Nationalize and Rebuild African State-Owned Mining Companies

This text aims to present a continuation of the discussion initiated in “The imperialist financial capital in Africa – Overexploitation of the working class and the theft of natural wealth”[1], which addressed the issue of mining companies, financial capital and its relations with imperialist governments and local governments .In this text, we want to address the question of how African countries have evolved into mono-export minerals economies, deindustrialized, analyze the role of the World Bank and the IMF for the implementation of these policies and finally, and  at the same time, fight for the nationalization of mineral exploration and for the creation of state-owned companies for nationalized exploration. 
By Yves Mwana Mayas & Cesar Neto
Since 1885 when the great imperialist nations divided Africa between them, African peoples began to resist. It was decades of struggles until, between the late 1950s and early 1970s, independence was achieved in most countries. In these processes, countless struggles took place in villages, towns, cities, states and countries. To this end, small meetings, large meetings and debates were held that promoted the struggles. However, there were also numerous defeats and many lessons came from them. So it was a very rich process that led to independence.
The independence of African countries was above all a spectacular victory for the mass movement against the powerful imperialist nations. A partial victory insofar as the center of the problem was not attacked: capitalist relations of production and domination. This means that the control of the economies of the independent countries continued to be in the hands of the capitalist monopolies and great imperialist powers.
We are now experiencing a new cycle of African history experienced after the rise of African governments. However, the masses are discovering that their own governments are the direct agents of contemporary imperialism and that they need to overthrow them. And so, we are watching the fall of countless dictators and there is a list to be defeated.[2]
As an example, the Chilean people who in recent months have been giving us so many lessons in resistance and combativeness, have beautiful fighting songs and specifically one of them says:“Because it’s not about changing the president. It will be the people who will build a very different Chile”. And we believe that this is right: We need to overthrow all the dictators who govern African countries and the cannot express the slightest confidence in the new presidents and at the same time we must impose the will of the workers and the people. But for that, we need to understand our history and our challenges.
Of the various historical examples that we could mention, there are two emblematic ones that synthesize a good part of the African experience in the post-colonial period. The first is the issue of external debt that we will look at through the concrete experience that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and which has also been applied to other countries. The other example is the process of deindustrialization and unemployment in South Africa as part of the negotiation to end apartheid applied by the ANC-COSATU-Communist Party. This same deindustrialization process took place in several sub-Saharan African countries, including those that already had low industrialization rates.
External Debt: the continuation of imperial relations, but differently
At the ceremony for the Proclamation of Independence of Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 30, 1960, King Balduino of Belgium claimed the role of genocide Leopoldo II and further, said that Belgium had helped to “civilize” Congolese. Patrice Lumumba, the first president, did not bow to arrogance and replied: “We knew that there were magnificent houses in the cities for the whites and ruined huts for the blacks, that a black man was not admitted either to the cinemas, nor to the restaurants, nor to the designated European stores; that a black man was traveling on the hull of barges, at the feet of the white man in his luxury cabin ”. And yet “who will finally forget the shootings in which so many of our brothers died, the dungeons in which those who no longer wanted to submit to the regime of justice of oppression and exploitation were brutally thrown?”
Apparently it was an outburst from Lumumba. And why did Lumumba respond so harshly to King Balduino’s pride? In fact, behind the curtains, what was in dispute was who would pay the foreign debt contracted by the Belgian empire.
After the end of World War II, the imperialist countries were economically broken and turned to the World Bank, which granted loans to Belgium, France and England. However, these loans were taken on behalf of the colonies. Belgium received the loans that were posted to the accounts of its colonies (Dem. Rep. Of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi), England received and placed them in the accounts of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, English Guiana (South America) and France in the accounts of Algeria, Gabon, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Ivory Coast, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin.
Eric Toussant, a scholar of foreign debt formation processes, says that:  “In the case of the Belgian Congo, the millions of dollars that were lent for projects decided by the colonial power were almost entirely spent by the colonial administration of the Congo to buy products exported by Belgium. The Belgian Congo was “granted” loans totaling $120 million (in 3 disbursements), $105.4 million of which were spent in Belgium. For Patrice Lumumba’s government, it was inconceivable to repay this debt to the World Bank since it had been contracted by Belgium to exploit the Belgian Congo.”[3]
The Lumumba government’s refusal to recognize and pay the debt incurred by the Belgian empire led to the plot led by two countries, the United States and Belgium, which resulted in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in January 1961.
In this way, the coup d’état and the assassination of Lumumba had the direct participation of Mobutu Sese Seko. Thus, in 1965, Mobutu carried out a coup d’état and imposed a bloody 32-year dictatorship.
In this sense, the independence of Congo (formerly Zaire) started with two relevant facts: the first was the recognition of a debt that was not his and the second was the imposition of a bloodthirsty and subservient government to imperialism.
This is not just the story of the Congo. It is an example that is reproduced in several similar processes that took place in several African countries in the post-colonial period.
The end of apartheid and deindustrialization
The heroic struggle against apartheid in South Africa was composed of great struggles such as those in Sharpeville, Soweto, District Six, etc. There were also strikes in the factories, regional strikes and general strikes. In addition to this, gigantic demonstrations of the unemployed and against racist policies.
Overthrowing the apartheid regime was a spectacular victory for the black movement against the white minority government. In this struggle, important democratic rights were conquered that the black majority was denied. However, although it is not said openly, this victory was overshadowed by the enormous economic concessions that were made to the racist and imperialist bourgeoisie.
In this sense, the great alliance that played a leading role in these struggles, ANC-Cosatu-SACP “he put aside the nationalization program of the ANC Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955, and, together with the National Party, formulated an economic policy based on economic growth through competitiveness (greater exploitation of the working class), encouraging investment in the public sector (public money for the bourgeoisie), the privatization of state-owned companies, the independence of the Central Bank”[4] and the opening of the national market for the import of goods produced abroad. The South African industry, with low technology and productivity, did not resist imported products and in the end there was a deep process of deindustrialization and the consequent growth of unemployment.
In the graph below we can see the concomitant process of deindustrialization and the increase in unemployment. However, some scholars argue that the unemployment generated was even higher and that the data was “stifled” due to the creation of precarious jobs in municipal and state governments that use this work in general services, paying half a salary and denying social rights. Thus, the data pointed out by the graph can represent much more serious problems.
Thus, with the data above, we can observe the accelerated deindustrialization process and the consequent reduction in the number of employed workers. Once again we affirm, the end of apartheid was an important victory, but because the capitalist relations of production and exploitation were not attacked, it was limited to the extent of democratic rights.
The empire strikes back: World Bank imposes mining as a strategy for sub-Saharan Africa
Throughout the 1980s, we had the great crisis known as the “External Debt Crisis”, in which many countries around the world were unable to continue paying their debts. Some countries even declared a moratorium and some temporarily suspended payment. In Africa, where many countries had just left the colonial period with huge debts inherited from colonial rulers, as explained in the Congo example, the debt crisis was violent. Then, in 1993, faced with the impossibility of paying the debts, the World Bank presented an alternative through the document: Strategy for Miners in Africa.
In this way, the World Bank was very clear. The strategy was based on maximizing, that is, making the most of mineral resources, leaving out resource control or job creation. So, let’s see the entire quote:  “The main finding of the report is that the recovery of mining sector in Africa will require a shift in government objectives towards a primary objective of maximizing tax revenues from mining over the long term, rather than pursuing other economic or political objectives such as control of resources or enhancement of employment”[5].
The Strategy for Miners in Africa report, also known as the World Bank Technical Paper Number 181, attacked two fundamental pillars of the national sovereignty of African countries. The two pillars they attacked were: a) sovereignty over natural resources and b) exploitation of these resources by state companies. Let’s see how these attacks went.

  1. a) After independence, most governments seeking to emphasize their sovereignty over mineral resources imposed rules and regulations that often prevented the sector’s profitable investment. In many cases, governments nationalized or took control of mining companies and, as operators, started to manage them for maximum short-term rental control and collection.
  2. b) The large state-controlled companies that now dominate mining in several African countries have generally underperformed. They are subject to government intervention for purposes often unrelated to efficient performance and their operation tends to be less productive than that of companies.

The report also details the specific actions that African governments need to take. The report – in succinct terms – suggests the following government action agenda for the 1990s:
* Continue to develop economic adjustment programs to pay the debt;
* Governments must clearly define their mining development strategies. The private sector must take the lead;
* Incentives for mining investors must be clearly determined in investment legislation.
* Mining taxation needs to take into account tax levels in other mining countries to maintain or establish the competitiveness of domestic industry.
* Mining legislation should reduce risk and uncertainty for potential investors and ensure easy access to mining licenses and concessions.
* Government institutions must not disrupt marketing and operational functions.
* Controlling artisanal mining.
Thus, we emphasize that this report was the guide for the application of a policy that resulted in the end of the sovereignty of minerals by the African people and, even more, imposed the end of state-owned mining companies.
Recover sovereignty over minerals: ores are ours
After three decades of applying the World Bank’s “Strategy for Miners in Africa”, foreign debt continued to grow, countries became de-industrialized, unemployment grew, poverty and destruction of the environment increased and the living conditions of the population got worse. All this with the blessing of bloodthirsty dictatorial governments that have (or have been) 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years in power.
We need to regain our sovereignty over minerals. We need to say with all our power: the minerals are ours. And kick out transnational corporations, the IMF, the World Bank and accomplice governments. This is an immense struggle and little by little it becomes clear and shows its necessity. The bourgeoisie quickly tries to deflect this coming struggle. So, beware of the traps.
The first trap: It is our fault. We are corrupt!
In May 2011, the International Monetary Fund published a text apparently destined for a country. The text was called, “Ghana: will it be gifted or will it be cursed?” and it explains the opportunities that open up and the risks that increase with the discovery of oil in the country.
This paper studies the impact of resource revenue on the growth path of an economy; and applies the results of this analysis to Ghana… For this, adataset of 150 low and middle income countries from 1973 to 2008 is analyzed… The results show that there is a poverty trap for the poor resource-rich countries due to their low institutional quality. On the other hand, for countries with good governance and strong macroeconomic management, oil wealth can beutilized to achieve higher economic growth[6].
Thus, the main risk, according to the IMF, is low institutional quality. This means that the country does not have strong institutions. This facilitates robbery and the blessing of resources becomes a curse. So, it’s our fault! They do not say a single line about the theft and plunder of our mineral resources by the transnationals. They make no reference to the fact that of all uranium exported by Niger, the country receives only 5% of the revenue. Nor do they say that of the gold exported by the same Ghana, only 1.7% enters the country’s Central Bank and the affected communities receive only 0.11% of what the country received. It still does not mention that in Zambia, copper was explored by a state company, between the years 1970 and 1998, and that today with total privatization, four companies, including the Barrick Gold Group, control over 80% of the exploration and the country receives only 3%.
However, we do not deny that there are corrupt governments and officials. But what about transnational companies, what are they and what do they do? This is a big question. This tale of “good governance” and the fight against corruption is actually a way to divert our struggle for the nationalization of our national resources. This is a way to cover up the scandalous theft of our national wealth by foreign multinationals. However, the text “Ghana: will it be gifted or will it be cursed?” has become a guide for all countries.
The second trap: the electoral solution
In another text we show how several dictators have fallen in recent years and that there is a list of them to fall.[7] However, the replacement of these rulers has not served to recover sovereignty over national resources. None of these new governments speaks about the nationalization of resources. Therefore, we cannot have or express any kind of confidence in these governments that are actually colonial administrators for the imperialists today.
The third trap: reformist political groups
Capitalism in its current latestage (imperialist) leaves no room to reform the capitalist system. But, some reformists even accuse imperialism, others speak of the colonial past and still others, a little more advanced, speak of contemporary imperialism. However, they do not say who the imperialists are, who their agents are in the interior of the country and no longer show how to fight for the sovereignty of resources.
Nationalize mining: minerals are ours
When nationalizing mineral production, we will immediately have a problem and a great debate ahead. To whom do we deliver nationalized mining production? Here we have two paths: One is to deliver it to some sector of the bourgeoisie or national banks. And the other way is to build a state-owned mining company.
The first hypothesis – handing over to the bourgeoisie or national banks – means to continue maintaining the same capitalist relations of production and exploitation of workers. By creating a state-owned company for this purpose, we will be more able to discuss wages, production rates, elimination of raw materials harmful to human health and the environment, etc.
Thus, those opposed to the creation of state-owned companies may use the argument that they are loss-making companies such as the case of South African electric power and aviation companies, Eskom and South Africa Airways, which are practically broken. We do not deny that it is a fact of reality that these two companies in South Africa are practically broken, after more than 25 years of governing by the ANC. That is why the solution to this problem is the control of production by the workers, because whoever works, decides the direction of the company! That is the motto.
In defending the nationalization under workers’ control, we clarify that when we talk about workers’ control we are talking about the control of workers directly linked to production. And we are not talking about union leaders. Union leaders, when they are removed from their bases and run unions that are often limited to legal actions, run unions without democracy, and as a consequence generate episodes like what happened in Nigeria, as we will see.
In the process of privatizing the Nigerian electricity sector, workers received a percentage of the shares in the privatized company. With mass layoffs, the former Secretary General of the Nigeria Pensioners’ Union, snapped up the shares of these workers and formed a private investment fund. With that the workers did not receive a penny from this privatization.[8]
In a 1938 text, Leon Trotsky warned about the type of risk and proposed:
“Here it is necessary to clarify that” when we say “production control by workers”, this does not mean control of production by the bureaucrats of the nationalized unions, but control by the workers of the company itself and the struggle for the independence of the unions before the State “[9]
* Ore is ours campaign. Out with the TNCs:
After decades of dictatorial and bloodthirsty governments, the memory of the anti-colonial struggle was wiped out by the bullet. And what we observe is that the new generations do not look to the anti-colonial struggle, they know little about it and that is why they do not know the origin of the present. Consequently, only a few know that in a short period, after independence, minerals were explored by their national states and often by state-owned companies.
Therefore, the first task is a campaign to denounce the theft of minerals and the need to renationalise and rebuild state-owned mineral production companies in each country.
* Link specific struggles with the struggle for the nationalization of minerals:
Every day we have different types of struggles across sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, workers and poor people desperately struggle for basic rights such as food, housing and health. These heroic struggles, for the most part, are not seen as part of the struggle for the nationalization of minerals, Second Independence and socialism.
As Trotsky said: “It is necessary to help the masses, in the process of their daily struggles, to find the bridge between their current demands and the program of the socialist revolution[10]
When a worker fights for wages, as in the case of Marikana, he is saying: I want a bigger share of the mining. Although, the struggle is around wages it is necessary to support this struggle and build a bridge to the struggle for the nationalization of minerals.
When a community struggles with forced eviction from their homes, they are saying:“This land is mine.” It is necessary to help them to say: “This land is mine and not the foreign miners.”
When a community defends the environment, we must be at the forefront of this struggle and help to understand that mining should be done without destroying the environment and that this can only be done within the national interest and that this means we need to explore with state-owned companies controlled by their workers.
It is the same when students struggle for free, quality public education; when families struggle for better health care conditions, against the cost of living and for decent housing. In reality, all of them, without exception, although unconsciously, ask: “What are our minerals for?” It is necessary to help those who struggle to build these bridges between specific struggles and the struggle for nationalization and nationalization of mineral production.
Last but not least, these actions must be coordinated. And in this way, organisms will be created that come out of these struggles. However, it is not the case of unit by unit alone. And yes, it is the unit for the struggle. Thus, united among those who fight, we will build the paths for nationalization, for  the second independence and above all the construction of a just and fraternal society based on solidarity. A socialist society.
[1] Imperialist Financial Capital in Africa –
[2] Idem
[3] An emblematic IMF and World Bank Personality Dragged Into Court –
[4]  SANTOS, Adriana Gomes, org. África: colonialismo, genocídio e reparação. São Paulo: Editora Sundermann, 2019, p. 94.
[5] The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/ The World Bank . Strategy for African Mining – Washington/DC – 1993.
[6] International Monetary Fund. Ghana: Will It be Gifted or Will It be Cursed? – 2011
[7] Imperialist Financial Capital in Africa –
[9] TROTSKY, León. “Discusión sobre America Latina”, disponible en:
[10] TROTSKY, León. The Transitional Program –

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