Gas is Great
In East Africa these days, there’s a lot of excitement about gas.
Tanzania has upped its estimate of gas reserves to 33 trillion cubic feet (tcf) http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/18/tanzania-gas-idUSL5E8LIOE720121018, ahead of the recent visit by China’s new president Xi Jinping.
Mozambique, next door, has announced gas reserves of 150 tcf, throwing itself into the big league behind Algeria (155 tcf), the world’s #10 gas supplier (Russia leads with 1,600 tcf).
What’s more, Mozambique has massive coal reserves and could supply 25% of the world’s coking coal used for steel production by 2025.
Development of these natural resources will require infrastructure such as roads, ports, railways, power grids and telecoms.
So here is the potential to raise Tanzania’s 50m and Mozambique’s 25m people out of poverty once and for all, by providing schools, healthcare and better diets. GNI per capita in both countries is barely $500 at present.
In Mozambique, chronic under-nutrition affects 43% of the population – that’s over 10 million people who are not eating properly.
In Tanzania, 40% of the population lives below the basic needs poverty line, according to FAO http://www.fao.org/ag/agn/nutrition/tza_en.stm. Diet is essentially cereals (maize and sorghum), starchy roots (cassava) and pulses (beans). Consumption of micronutrient dense foods such as; meat, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables is low. No surprise then that micronutrient deficiencies are widespread. In urban areas, one in four people live below the poverty line, while obesity is spreading among the middle class.
Leaders in both countries would do well to listen to China’s new premier Mr. Li Keqiang. He understands the value of agri-processing.
Mr. Li has said it is important to improve social justice in China, by reducing the gap between urban and rural dwellers and improving the social safety net. As a young man, he worked on the land and has promised not to forget the difficulties that farmers face.
In 1999, at the age of just 43, Li became governor of Henan Province. GNI per capita in Henan was just $800 at that time, and although the province was China’s largest grain producer, profits from unprocessed grain were hopelessly low and farmers were very poor. Li toured the rural areas and realized that the way out of poverty was to produce processed, value-added products.
Gas is great. You can’t eat it, but it can provide the means to build a sustainable and fair economy based on agriculture and agri-processing.