Ecological debt: The Global North should stop exploiting Africa, seeking to extract and win generous mining terms

June 20, 2018

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Europe should stop exploiting Africa and invest in ways that benefit the continent more, including by sharing mineral wealth more equitably, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis talks during an exclusive interview with Reuters at the Vatican June 17, 2018. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

“We must invest in Africa, but invest in an orderly way and create employment, not go there to exploit it,” he told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview, while discussing the migration of Africans to Europe.

“When a country grants independence to an African country it is from the ground up – but the subsoil is not independent. And then people (outside Africa) complain about hungry Africans coming here. There are injustices there!”

Touching on the reasons for hunger in Africa, the pope said that “in our collective unconscious there is something inside us that says Africa must be exploited.”

His comments follow moves in some African countries to win more generous terms from international mining companies.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, the government has enacted a new mining code that is designed to earn extra money for the state from copper, cobalt and gold produced there.

Mining companies say the government should reconsider the law in order to respect exemptions that were granted by its predecessor.

The pope said Europe needed to focus on education and investment in Africa if it wanted to stem the flow of migrants, which is also an increasingly divisive issue in Italy, where the new governing coalition is taking a hard line.

“And there’s a problem,” he added. “We send people back to those who have sent them here. They end up in the jails of traffickers.”

The pope then showed Reuters graphic photographs that he said showed victims of human trafficking who had been tortured and killed in an unspecified location in Africa.

Writing by Mike Collett-White, Editing by Timothy Heritage