Lessons from Afghanistan – Nairametrics

Earlier this month, the Islamic fundamentalist group known as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and became the new leadership of the conflict-ridden country. Since their emergence, many have speculated on the fate of the country’s vast expanse of mineral resources.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s richest untapped deposits of rare earths and critical metals. The country is located on the Tethysian Metallogenic Belt (TMB) that stretches from Europe to Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran, considered by geologists to be one of the highest concentrations of metals and minerals in the world.

Afghanistan has significant deposits of lithium, gold, iron ore, copper, marble, bauxite, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, marble and rare earth metals. estimated at over a trillion dollars. These rare earth metals are also essential in the production of batteries, military equipment, various electronic devices and sophisticated computer chipsets.

In fact, an internal US Department of Defense memo in 2010 allegedly characterized Afghanistan as “Saudi Arabia of lithium”, which means it could be as vital to the world’s supply of battery metal as the Arab country is to crude oil. Global demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket 40 times above 2020 levels by 2040, along with rare earth elements, copper, cobalt, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and other minerals of which Afghanistan is naturally rich.

It is also estimated that Afghanistan holds nearly 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of gas. This means that with its deposit of both oil and gas and other minerals essential to deploying clean energy, the country is expected to benefit significantly from both the fossil fuel market and the energy transition.

However, he made little progress. Due to poor security, relentless conflict, poor infrastructure, weak legislation, lack of an appropriate legal framework and corruption, Afghanistan has not been able to take advantage of its vast spread of rare earth minerals for decades, whether domestically or through foreign investors. As a result, the mining sector currently contributes only between 7 and 10 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP.

With poverty levels at 54.5% according to World Bank statistics, the country is ranked among the poorest countries in the world. To make good use of its available resources on a large scale, the country needs expertise, yet its professionals are flocking to neighboring countries and the West, even more now that the Taliban are in power. Foreign investors are also unwilling to invest in such a volatile environment.

The situation in Afghanistan is of concern to Nigeria, as there are a number of striking similarities. Nigeria has over the past decade become an environment of conflict and security crisis. Jihadist violence is spreading in the northeast, with violent attacks linked to Boko Haram, ISIS and ISWAP becoming the order of the day. Community clashes between invading shepherds and local farmers have also left many dead and maimed in their tracks.

According to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, 12 years of conflict in northeastern Nigeria has resulted in the deaths of some 350,000 people, the majority of whom are children under the age of five. The Global Terrorism Index already ranks Nigeria as the third country in the world most affected by terrorism, only after Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, like Afghanistan, Nigeria lacks the requisite social and industrial infrastructure. With a lack of basic amenities for its citizens and the absence of industrial facilities to properly process its own natural resources, the touted “African giant” depends on other countries, some much smaller than it, to provide social facilities and treat its natural resources. .

Like Afghanistan too, Nigeria’s legislation is weak and its legal infrastructure for the energy sector porous. Like Afghanistan, the country is plagued by corruption, human rights abuses and the suffocation of the free press. Like Afghanistan’s mining sector, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector contributes only 9-10 percent to its GDP, the least among oil-producing countries. Angola, the second largest oil producer in Africa after Nigeria, has its oil sector contributing up to 50 percent of its GDP.

Sadly, Nigeria mirrors Afghanistan in many ways, and Nigeria’s energy sector is starting to suffer. With weak legislation, uncertain laws, corruption, insecurity, human rights violations and the lack of rule of law, many investors are pulling out. Large multinational oil companies have also cited insecurity and a poor legal framework as grounds for divestment. Like Afghanistan too, Nigeria is losing its professionals to other countries in search of safer, more secure and economically viable countries.

A close examination of the trajectory of Afghanistan and how the country has become severely underdeveloped reveals that Nigeria is in the same muddy waters, for despite years of possessing enormous natural resources, the country does not. only got worse.

If urgent institutional reforms and overhauls are not undertaken to turn the tide, the country could end up becoming a graveyard of natural resources.


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