21 April 2013 – Foreign companies from a range of countries compete in Africa’s mining sector. But according to a number of measures, those from one country dominate: Canada.
When asked to think about foreign mining contracts in Africa, many people’s minds will jump to China, or perhaps one of the former colonial powers such as the UK or France. China’s construction and agricultural projects in particular are at the core of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, as are the Asian giant’s more than 1.3 billion consumers.
Some readers might be surprised therefore to learn that Canada – with a population less than one-tenth that of China’s and geographically about as far from Africa as one can get – has quietly grown to become one of the largest stakeholders in Africa’s mining sector – possibly the largest, depending on how you quantify it.
A grizzly competitor
“We certainly are one of the biggest players [in Africa] in several respects”, Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, told Think Africa Press. “It’s a largely undeveloped, unexplored continent, which makes it interesting… .A new frontier. Our industry is often one of the first to go where no-one has gone before.”
Countries competing with Canada in African mining include the UK, France, Australia, China, and South Africa, but ranking their relative dominance is all but impossible; countries measure and declare assets and investments using different methodologies and with varying levels of transparency. However, documents provided by Natural Resources Canada seem to portray a relatively accurate picture of the country’s activities in Africa.
According to these documents, in 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – 155 Canadian companies were operating in 39 African countries. Their combined assets* totalled more than $30.8 billion, up from $26.5 billion in 2010.
*Travis Lupick, ThinkerAfricaPress