Whenever I drive along the EN1 North-South highway that cuts across Mozambique, I notice with satisfaction the long lines of local villagers in Gaza Province selling fruits and vegetables, processed cashew nuts, maize, manioc -- you name it -- in unequivocal and clear abundance.
Beside the great Lake Kivu, beneath the shadow of an enormous volcano, the Rwanda-DRC border divides the neighboring cities of Gisenyi and Goma. As the day begins, the predominant impression is one of movement, as people walk in either direction through the customs checkpoint, carrying giant bunches of green banana, stacks of nesting plastic chairs, anything that is tradable. They form an unbroken stream of humanity crossing to and fro, the tall border signboards towering overhead.
With oil in Niger and Uganda, natural gas in Mozambique and Tanzania, iron ore in Guinea and Sierra Leone―African countries are increasingly finding rich new deposits of oil, gas, or minerals and just as quickly, attracting the courtship of international companies that are drawn to Africa’s new bonanza in extractives wealth.
Here in Mozambique, the rainy season has brought disaster for as many as 110,000 people living in the Limpopo Valley, as surging water over recent days has flooded their crops, capsized their towns and villages, and forced their evacuation to higher ground. Forty people are believed to have died in the floods so far. It’s expected that as many as 150,000 people may ultimately be affected.
A UN reconnaissance plane that flew over the Valley on Monday took photos of mile after square mile of crops and farm land under brown muddy water, a result of the Limpopo River and others nearby bursting their banks. It's at times like this that you really appreciate the powerful humanitarian role of the UN.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza quickly went to the scene to see for himself how the flooding had turned communities upside down.
Talking with people from the town of Chokwé and surrounding areas at an emergency shelter, the President said, "we are with you, we weep with you, because we know that you have lost many of your goods including your houses, your goats, your cattle and much that is of great value."
In country after country in Sub-Saharan Africa, new discoveries of oil, natural gas and mineral deposits have been making headlines every other week it seems. When Ghana’s Jubilee oil field hits peak production in 2013, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day. Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin fields could potentially produce even greater quantities. Billions of dollars a year could flow into Mozambique and Tanzania thanks to natural gas findings. And in Sierra Leone, mining iron ore in Tonkolili could boost GDP by a remarkable 25 percent in 2012.
My strong hope is that all the people living in these resource-rich African countries also get to share in this new oil and mineral wealth. So far, with one of few exceptions being Botswana, natural resources haven’t always improved the lives of people and their families. From what I see on my constant travels to the continent, economic growth in most resource-rich countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people.
Many resource-rich countries tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the global Human Development Index, which is a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income.
One strikingly effective way to make sure that all people, especially the poorest, share in the new minerals prosperity is through safety nets and social protection programs. These are designed to protect vulnerable families and promote job opportunities among poor people who are able to work. This in turn makes communities stronger and more secure, while reducing painful inequalities between people.
Social protection programs are already central to poverty-fighting, higher growth national strategies across Africa, and have played a significant role reducing chronic poverty and helping families become more resilient in the face of setbacks such as unemployment, sudden illness, or natural disasters such as droughts or floods. These programs have also allowed families to invest in more livestock or grow more food, and increase their earnings.
- Labor and Social Protection
- Social Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- social safety nets
- social protection
- Human Development Index
- cash transfers