News / Africa

Africa's Uranium Weighs on World's Geopolitics

Nico Colombant
Africa’s uranium which is becoming increasingly popular for new nuclear projects is also causing geopolitical concerns, from instability in the continent’s western Sahel region to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

While the north of Mali is still overrun by Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists, analysts say companies and governments dealing with West African uranium are becoming increasingly nervous.

Nearby Niger, which has had its own troubled history with extremist Islamic groups and Tuareg fighters, is among the world’s top five uranium producers. But Tuareg leaders there have often been angry for not getting enough benefits from the mining in areas where they live.

In troubled Mali, where the situation was complicated by a March military coup in the capital Bamako, there is currently uranium prospecting by Canadian and Chinese companies.

Alessandro Bruno is a Canadian-based senior editor with Pro-Edge Consultants and one of their websites called the Uranium Blog. The uranium expert would not be surprised by firm international action to try and normalize the situation in Mali.

“The revolt that has taken place can easily spread to Niger. Sooner or later I think we will see some kind of action because the northern revolt right now is quite destabilizing for the region, and not just for Mali,” Bruno said.

He says he believes the U.S. government as well as former colonial power France will likely be sending more military equipment and provide more training to the armies of Niger and Mali, which they already help.

Another country which he says is very interested in obtaining West African uranium for future nuclear power plants is Saudi Arabia, which could also intervene.

According to Bruno, one country which has shown interest but has been rebuffed in West Africa is Iran.  But he says Iranian officials have been trying to get uranium from other African countries, including Zimbabwe and the poorly governed Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Central government (in the DRC) does not have much control. Some governments or companies can manage to get some minerals without formal controls and sometimes there is smuggling. I am not saying there is smuggling of uranium but there is a possibility.  Zimbabwe seems as far as governments are concerned the one that would be the most likely to work direct, government to government, with Iran. They are both facing sanctions. They have nothing to lose,” Bruno said.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes, but the United States and several allies suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Other sub-Saharan African countries which produce uranium in sizeable quantities are Namibia and South Africa.

University of Michigan professor Gabrielle Hecht is the author of a book published this year called “Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade.”

She says the importance of Africa’s uranium in current geopolitical and even world economic discussions should not be underestimated.

“We are not talking about a small amount of uranium here. We are talking these days of a good 20 to 25 percent of the world’s uranium, that is coming or will shortly come from Africa. So our electric bills are much more tightly connected to African sources than people might initially realize,” Hecht said.

One crucial change she would like to see in Africa’s uranium sector is independent regulation, so that the industry becomes safer, less corrupt and prone to suspect deals, even if that would mean higher electricity prices for all.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid