Foreign Policy Blogs

Will Market Clean up Congo’s Conflict Minerals?

Before I bore you again with yet another conflict mineral detail in Africa, I need to tell you something very important regarding the financial legislation-the other side of the legislation that the mainstream media hasn’t been reporting a lot about-recently signed by President Obama. This legislation is not just a victory for the American people over Wall Street, but there is a small measure of victory for Congo as well, a country in which almost every mining deposit is controlled by militias or an armed group. Why the Congo connection? At issue is that the economy surrounding every mineral found in electronic products (think  cell-phones, computers and printers!) worldwide funds rebels and militia activities in Congo, prolonging a war that has displaced or killed millions, especially women and children.

“A Major Victory for Congo” from ENOUGHproject

But these circumstances are about to change. Under the new law, American companies are required to report and disclose publicly whether the minerals in their products are ‘conflict minerals’ from the Congo or adjacent neighboring countries.

However, as progressive as this legislation may be, it does not impose penalties for any violations and instead relies on the market to correct the situation. What this legislation does for Congo is to supply hope that American consumers will vote with their wallets to send a clear message to the companies that they don’t want their electronic products to be associated with conflict. The truth is that no business venture would want to lose customers. Therefore the fear of losing business would force them to step up measures to ensure that their products are clean.

The remaining question, though, in the absence of a clear penalty will this self-regulated mechanism work? Would consumer choice triumph over the secretive nature of the global mineral trade market?



Ndumba J. Kamwanyah

Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah, a native of Namibia in Southern Africa, is an independent consultant providing trusted advice and capacity building through training, research, and social impact analysis to customers around the world. Mos recently Ndumba returned from a consulting assignment in Liberia in support of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
In his recent previous life Ndumba taught (as an Adjunct Professor) traditional justice and indigenous African political institutions in sub-Saharan Africa at the Rhode Island College-Anthropology Department.

He is very passionate about democracy development and peace-building, and considers himself as a street researcher interested in the politics of everyday life.
Twitter: NdumbaKamwanyah