"Natural resources are neither a curse nor a blessing" in Africa says Kofi Annan

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Mr. Kofi Annan, Chairperson of the Africa Progress Panel [UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras]

Natural resources have been a presence and at times a driver of internal or regional conflicts in Africa, says former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Annan, who is now Chairperson of the ten-member Africa Progress Panel which advocates for equitable and sustainable development on the continent, addressed the Security Council on Wednesday as it discussed conflict prevention and natural resources.

He said that in the past 15 years alone, rivalry for access to natural resources has fuelled wars and rebellions in Sierra Leone, Liberia the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan, and elsewhere.

Oil has also played an important role in the recurring violence in the Niger delta, the former UN chief told the Security Council.

Mr. Annan said this close and recurrent association between natural resources and war has led some people to describe the discovery and exploitation of natural resources in Africa as a curse.

"Such a view is far too simplistic. For every conflict, one can find several contrasting examples of African countries where natural resources are now fuelling sustained high growth and are improving their citizens’ daily lives. Natural resources are neither a curse nor a blessing. They are simply a source of opportunity. They can be used for tremendous good or they can be wasted."  (28")

Mr. Annan said that over the past decade, Africa's economies "have been riding the crest of a global commodity wave" as surging demand for natural resources in China and other emerging markets pushed prices to new highs.

Africa's petroleum, gas and natural resources, he added, have become a powerful magnet for foreign investment.

Donn Bobb, United Nations

Duration: 1'40"

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