Paul Collier: History is Repeated as Tragedy in the New Scramble for Africa

Paul Collier, director for the study of African economies at Oxford University, writes in the Independent:

For the past few months has been ruled by a young army captain who led a successful coup. Not that you’d necessarily know about it: the regime has only hit the world news twice. The first time was for shooting 150 pro- demonstrators: international protest at this abuse has now escalated into an arms embargo. The second time was when the regime signed a $7bn resource-extraction deal with the Chinese. This infusion of money has made a mockery of international pressure.

But to grasp the deeper affront, the sheer scale of the deal must be appreciated. Guinea is currently a no-go area for reputable resource-extraction companies and so the Chinese faced no competition. If under these conditions they are prepared to pay $7bn for the rights to resource extraction, it is reasonable to suppose that they are worth much more. Yet the national income of Guinea is only $3bn. These natural assets, vast relative to its income, were the society’s lifeline out of poverty. They have been disposed of in haste by a regime without legitimacy.

Guinea is an extreme instance, but the disregard of the Chinese for standards of governance in winning resource-extraction contracts has become a leitmotif.

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