elementary education, but poverty and instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have allowed very few schools in rural mining areas and with few other options, children as young as four go to work in the mines.
  1. The money children make in the mines often constitutes a primary source of income for their families. Child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo only receive $2 to $3 per day.
  1. Mining causes death, injury and birth defects, propagating the poverty that caused the exploitation of child laborers. From the infants strapped to their mothers’ backs to the children working on their own, miners are exposed to toxic metals that cause breathing problems and birth defects. For example, miners in the southern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were found to have urinary cobalt concentrations that were 43 times the levels found in a control group. Birth defects occur that are so rare they have only ever been found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, no standardized safety equipment or procedures exist. In the resource-rich province of Katanga, an average of 6.6 children die a month from soil collapses caused by deep digging.
  1. The importance of cobalt in modern technology has only worsened exploitation as developed countries continue to take the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s resources. Cobalt is necessary to create lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones, laptops and electric cars. A battery for an electric car can require up to 15,000 grams of lithium-ion. As the most expensive raw material in these new batteries, it follows that cheap labor would be prioritized, leading to the exploitation of children.

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has become economically dependent on these minerals and the children who mine them for little pay. While the country mines a variety of minerals, it is cobalt that the world depends on.
  1. Because the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been politically turbulent and poor, a lack of transparency in cobalt’s global supply chain exists. Cobalt is purchased by Chinese firms in the country and then sold to outside technological manufacturers like Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Tesla, Inc. and Samsung. While law requires American companies to verify the origins of minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cobalt is not one of the named conflict minerals and thus exempt from this law.

The good news is, as the technology requiring cobalt becomes more prominent, many have protested this exploitation and made positive changes. In addition, here are some positive moves by several large corporations:

  • Apple cut ties with one of its largest artisanal cobalt suppliers because of the abuse of child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apple claims to internally consider cobalt as a conflict mineral.
  • Microsoft has publicly claimed a lack of tolerance for child labor for its cobalt.
  • Samsung and Tesla claim increased efforts in documenting supply chains.

If these companies continue refusing to condone the exploitation of children in mines, hope exists for child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr