Geoffrey York, the Globe and Mail’s Johannesburg-based Africa correspondent, writes, “The Conservative government’s new strategy of ‘economic diplomacy’ is largely just a formalization of what its diplomats have already been quietly doing on the ground in places like Africa. The reality is that Canadian diplomats have been focusing on business and trade for years already, under heavy pressure from Stephen Harper’s government. “
“Mining is the biggest Canadian industry in Africa, with more than $30-billion in Canadian investment, and has become a key focus of Canadian diplomacy in the continent. Canadian ambassadors and mid-ranking diplomats are often prominent at African mining conferences, and Canadian foreign-aid money has begun flowing into partnerships with Canadian mining companies in Africa.”
“A good example is Madagascar, where the biggest priority for Canadian diplomats is to protect a mammoth $5.5-billion nickel-cobalt mine, which is 40-per-cent owned by Sherritt International Corp. of Toronto. In their visits to Madagascar since the coup, Canada’s diplomats have spent much of their time lobbying the government to ensure that Sherritt secures an operating license for its mine. The post-coup government had hinted that it could reconsider its approval for the project, and the company wanted Ottawa’s help – which it got.”
“Canada has (also) strongly supported the Toronto-based gold mining company, Iamgold Corp., in its massive gold project in Burkina Faso. …The project is sending hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and royalties to Burkina Faso’s authoritarian and opaque government, which came to power in a 1987 coup.”
York writes that the Harper government has signaled as a business priority Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Algeria where Canadian energy and mining companies are eager to do business. Canadian mining companies are also major investors in Eritrea, Mauritania and Zimbabwe.
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Photo of the site of Sherritt’s Ambatovy cobalt mining project in Madagascar by Geoffrey York.