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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs