Cameroon’s Mineral Discovery Could Worsen its Political Climate

Cameroon has discovered 300 new mineral mines, in a project sponsored by the World Bank. The Mining Sector Capacity Building Project funded the discovery of rich minerals, including gold, sapphire, zinc, rare earth minerals, uranium, nickel and manganese, across ten regions in the country.

Previously, only 40% of the country has been explored. The five-year exploration project, which began in 2014, aimed to expand the amount of territory in the country that had been checked for mining resources. An IDA credit of $26.9 million was loaned to Cameroon to conduct this project. A part of the World Bank, the International Development Association (IDA) aims to help “the world’s poorest countries.”

Cameroon’s Secretary of State in the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Technological Development, Dr Fuh Calistus Gentry, complained in 2013 about the “infancy” of Cameroon’s mining sector in the face of a huge reserve of minerals resources.

“Cameron is fast becoming a leader on the African mining scene,” he stipulated. “We are trying to make Cameroon a centre of excellence for negotiation mining business in Africa. What has delayed the maturity of our projects is the lack of relevant industries associated with mining, such as laboratories and drilling companies.”

The World Bank’s goal is for the project to “improve Cameroon’s efficiency and transparency of mining sector management and Cameroon’s frameworks for sustainable mining development.”

It “aims to reduce poverty by providing loans with zero to low-interest charges (called “credits”) and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.” Although it claims that “repayments are stretched over 30 to 38 years”, Cameroon’s loan repayment is stretched over 25 years.

Unlike the 1980s, the World Bank claims it no longer loans money to lower-middle-income countries by forcing them to dismantle state involvement, and implement a free market under private investors. This was known as “The Washington Consensus”, a neoliberal economic policy that would further plunge Africa into poverty, as Western private companies began to exploit the continent’s resources for enormous profit. Nevertheless, despite claims to the contrary, the Washington Consensus is still alive, and has been used by the IMF in Portugal, Greece and Venezuela.

As it was funded by the World Bank, Cameroon’s mineral resources are not solely under the control of the Cameroonian government. It is highly feasible that the discovery of new mineral resources will remain exploited for the wealth of a few.

The Democratic Republic of Congo: A Case Study

As one of the world’s wealthiest nations, in natural resource terms, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered under Western rule, beginning in 1885 when Belgian King Leopold established the nation, Congo, determined to extract all of the region’s wealth for both himself and Belgium.

Called “one of the worst man-made humanitarian disasters of the turn of the 20th century”, Leopold’s governorship was tyrannically brutal. Genocidal, torturous and exploitative for Congolese natives, his leadership has often been compared to Hitler’s and Stalin’s.

In 1960, when the DRC gained independence from Belgium, the United States of America swiftly engrossed itself in the nation’s politics, aiming for imperial control. Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s socialist, democratically-elected Prime Minister, would be assassinated in 1961 by the CIA. Backed by the US, France and Belgium, Mobutu Sese Seko would then become another tyrannical, kleptocratic dictator for the next 30 years.

Under Mobutu, the international community would have unlimited access to the country’s resources (worth $24 trillion today), including 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, large deposits of iron ore, platinum diamonds, gold and uranium. The control over the county’s resources would plunge the country into war and violence, violence which continues today.

Like the DRC, Cameroon is rich in mineral resources. More than 60% of the world’s cobalt, a main component used in our technological products, from drones to mobile phones, is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like the DRC, Cameroon is in the midst of its violent uprising, where, the US has been accused of meddling in its democratic elections.

A Francophone Cameroonian, President Paul Biya has ruled the nation for 37 years, abusing public funds for his private use. Accused numerous times of corruption, he has developed his Francophone region of Cameroon, to the detriment of the Anglophone region. This has presently led to Anglophone “Amba” soldiers demanding a secession of the Anglophone region, in the Ambazonia War.

As the political similarities between the DRC and Cameroon forecast, Cameroon’s recent mining discoveries will prove the opposite of developmental for a country already on the brink of implosion