chapter  9
Resources and conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa
ByJessica Piombo
Pages 17

An abundance of natural resources should help countries to become economically prosperous. Yet across Africa, instead of leading to prosperity, abundant natural resources have often led to exploitation, expropriation, competition and conflict. The relationships are complex and operate at multiple levels from international to local. Africa’s natural resources have been exploited by outsiders for centuries through the slave trade, the mercantilism of the colonial system, the expropriation by international business in the post-independence global “free trade” era, and the current scramble for Africa’s resources by China, India and other new actors. At the state/national level, rulers have used resources to finance corrupt patrimonial regimes and have shaped their governing institutions to better control resource-rich regions rather than to extend governance across the entire territory. At the sub-national level, rebellions have been financed by access to trade in lucrative resources like diamonds and timber. Easily accessible resources have helped to extend wars, have changed the motivations of conflict from grievance to greed, have fueled regional wars (particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo), and have inhibited the resolution of conflicts (notable in Sudan and South Sudan where oil deposits straddle the borders between the two countries). Finally at the local level, communities have clashed over access to grazing land and water, and, in areas like the Niger Delta, local struggles against environmental degradation have evolved into regional struggles against the national government.