Following this, Australian mining companies will be considered. Over the last decade, Australia has gradually started to take a greater interest in Africa, investing vast amounts of money into the continent. This has led many to ask whether they are taking advantage of the growing instability on the continent in order to also obtain wealth from Africa's natural resource abundance. The consequences behind the discovery of resources in Africa will be further discussed in the body of the essay.

The abundance of resources in Africa has resulted in enduring violence and conflict, having not produced any signs of wealth and development for the continent. African nations which, possess natural resources, have a one-in-five chance of civil war in any year compared with nations with no 'dominant' resources who have only have a 1 in one 100 chance. (Humphreys, M (2005) p 510) Also labeled 'the paradox of plenty,' resource abundance in Africa does not seem to produce the expected blessings and instead turns out to be a 'curse.' (Basedau, M (2005) p 9) Natural resources have the ability to damage economies, creating volatility in government revenues and damaging institutions. Socio-economic development declines rather than increases and poverty, disproportionate military expenditure and a higher level of authoritarianism is more likely in resource abundant states. (Durigbo, E (2005) p 7) Many nations in Africa who should be experiencing great wealth, have failed to diversify their industry and invest in important areas such as education and health, which has led to their long-term economic decline. (Junger, S (2007) [Accessed 16 June]) The basic needs of civilians are not accounted for which leads to an increased level of hostility because they are unable to access such needs as health, education and food. 

In the 19th-century, the first scramble for Africa occurred which saw the great powers rush to control land. Now, in contemporary Africa, there is a new rush but this time it is to gain strategic and geopolitical control over Africa's vast resources. (Leigh, D (2005) [Accessed 16 June 2010] The US, France, Britain, Australia, China and India have become the main players in this process. When Cold War foreign assistance ceased in the early 1990s, rebel groups discovered that they would need to sustain their military and political activities in other ways. Controlling the resources in their country was a way whereby they could do this. Consequently armed conflict arose, motivated by control of these resources. (Billon, P (2001) p 562) Natural resources generate what is known as 'rents,' which means that profits are much higher than the minimum level needed to keep the activity going. (Basedau, M (2003) p 100) These profits are then used to fund weapons and support conflict within the region. 

It has also been acknowledged that natural resources adversely affect the prospects for democracy. In a number of countries, which are in the process of extracting resources, it is often the case that the politics are dysfunctional and the government is 'detached from the concerns of ordinary people.' (Billon, P (2001) p 581) Democratic institutions are unable to function as those in government positions are power and money hungry and good governance is absent. The huge revenues created from the extraction of natural resources does not make its way back to the population to provide funds for badly needed development. This money mostly makes its way to the high-ranking government officers personal accounts and multinational corporations profits. In many nations, including the DRC and Sierra Leone, there have been allegations of corrupt politicians awarding illegal tax exemptions to mining companies in return for private benefits. Some contracts that were signed, awarded complete exemption from tax and royalty payments, or deferral of tax payments for up to five years. (Lambrechts, K (2009) p 41) In Sierra Leone, the second largest mineral exporter, Sierra Rutile has acquired extraordinary tax exemptions through corrupt agreements with government. In the DRC, as a result of awarding such contracts, the income earned for the country is very small as a result of such 'fraudulent practices.' (Lambrechts, K (2009) p 41) The citizens of these countries bear the burden of the discovery and exploitation of the natural resources but miss out on the benefits of this due to these 'fraudulent' government actions. 

Petroleum production has especially generated a great sense of unease. Oil has been regarded as the most important attraction, with there being great competition between foreign states and companies to secure such resources. Foreign direct investment in Africa has risen above $40 billion dollars, exceeding record levels from previous years, showing how important oil is considered and the lengths some will go to attain it. In 2008, three of the world's largest oil companies, Shell, Total and Chevron spent 15 percent, 30 percent and 35 percent respectively of their global exploration and production budgets in Africa. (Okeke, C (2008) p 196) This will be discussed further when Nigeria is considered in the next section of the paper.

Is there a link between natural resources in Sub-Saharan Africa and conflict? What part have Australian mining companies played in funding this instability?
Natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa play an important role when considering contemporary Africa. The African continent has been blessed with a vast array of natural resources, however this resource abundance has turned out to be more of a ‘curse’ than a ‘blessing.’ (Basedau, M (2005) p 9) Development in these states is virtually non-existent, with poverty, civil conflict, environmental degradation and human rights abuses defining a majority of areas possessing natural resources. Influential studies completed at the World Bank by Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler suggested that countries, which acquire their wealth via the exportation of primary commodities, which includes both agricultural produce and natural resources, are highly prone to civil war. (Humphreys, M (2005) p 510) 54 large-scale civil wars were analysed, which occurred between the years of 1965 and 1999 and it was found that countries with a higher amount of natural resource exports ‘significantly and substantially’ increased the risk of civil conflict. (Tabb, W (2006) [Accessed 16 June])  

The link between natural resources and conflict has been well-documented and mainly affects those living in poverty who are in nations rich with natural resources. These people rarely receive any meaningful benefits, with millions of dollars of profit either simply disappearing or funding government officials personal accounts. Such people do not benefit from their ‘country’s resource wealth,’ (Tome, P (2006) [Accessed 16 June]) and instead suffer from the effects of war and violence.

This essay will consider three countries, which are not only abundant in natural resources but have suffered as a result of this:
·NIGERIA – Petroleum Production
·SIERRA LEONE - Diamonds
·DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of CONGO - Coltan lacyrichmond/africa-map.gif