The outlook for many people in Ethiopia seems less than bright following the sudden death of the prime minister Meles Zenawi last week, yet as far as the country’s natural resources are concerned, the outlook is golden. Gold reserves could be a source of greater development for the country.
British firm Nyota Minerals is about to become the first foreign company to receive a mining licence to extract gold from an estimated resource of 52 tonnes in western Ethiopia. Its chief executive, Richard Chase, was involved in Tanzania’s gold boom in the 1990s. He believes Ethiopia has similar potential. “There are huge areas of relatively underexplored and unexplored prospective ground, and the infrastructure is not too dissimilar [to Tanzania], although the availability of cheap electricity is a definite plus,” he says.
Ethiopia also boasts gemstones such as diamonds and sapphires; industrial minerals including potash; and other precious and base metals. The development of these resources is a key plank of the government’s export-orientated growth strategy and allows Africa’s biggest coffee grower to diversify its economy to reduce reliance on agriculture, which accounts for 43% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product.