The Cost of Flying

Prices for unrefined materials continue to contribute to African underdevelopment. According to the BBC, bauxite fetches a mere $20/ton while refined alumina brings in $400/ton. Guinea has the keys to its own economic emancipation right beneath its feet. The will to wealth and economic empowerment is fundamental to the future of the country. If the Guinean government cannot attract higher prices and create the apparatus for refined alumina, they cannot govern the nation. There is enough demand from the Middle East and China to address this calamity. Passing up $380 for every ton of natural resources is as criminal an activity as leading a colonial regime. Today’s leaders are no less culpable than the French for the pervasive poverty afflicting this nation.

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Despite possessing at least a third of the world’s bauxite reserves, Guinea has failed to convert it into a more precious commodity.
Nearly all foreign aluminium companies, such as US-based Alcoa and Canadian firm Alcan, mine the rock in Guinea, but transport it abroad for refining.
It means the country misses out on a crucial economic boost: whereas a tonne of bauxite costs about $20 on the world market, spot prices for refined alumina can reach $400 a tonne.
“Nothing of this scale has been done in Guinea before,” says Lamine Bangura at Centre d’Appui au Developpement (CAD), a local non-governmental organisation supported by the US-backed African Development Foundation, which has entered into a $10m partnership with Global Alumina to oversee training, construction and sustainability issues related to the refinery in the area.
Guinea suffers from chronic unemployment, particularly among young people, and even those with secondary and tertiary qualifications struggle to find jobs.

  blog it

Once upon a time:

“Significantly, British Guiana was a major supplier of high-grade bauxite to America during the war years, when there was an increased demand for bauxite. The aluminium produced from this bauxite was used by the military in the United States. Significantly, roughly two-thirds of all allied aircraft manufactured during the war years used aluminium made from Guyanese bauxite. As a result of the demand for Guyana’s bauxite, exports increased from 476,000 tons in 1939 to 1,902,000 tons in 1943. This enabled the Guyanese economy to benefit greatly from the revenue obtained through these exports. The monetary worth of bauxite exports rose from approximately $2.9 million in the early 1940s to $6.7 million in 1947. This resulted from the developments in the Demerara Bauxite Company when it opened two mines at Mackenzie, thus creating from around 1943 more jobs in that sector for the Guyanese people. At the end of the war, the Treasury had a surplus of more than $6 million mainly due to the revenues earned by the bauxite industry.”

Bauxite production has not enriched Africans in the Caribbean or on the continent.  It has, however, provided jobs in times of “excess need” for raw materials for aircraft.   The same tack is being pursued in Guinea – and the real deal is that this is not principally about jobs.  It is about commodity prices and the future capacity of African and Caribbean entities (states, firms, NGO’s, etc.) to build a sustainable, competitive infrastructure for refining goods and earning higher revenues for valuable goods.  It is about the capacity of Africans to develop the secondary and tertiary economic tools to great diversified and vertically integrated jobs that release all Africans from the drudgery of exploiting natural resources directly from the ground.  Mining jobs for unrefined resources are hardly ideal long-term solutions for any people.

If you’re a Black American or African or Caribbean billionaire or multi-millionaire looking for something to do with your money – and you are tired of spending it on chasing ass or bling or new shoes or new European cars or fancy additions to your suburban mansion and the like, you could INVEST in the education of Black children in the US, the Caribbean and Africa in mathematics and the sciences so that they can operate the infrastructure to rebuild the continent. If you made that investment – and put up the cash to build refining operations, you could stimulate trade for the continent at competitive prices and dictate more favorable terms for states willing to engage in continental planning.

You could radically transform the economic opportunities for the next 5 generations of black youth all over the world – or you could buy a new Benz. Of course, this is not an area to rush in where even angels dare to tread. This is an area that requires the coordination of men and women of goodwill with an interest in rectifying some long standing issues. And, perhaps the most important thing is investing in and committing to a functional excellence in math and science by youth in your local community. If you did it correctly, it might look like this:

W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center

or this

The Algebra Project

Twenty or thirty years from now it could look like young black folks with career opportunities in math and science related activities. It could look like study abroad programs where teenagers from Compton are working closely with youth in Conakry to create the next generation of engineers in Guinea. At this juncture, we have the resources the dollars and the technological know how. The next step: galvanizing the people into an organization or entity with the will, direction, integrity and patience to fulfill this dream.

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