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Why recent US 'conflict mineral' legislation is a good thing for Africa

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There has been some debate of late in the blogosphere about the US legislation on improving supply chain due diligence with regards to Congolese minerals. See here for an interesting debate on Texas in Africa on this topic. The main criticisms can be boiled down to this:

  • Minerals are not the main issue. Land conflict, communal tensions, state weakness and failed demobilization programs are more important. (Texas in Africa, Pole Institute)
  • By tarring the whole mineral trade with the brush of conflict minerals, we could end up in a boycott of a sector that provides livelihoods to up to a million people in the region. (Resource Consulting Services, Dan Fahey)
  • The way advocates like ENOUGH portray the role of minerals in the conflict is simplistic and often wrong. That kind of advocacy can be dangerous. (All of the above sources)

I have been a critic of the sensationalism of the "conflict minerals" lobby in the US. But I do support the bill (as do many other advocacy groups) both on principle and because it could contribute to rendering the Congolese state more accountable. Here are my responses to some of the criticisms.

1. Minerals were not the origin of the conflict, and many other factors are important.

However, proceeds from minerals are a key pillar in financing these groups.

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