It is one of the terrible ironies that some of the world’s poorest countries are the most resource rich. It is very easy to blame corrupt authoritarian regimes in these countries but we need to remind ourselves that the ownership of many of these companies is often European or North American. Indeed, the role of extractive companies is particularly controversial. We all know of oil or logging companies that have made vast profits from countries whose people remained poor. At the moment, unscrupulous companies are able to profit from a veil of secrecy. Nobody knows who they are paying and how they are doing it. As a result, there is often unfair competition, corruption and, indirectly, poverty.
Although it is important for EU countries to meet their investment and aid commitments, the truth is that the value of the Third World’s natural resources greatly outweighs foreign aid. According to the Publish What You Pay campaign, at $393 billion, exports of oil, gas and minerals from Africa in 2008 were worth nine times the $44 billion provided in international aid and over 10 times the $37 billion of exported agricultural produce.