Resource rushes impact global povertyIn June 2021, impoverished South Africans in the province of KwaZulu-Natal flocked to the town of KwaHlathi after reports of diamonds in the area, the most modern example of a resource rush. Many people hoped this could be their key out of poverty in a country with a 32.6% unemployment rate and a stagnating GDP per capita. Unfortunately, the gems were actually quartz, a common crystal found across the globe, dashing the hopes of these amateur miners. In the developed world, the resource rushes once common in the 19th century have now largely faded away, replaced by institutionalized mining companies. However, the developing world still struggles with informal mining and its environmental, economic and political consequences. Because of this, resource rushes impact global poverty both directly and indirectly.

What is a Resource Rush?

Resource rushes occur when a natural resource is discovered and many people move to participate in its extraction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, resource rushes for gold and diamonds led to the colonization and settlement of many parts of South Africa, Australia and the Western United States. Modern-day resource rushes do not drive the same levels of migration. However, they still carry large impacts on the economies of developing countries.

Why is it Important?

In the 21st century, resource rushes create both opportunities and conflicts. Currently, more than 15 million small-scale “artisanal” miners operate in resource-rich areas, many times informally. Nearly 100 million people rely on the income that artisanal mining brings. Artisanal miners usually have to sell their goods below market price as there is usually only one large local buyer. While an important source of income, the extraction process is largely inefficient due to the small scale of these artisanal mining operations. This creates an opportunity to develop single or multi-person mining operations by increasing the efficiency of artisanal miners and connecting them to global markets.

On the other hand, resource discoveries commonly drive violent conflicts and human rights abuses. Large resource discoveries, combined with access to arms from previous conflicts, have driven wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. Many times, the armed groups extracting these resources use them to fund their operations, drawing the label of “conflict minerals.”

Resource rushes also lead to migration. Mineral deposits, largely in rural or environmentally preserved areas, attract large numbers of settlers who heighten the human impact on these areas. These impacts create environmental strain, leading to deforestation, lower standards of temporary informal housing and chemical pollution.

Building a Better Mining Industry

Artisanal and small-scale mining ventures offer many opportunities for growth around the world. While problems of health hazards and political conflicts exist, many actions by national, international and NGO stakeholders are working to overcome these challenges.

One project involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) partnered with the Peruvian government to improve the environmental impacts and working conditions of small-scale mining. This project utilized technical assistance, working with national governments to create system-wide change. This resulted in the implementation of mercury-reducing technologies in Peruvian mines. Other initiatives in the continent have sought to organize small-scale mines to sell their products on the international market, avoiding price-setting middlemen.

Another project in Central Africa by PACT, an NGO that focuses on mining issues, works to create a verification system so that consumers can choose responsibly sourced raw materials. This verification system includes 54,836 miners spread across 727 mines with 672 government officials tasked with implementing the system. By verifying raw materials and helping consumers gain access to raw material markets, PACT has made a large impact on raw material extraction in Central Africa.

These projects aim to reduce the impacts of informal mining at the local level, but national governments of importing countries can also implement policies toward the same goal. In 2012, the U.S. launched the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade, a multi-sector task force aimed at implementing measures to stop imports of conflict minerals.

Looking to the Future

Resource rushes impact global poverty by fueling conflicts, migration and creating substandard mining industries that further contribute to deforestation and various forms of pollution. However, through projects such as PACT’s, organizations are working to improve the conditions of small-scale ventures so that workers and their dependents can sell their products on the international market. In this way, impoverished people have the opportunity to improve their lives and rise out of poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Growing Industries Improve Lesotho's EconomyThe small kingdom of Lesotho lies in the middle of South Africa, completely landlocked within its mountainous regions. When Lesotho gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, it was established as a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. A majority of the country lives in poverty, relying on subsistence farming and the economy of its much larger neighbor, South Africa. Struggling to stand alone as a country vastly overshadowed by South Africa, four factors contribute to increases in Lesotho’s economy. Industries, such as diamond and textiles, are working to bring the country out of poverty and increase its GDP.

Private Sector-Led Economic Growth

Part of Lesotho’s economic growth can be attributed to the promotion of businesses and industries that are not under the direct control of the government. This initiative was supported more fully by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, who approved $13.4 million donated to the government of Lesotho to assist with its promotion.

According to the World Bank, “the Second Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP II) will help improve the business environment through the continued facilitation of reforms to reduce the time and cost associated with doing business in Lesotho, provide easier access to finance, make trading across borders simpler and provide streamlined, accessible and efficient government to business services in order to attract private investment and boost growth.” The PSCEDP II is already seeing growth through economic diversification and an improved business environment, which is crucial for Lesotho’s economy.

The Diamond Industry

The discovery of diamonds made a large impact on the economy of Lesotho, as some of the world’s most valuable diamonds have been discovered there. Mining for diamonds began in the mid-20th century, but a lack of decent finds made the mines close. However, the mines reopened in 2004 when new technology helped increase diamond discovery and the country’s overall GDP. Through the use of diamond exportation, revenue has drastically helped assist the economy of Lesotho. In 2011, diamonds constituted 31% of Lesotho’s total exports.

Additionally, operators of the mines aim to assist local communities. The Letseng mine, world-famous for its priceless diamonds, set aside $300,000 in 2014 to help its local community. This money funded projects to increase living conditions and provide survival training for herd boys. Not only is the diamond industry extremely beneficial for the economy of Lesotho, but it is also beneficial for the local communities and areas surrounding the mines.

The Textile Industry

Starting with a handful of textile factories originating in the 1990s, the textile industry has now become one of the largest employers of Lesotho people, with approximately 50,000 jobs available to communities. The textile industry holds thousands of jobs, primarily for women who account for 80% of employees within the industry. Between 2014 and 2019, the manufacturing sector of Lesotho’s economy grew 34%. Consequently, this increase allowed for a tripling of textile exports sent out to South Africa. By providing thousands of jobs to people, especially women, the poverty levels have eased and the GDP has increased significantly. With the assistance of the textile industry, the increased exportation of products is healing and strengthening the economy of Lesotho.

The Highlands Water Development Project

Lesotho and South Africa created and signed a plan concerning Lesotho’s exceedingly large water resources. This infrastructure project would benefit both countries in the transferring of water and the production of hydroelectricity. The initiative began in 1986 to help Lesotho’s electricity production independence. In addition, Lesotho would gain revenue by providing water to South Africa.

Moving water from the Orange River toward the Atlantic, this project includes the building of five dams and approximately 200 kilometers of tunnels to transport water to South Africa and produce electricity for Lesotho in three distinct phases, the last of which was to be completed in 2020. With this project, approximately 2,000 million cubic meters of water are transported from Lesotho to South Africa every year. This initiative has already helped improve the economy of Lesotho and save money through the production of hydroelectricity.

The assistance of these four factors is working to change the economy to alleviate the impacts of poverty throughout Lesotho. If growth continues with the assistance of private sector-led promotion, the diamond and textile industries and the Highlands Water Development Project, significant hope remains for this small country.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Alternatives to Cobalt MiningAs the demand for electric cars increases, so does the need for the controversial car battery mineral: cobalt. Cobalt is an essential mineral in lithium-ion batteries. These batteries help power “electric cars, computers and cellphones.” The demand for cobalt is steadily increasing with the rising sales of electric vehicles, which promises a positive environmental impact. However, cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has seen frequent cases of child labor, accidental deaths and violence between miners and security personnel of mining companies. Tesla, the best seller of electric cars in 2020, is looking for alternatives to cobalt mining with plans to eradicate the mineral from its batteries entirely.

Problems in Cobalt Mining

More than 70% of global cobalt comes from the DRC. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) is responsible for producing 15% to 30% of Congolese cobalt. Over the years, human rights activists have reported strong concerns of human rights violations in mining operations. Activists have pressed for urgent attention and alternatives to cobalt mining.

In 2018, roughly 60 million Congolese people lived in conditions of extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Because of this poverty, ASM cannot be entirely shut down as it is the primary source of income for many Congolese people. Furthermore, removing ASM is impossible because of its involvement in the complexity of the cobalt supply chain.

Miners in the DRC, including children, work in harsh and hazardous conditions. About 100,000 cobalt miners use hand-operated tools and dig hundreds of feet underground. Death and injury are common occurrences and extensive mining exposes local communities to toxic metals that are linked to breathing problems and birth defects.

Tesla’s Plan

Panasonic, Tesla’s battery cell supplier, wants cobalt-free batteries to be ready and available for Tesla cars within the next two to three years. The cathode of lithium-ion batteries used to consist of 100% cobalt. Over the years, Panasonic has reduced the amount of cobalt to 5%. Although reducing the use of cobalt improves the environment and decreases the cost of production, it also makes batteries more difficult to produce.

Panasonic recently partnered with Redwood Materials. Redwood Materials is a recycling startup that was established by J.B. Straubel, former Tesla chief technical officer. The startup recycles battery scraps and electronics to save and reuse materials such as “nickel, cobalt, aluminum, copper” and more. As part of the partnership, Panasonic would like to reuse these materials in its battery manufacturing.

Tesla is making efforts to look for alternatives to cobalt mining. However, a massive increase in the production of batteries has created a higher demand for the mineral. In 2020, Tesla secured a deal with Swiss mining giant Glencore. Although Glencore gets most of its cobalt from the DRC, Tesla has stipulated in its contract that suppliers use “conflict-free” minerals. The contract states that it is essential that the minerals procured “do not benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Until Tesla can run its own battery manufacturing or until Panasonic can effectively produce cobalt-free batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles, the company will have to continue procuring cobalt for its batteries from the DRC.

Solutions to Corruption in Cobalt Mining

While Tesla’s plan for cobalt reduction in its batteries is a promising start in the search for alternatives to cobalt mining, there is also the solution of “ASM formalization.” Some companies have used ASM formalization to regulate their cobalt sourcing. Different methods of this formalization include:

  • Putting forth regulations for mining methods and working conditions.
  • Establishing ASM regulations with fundamental stakeholders for mine safety and child labor and ensuring that cobalt is obtained responsibly.
  • Formally recognizing ASM and monitoring compliance with regulations to ensure human rights are protected.

The DRC government has put in place a Mining Code and has designated specific areas of land for ASM. However, full implementation of ASM formalization will require the aid of private companies. Although regulating the mining industry in the DRC is challenging, there are several ASM formalization pilot projects that the country can learn from. With the help of these projects and the support of companies like Tesla, the DRC is on its way to addressing the root causes of human rights issues in the mining sector.

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Mining for Mica
The majority of the world’s mica comes from India, more specifically the country’s eastern states. Jharkhand and Bihar, two regions in the country’s eastern states, are where the majority of the mining for mica happens. In fact, around 60% of the world’s mica comes from those two regions. Before mica ends up in shiny eyeshadow and many other makeup products, it passes through many networks’ middlemen and wholesalers; it also crosses many borders. Thus, it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of mica and the harsh reality that children frequently mine this mineral.

About Mica

The makeup industry is a prominent part of Western culture. Some common beauty products are powder, eye shadow and eyeliner. Upon close examination of what is in these products, the realization has emerged that they all have a common ingredient, mica. Mica, also known as muscovite, is a natural mineral. Because mica is a mineral, it requires mining. Mica has the appearance of flakes and is rather flexible. It is light in weight and relatively soft.

Mica and Child Labor in India

Children mine mica illegally in India as they have small frames and can easily access the minerals underground. These children generally do not have an education and are unable to attend school due to their families’ lack of funds. Children as young as 5 years old must work long hours in the mines to make money for their families. Estimates have determined that around 4,545 children in Jharkhand and the surrounding region are not attending school. Moreover, the hazardous work environment negatively impacts their health. Cases such as tuberculosis, skin infection, respiratory infection, asthma and head injuries are not uncommon. Many children have supposedly died while working in the mines. However, because mining is illegal, local officials frequently cover them up, thus making an actual fatality count rather difficult.

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is a foundation that strives to end all violence against and exploitation of children. It is doing so by ensuring child protection through research, innovations, awareness generation, promoting partnerships and participation. Since 2005, KSCF has been working in mining areas where children illegally work as laborers. It raises funds to send many children to school. It intends to rescue all children from mining and send them to school. KSCF regularly issues saplings to the children and encourages them to plant them. This is an effort to spread awareness of their environment.

There are 171 counselors in 150 villages of Jharkhand who create awareness against sending children for mining and other social issues. KSCF has freed over 3,000 children from mica mines and 80,000 children from child labor across multiple industries.

Though mining for mica is still illegal in India, many children and adults continue to do it to provide for their families. Moreover, many deaths have occurred but people have not reported them for fear of losing income. While India still produces mass amounts of mica, the help of organizations like KSCF should gradually help eliminate the use of children in mica mining.

– Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania’s President Samia Hassan Plans to Strengthen the Economy
On March 17, 2021, the vice president of Tanzania announced that her former running mate and former President John Magufuli had died of long-term heart problems. Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is respectfully called Mama Samia, additionally informed the country that she would be taking his place. President Samia Hassan is Tanzania’s first female president and currently Africa’s only female national leader.

President Samia Hassan

President Samia Hassan’s announcement marks a historic time for Tanzanians—especially women. However, the citizens of Tanzania are skeptical about how she plans to govern the country going forward, and Tanzanians have yet to fully learn how Hassan will differ from Magufuli as a leader. One key concern surrounds whether she will maintain Magufuli’s “skeptical approach” to handling the novel coronavirus.

In her first month as president, Hassan has prioritized economic growth in a variety of ways. She plans to strengthen Tanzania’s economy through the further development of mining and extraction in the country. In a televised address, she emphasized Tanzania’s need for increased foreign investment to encourage growth, namely in the mining of helium, gold and nickel and oil extraction. President Samia Hassan particularly emphasized the economic potential of helium, which could become a major market in Tanzania. The Rukwa helium project in southwestern Tanzania, which President Hassan currently supports, “could supply between 10% and 15% of the world’s helium needs for the next hundred years.”

Helium in Tanzania

The Rukwa project, which Helium One owns, possesses 3,590 square kilometers of land, making it “the largest known primary helium resource in the world.”

Projections have determined that President Hassan’s plan to capitalize on Tanzania’s natural resources will be successful, mainly because of the country’s natural resource abundance. In addition to the resources above, Tanzania contains both new and long-running graphite, uranium, coal and gemstone deposits and projects.

Oil Extraction in Tanzania

In addition to supporting Tanzania’s mining industry, President Samia Hassan is also in the process of passing new legislation which will lead to an increase in oil extraction in the country. She has signed three key deals with Uganda and the French oil company Total to lead the construction of a heated pipeline to transport crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast. The new project will be the East African Crude Oil Pipeline and expectations have determined that it will increase economic growth in Tanzania.

Overall, President Hassan’s plan to take advantage of Tanzania’s rich mineral and material deposits could facilitate economic growth for Tanzania, which she has expressed to be her main goal. After just more than a month as president, Hassan has already signed a major deal with Uganda on the construction of a new crude oil pipeline. She has used her new role to support Tanzania’s mining industries, most importantly in helium extraction which should increase economic growth considerably. President Samia Hassan has been quick to begin her work as Tanzania’s new leader, creating a positive example of female leadership for other African countries.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

One Health
For those living in wealthy nations, infectious diseases and foodborne illnesses are typically an inconvenience. Improvements in healthcare technology, including widespread vaccinations for once-deadly diseases, can render events such as the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly rare. However, in low-income nations, this is not the case. Around 420,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses, most commonly children under 5 years old in Africa and Southeast Asia. Here is some information about the causes of disease outbreaks worldwide and the means of disease prevention that people know as One Health.

The Situation

Infectious disease outbreaks have increased significantly from 1980 and include SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS, Zika and COVID-19. Additionally, up to 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they begin in animals and transfer to humans. Some animals, such as bats, are resistant to becoming ill and easily spread diseases that lie dormant in their immune systems.

Zoonoses are more and more common as humans become further integrated with the natural world. Reasons for the increase of zoonoses include:

  • Deforestation and Mining: Deforestation and mining destroy habitats and force animal populations closer to civilization. The World Economic Forum estimates that 31% of infectious outbreaks have a link to deforestation.
  • Urbanization: Urbanization can foster the dominance of disease-prone species such as white-footed mice.
  • Factory Farming: Factory farming harbors large populations of genetically similar animals in unsanitary conditions that are susceptible to disease outbreaks.
  • Wet Markets: Wet market merchants often bring exotic species out of their habitats and near humans.
  • Tourism of Wildlife: Tourism of wildlife, such as caves that contain bats, risks spreading diseases to humans.
  • Bacterial Infections and Antibiotics: While bacterial infections currently pose a minor threat due to the widespread availability of antibiotics, experts warn that modern animal agriculture practices, where farmers give antibiotics to livestock in large doses, are rapidly breeding strains of bacterial diseases resistant to antibiotics. Many of these strains are beginning to pose a threat in medical treatment practices.

One Health

Between foodborne illnesses, antibiotic resistance and zoonotic diseases, it is clear that the well-being of animals closely ties with the well-being of humans. This perspective of disease prevention is known as One Health. The One Health model necessitates considering major environmental and agricultural policy shifts, but people are already taking small steps to directly reduce disease transmission. Health agencies around the world are holding conferences to prioritize zoonotic disease prevention and conducting investigations into the origins of outbreaks.

In Thailand, a team of software developers launched a movement to monitor animal illnesses and contain possible outbreaks of zoonoses. Since 75% of rural Thai households have backyard animals, disease transfer is a major concern. The project, called Participatory One Health Disease Detection, consists of 3,000 volunteers using a smartphone app to report information about sick and dead animals to the project developers, who are veterinarians at Chiang Mai University. The developers are able to detect, investigate and quarantine potential outbreak risks. According to the Gates Foundation, an infectious disease could spread to every global capital in just 60 days, so detecting an outbreak early could save thousands of lives.

Keeping the human population safe from deadly diseases means acknowledging the connections between civilization and animal habitats, especially in high-poverty areas where habitat destruction from resource extraction such as deforestation and mining means that line increasingly blurs. The One Health model sets short-term and long-term goals for monitoring and restoring the health and safety of animals and the natural world.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

Africa's Mining Industry
When people think of natural resources, Africa may not often the first place that comes to mind. A lot of the continent is still developing while civil war and poverty riddle many of its countries. However, Africa is home to an abundance of natural resources such as metals and minerals. More than 100 mining companies currently operate out of South Africa alone. Additionally, Africa is responsible for about 20% of the world’s gold production and is also a large producer of other metals such as cobalt, copper and lithium. It is essential for countries to possess a raw material to trade in order for the continent to make the leap from developing to developed. Africa’s mining industry could be the crucial ingredient necessary for the continent to make that leap.

The Barriers

The lack of domestic companies and education are two major hangups preventing Africa from utilizing all of its metal and mineral reserves. Although Africa is home to valuable raw materials, many foreign companies have moved in to mine them. Additionally, it has not reinvested enough into local communities. The solution is to restructure how the foreign companies operate and slowly allow domestic companies to move in.

Foreign companies bring the knowledge and machinery necessary to tap into the mines’ full potential. However, African workers do not receive the opportunities they deserve. Foreign companies pumped in almost $20 billion to fund mining operations throughout Africa between 2015 and 2018.

One possible solution is for foreign mining companies to provide training programs and management positions to locals. With proper guidance, African natives can receive training to handle mining operations themselves. Thus, this would eliminate the need for a foreign workforce and would open up the floodgates for advancement within countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana where metals and minerals are plentiful.

A Major Opportunity

The electric vehicle (EV) market is perhaps the biggest opportunity for Africa’s mining industry. Africa is home to large reserves of cobalt, lithium and nickel. All of these are crucial materials for EV batteries. Forbes estimates that almost 40% of all car sales will be electric by 2040. In addition, several automakers have made the commitment to go totally electric by 2050.

It is undeniable that the world is making a major shift from gas power to electricity, and the demand for these metals has skyrocketed. If more domestic companies arise, Africa will have a major influence on trade on the world stage. This would give the continent immense bargaining power. Moreover, it would make Africa far more appealing to trade in the next few decades.

The Good News

Although Africa’s mining industry needs improvement, several reserves remain untapped. This means that there is still plenty of time to improve practices and open up even more jobs for locals. Almost all mining companies in Africa could be domestic with more government involvement and regulation.

A thriving local mining industry will open up opportunities and incentives for natives. Furthermore, local industries will feel more compelled to reinvest in their home countries than companies from overseas. The opportunity exists, African countries just need to capitalize on it.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Mining IndustryThanks to the abundance of mineral deposits in Zambia, investors have continued to flock to the country in spite of the pandemic-fueled economic downturn in many parts of the world. By deeming gold a critical mineral, the government is actively expanding Zambia’s mining industry by mandating that Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings PLC (ZCCM-IH), a mining consortium, “drive the gold national agenda.”

Productive Mining Partnerships

Zambia’s government is a major investor in ZCCM-IH. Array Metals and ZCCM-IH have formed a partnership through Consolidated Gold Company Zambia (CGCZ). Array Metals determined that the venture will immediately generate local employment for 300 people. Mining is expected to commence sometime in June 2020 and will lead to another increase in employment. The establishment of new and competing mining firms will be beneficial for Zambia by encouraging a rise in gold production, increasing the national GDP and creating new opportunities for local employment.

Potential Profits from Gold Mining

With an approximation of 16,500 pounds of gold (around $400 million in value) within gold ore in Mumbwa, Zambia, continued investments in the Republic of Zambia are indicative of an economically auspicious future for the country. The gold mine is situated in Central Province, Zambia, and had been shut down for years before exploratory studies revealed the previously undiscovered resources within.

Roughly $2.5 million in capital has been devoted to the beginning portion of the project alone, with CGCZ aiming for an initial yield of 3 metric tons of gold (about $150 million in value).

How Zambia is Improving the Local Gold Mining Industry

According to CGCZ’s CEO Faisal Keer, “CGCZ is partnering with various small-scale gold miners in the country by providing mining technical expertise, and providing access to earthmoving machinery and gold processing lines to kick-start and boost their gold production.”

Since the majority of local miners mine through the process of gold panning, one focus of another partnership between ZCCM-IH and Karma Mining Services is to improve Zambia’s local gold mining efficiency. While CGCZ is only operating in the Mumbwa and Rufunsa districts of Zambia, there are more than 60 sites for gold mining. Local miners have also partnered with other foreign investors.

Although there is no official documentation, some have profited off illegally mining and smuggling gold out of Zambia. The government’s newfound focus on Zambia’s local gold mining has the perk of bringing lawfulness to a previously unformalized industry. In that spirit, the “government has given artisanal miners gold panning certificates to legalize their alluvial or riverbed gold mining activities.”

By supplying licensed miners with machinery, equipment, and knowledge about the industry through ZCCM-IH and CGCZ, Zambians are encouraged to participate in Zambia’s local gold mining. The formalizing of the gold mining industry will benefit more than Zambia, for it will enable licensed miners and locals to “reap the benefits of the assets under Zambian soil.”

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Madagascar
Despite Madagascar’s 74 percent poverty rate in 2019, the small African country has one of the fastest growth rates in the world. GDP growth hovered around 5 percent in 2018 and 2019 and projections determine that it will remain at that rate in 2020 and 2021. Public and private investments in infrastructure, mining, energy and tourism helped drive the country’s recent economic growth. However, poverty still remains high, especially in the more than 60 percent of the total population that works in agriculture. Increased economic growth in Madagascar is drawing international investors to open businesses in the country, creating jobs and stimulating further growth in the developing nation.

Current State of Business

The main industry in Madagascar is agriculture. About 80 percent of Malagasy work in agriculture and approximately 86 percent of that number are in poverty. In addition, the country relies heavily on vanilla exports. The African nation is the world’s largest vanilla producer. Transitioning out of agriculture and diversifying the economy could help spur development. In 2017, the Economic Development Board of Madagascar helped reform the business climate to encourage outside investors to expand to the country. This also entailed fighting against corruption and money laundering. With Madagascar improving the business environment, international businesses may see potential in expanding to the island nation.

International Mining

Mining is yet another area driving economic growth in Madagascar. Madagascar is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and ilmenite. There are more than one million jobs related to mining in the country. Additionally, 30 percent of export revenue comes from mining. Madagascar is abundant in ilmenite, zirsill and monazite. Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian company, is one of the large-scale mining companies. About 90 percent of Rio Tinto’s employees in 2018 was Malagasy. Although mining tends to be part of land degradation, Rio Tinto agreed to restore wetlands and biodiversity to its previous state after it completes mining.

Tourism Growth Resulting in Hotel Developments

Tourism remains an important industry that helped increase economic growth in Madagascar. More than 250,000 people visit the country annually to bring in $748 million in tourism revenue. The tourism industry grew by 20 percent in 2016 alone. Hotel development is one growing sub-category that could potentially add jobs to locals, particularly those seeking higher pay than they receive in the agriculture industry. The Economic Development Board of Madagascar stated that 11 percent of total employment is related to tourism.

More than 70 percent of visitors to the country stay for two weeks or more, expressing the value these visitors place on the economy. International hotel chains took notice of the increased demand for hotels in Madagascar. Radisson Hotel Group planned two hotels and one apartment complex in the country in 2019. All three buildings should open in 2020. Marriott International is opening hotels in many African countries, and one country on its list is Madagascar. Hotel and tourism growth could promise more jobs to Malagasy.

Clean Energy for the Future

The energy sector has even greater importance than tourism. Only 15 percent have access to electricity, which is one main impediment to economic growth in Madagascar. This holds back the country due to energy being one foundation to a developed economy. Schools, hospitals and other buildings require power to function at their maximum potential. As a result, the government of Madagascar set its goal high with the challenge of attaining 70 percent of electricity access by 2030. The country is already making progress to reach this goal. The country’s largest employer, Groupe Filatex, is building four solar power plants that will generate 50 MW.

As of 2019, Madagascar’s total capacity was 500 MW. Groupe Filatex employs more than 15,000 people and will add more jobs in the future to meet the high demand. Lantoniaina Rasoloelison, Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons, explained that the country’s energy policy for 2015-2030 supports the transition to the energy mix for electricity and lighting. This will include 80 percent of renewable resources.

Growth Ongoing

International investors such as Radisson Hotel Group and Marriott International took notice of economic growth in Madagascar within the last two years. Three sectors seeing growth in the country are tourism, mining and energy. Additionally, the government’s goal of increasing electrification is a good next step to growing the country into a developed economy with less poverty and increased livelihoods. The addition of more jobs to these industries could reduce poverty.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

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