Diamonds in the Rough: After World Cup, Africa remains the same


July 15, 2010

-KRT- What was your most emotional football World Cup moment? Mine
happened in the game Ghana – Uruguay, when Asamoah Gyan failed to
convert the penalty given to Ghana in the very last second of the game
and kicked the ball against the cross bar instead. Unbelievable! How can
you miss such a golden opportunity? I was lying on the floor,
devastated, helplessly watching Uruguay winning the ensuing penalty
shootout, earning them a spot in the semi finals. There you go again,
Africa, I thought. This match was the story of Africa in 120 minutes.
Always trying hard, but never quite succeeding.When one talks of Africa,
one talks plenty about golden opportunities missed. Vast resources, big
hopes, unfulfilled dreams and a never ending story of exploitation –
and in 2010 a football World Cup that should have changed everything,
giving Africa the reputation it was searching for so long. About every
conceivable raw material there is you find in Africa. Among them are
diamonds, mined for instance in the Southern part of the continent, in
South Africa and Zimbabwe. Now, as everybody knows, the diamond mining
and trading has been tarnished by blood diamonds, gems used to finance
armed struggles and civil wars in Africa. To prevent diamonds becoming
bloody, the diamond industry started the Kimberley Process, the goal
being to set up a reliable system meant to regulate raw diamond
transactions more strictly in order to keep conflict diamonds out of the

Asamoah Gyan

The Israeli diamond industry is a major contributor to Israel’s economy.
And for this year, 2010, Israel has accepted the chairmanship of the
Kimberley Process. The Kimberley annual conference held last June in Tel
Aviv was welcomed by the Israeli Trade minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
with nice words: "Israel is proud to head the Kimberley Process, which
affects and improves the rights and lives of millions of people." (Hell
yeah, improving the lives of millions could be a worthy Israeli goal.
But why look so far, Israel? Gaza and the West Bank are right at your
doorsteps. But then again: Dominating and regulating the diamond trade
is far more profitable then easing the lives of millions of Palestinians
and conceding them some humanity.) The main stepping stone at this
year’s conference was the case of Zimbabwe, where the Kimberley Body
failed to take a decision whether this country’s stones should be
certified as conflict free. The trouble with Zimbabwe, the trouble with
Robert Mugabe: In 2006, a British diamond company (Africa Consolidated
Resources, ACR) discovered a huge diamond field in Marange, projected to
yield more than $1.2 bn per month! Not surprisingly, shortly after the
discovery, Zimbabwe nationalized the mine; ARC and Mugabe
representatives are now seeing each other in court. The opinions on
who’s right and who’s wrong are of course divided. For the monitor of
the Kimberley Process in Harare, Tiseke Kasambala, most of the profits
from the diamond industry now go to an exclusive group within the
country. For the Zimbabwean mines minister on the other hand, Obert
Mpofu, the moves of ARC and the Kimberley Body are a colonialist attempt
to disparage the country and control its natural resources. Zimbabwe,
the Mugabe regime, needs the money from the diamond mines badly. Shun by
the international community (except Iran, it seems), accused of human
rights abuses, the country has lost all its value in the tourism market.
Zimbabwe is a hard sell to tourists these days and hopes that a spill
over of World Cup tourists from South Africa could help the Zimbabwe
tourism industry hadn’t materialized. So why did the African teams
underachieve in World Cup 2010? Not because they have bad players, but
because they have had bad teams and bad governance backing up their
efforts. African players like Drogba, Eto’o and Essien are like raw
diamonds, only shining when they are cut and honed with European
(football management) skills, in top teams such as Chelsea in England
and Italy’s Inter Milan. And the various African national football
associations seem to be run by authoritarian Mugabe-like figures, more
concerned for their personal benefit than for the success or their teams
as a whole. We find even politicians getting heavily involved in
football affairs: Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan for a short
moment dissolved the Nigerian football association after their failure
in South Africa, until FIFA talked him out of that. (But hey: Also in
France, the abysmal performance of Les Bleues became a national topic
with Sarkozy intervening personally…) In football just like in many
other fields, Africa has the potential, has the raw material, but not
the organization and the necessary structures to make it a sustainable
success. But are we Europeans tree of guilt when we look at Africa’s
still dire situation? Everybody in Europe was rooting for the African
teams in this World Cup. Why is that so? Is it because they are the
underdog, beautiful but unsuccessful, and we would like to see the
underdog win? Or is it because after all, they are not an existential
threat to us, to your teams (to our politics)? Had we easily accepted if
one African team had thrown Germany, Spain or the Netherlands out of
competition? It seemed to me that us rooting for Africa being successful
in football was like a new form of colonialism and patronizing: Let’s
shout out for Africa success in football – the poor guys have nothing
else to boast about!


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