For many African countries, a significant part of GDP is derived from the natural resource extraction industry, giving great potential for that industry to catalyze economic development in many low-to-middle income African countries. However, that potential is rarely realized and the economic benefits from extractive industries often don’t reach the poorest or most vulnerable people—the groups that often suffer the most from the resulting environmental degradation (mining, for example, impacts women most severely, as land and water pollution reduce food and agricultural production).
Efforts to make natural resource extraction more environmentally sustainable and beneficial to society are underway. Policy documents like the Africa Mining Vision and African Transformation Report provide decision-making frameworks and sustainable development metrics useable by governments and civil society organizations weighing the potential impacts of extractive industries. Additionally, new collaborative projects on natural resource governance are emerging. One project, “Improving the governance and economics of protected areas, ecosystem services and poverty eradication through Higher Education Institution capacity-building and trans-disciplinary research,” focuses on economic growth, poverty reduction, and ecosystem management in southern Africa by linking research and training in Stellenbosh University, Copperbelt University, and the Southern African Wildlife College.