Hot Minerals in African Hot Spots: The Transformation of African Societies in Mineral Rich Regions

Convener: Charles Ezeagwu (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain);

Since the onset of mineral exploitation in commercial quantities in many parts of Africa traditional African society and politics have experienced a lot of transformation. There is a huge discrepancy between what African society and politics used to be fifty years ago and what it has been since the last decade. The discovery of rich deposits of minerals in various parts of the continent was initially considered to be a doorstep to stepping out of poverty by many Africans, but, unfortunately, after more than half a century of mineral exploitation in various African countries, the economic benefits of this adventure are yet to be seen. As a matter of fact, mineral rich regions have turned out to be the epicenters of armed conflicts, environmental degradation and abject poverty in the continent. Scholars have tried to explain this socio-political and economic contradiction using theories such the resource curse, greed and grievance, barbarism, underdevelopment, neocolonialism, etc. This panel studies how mineral exploitation has affected society, politics and economy in various regions of the continent. Case studies from individual countries are welcomed, as well as comparative studies of the situation in various countries. Each study is expected to make a critical analysis to show how mineral exploitation has affected society and politics in the region of study and also suggest adequate theories that can be used to explain the resultant sociopolitical situation. Papers which would address some of these and other similar questions are welcomed: Why has the socio-political situation in many mineral rich African states degenerated into chaos, armed rebellions and conflicts? Are natural resource deposits really a curse to countries like the Angola, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, etc. Is it possible that the deposits of diamond, gold, coltan (tantalum), crude oil, tin, tungsten, etc., buried thousands of miles beneath the earth could be a curse to human beings living above them or is it better to find a more profound and critical approach to explaining the causes of perpetual armed conflicts in African mineral rich regions. Who are the actors responsible for the transformation of mineral rich African states into conflict

and war zones? Are there examples of places where the exploitation of mineral resources has given rise to a positive transformation of society and politics? This panel plays down the role of passive mineral resources buried underneath the earth and emphasizes the role of active human actors – such as governments, multinational mineral exploitation companies, national and transnational gangs, etc., – in the transformation of society and politics in African mineral rich zones.