Africa’s primary economic activities depend essentially on primary activities, which are associated with the natural resources that abound in the continent. The main primary economic activities are mining, forest exploitation/lumbering, fishing and livestock rearing.


Mining Activities

Africa is blessed with extensive deposits and large varieties of minerals; this is shown very clearly in Fig 47.1. Mining activities have contributed immensely to the development of Africa during the last hundred years. The most valuable known reserves of minerals lie in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Congo Democratic Republic (DRC), Liberia, Mauritania, Togo, Gabon, and Guinea.


In many African countries, mineral resources are the chief foreign exchange earners. For example, in 2002, Nigeria had a GNP of US$39,520 million (World Bank), equivalent to US$300 per capita. Influenced by rising oil revenues, Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose by an annual average of 6.9 per cent from 1965 to 1980. From 1980 to 1988, GDP shrank by 1.1 per cent annually as oil prices and revenues dropped; in 1996, however, it grew by 3.25 per cent. In 2002 GDP was estimated at US$43,540 million (US$330 per capita).

In Nigeria, for example, agriculture made the largest contribution to GDP until 1997, when the industry’s share increased to around 47 per cent. Crude petroleum exports dominate external trade revenues. In 1994, they accounted for over 97 per cent of the total value of exports. Copper exploitation in Zambia, gold in South Africa and petroleum/gas production in Nigeria have been selected for in-depth discussion.


Copper in Zambia

Copper is a metal which has a variety of uses. This includes making household utensils, food processing equipment, coins, military weapons, cables, wires, water pipes, electronic equipment among many other items. Zambia is the leading producer of copper in Africa and accounts for about 50 per cent of the continent’s copper production and among the five top producers of copper in the world. Modern copper mining has been going on in Zambia since the 1920’s (Emielu, 2000).

Copper is mined mainly in the Copper belt, which is located in north-central part of Zambia, south-west of Katanga province, in Democratic Republic of the Congo (see Fig. 47.2). The belt covers an area of 31,328 sq km (12,096sq mi); occupies the upper portion of the Kafue river basin on the central plateau of southern Africa, some 900m to 1,500 m (3,000ft to 5,000 ft) above sea level. The rolling terrain is covered by savannah vegetation, reflecting a markedly seasonal pattern of rainfall. Ndola is the provincial capital. The Copper belt is Zambia’s economic heartland, the centre of a mining industry that provides over 90 per cent of Zambia’s export earnings.


Methods of mining and processing of copper

Two methods of mining are employed in the Zambian Copper Belt namely:

(a) Open cast or quarry method and

(b) Underground mining or shaft method.

Open cast mining refers to a method of extracting minerals (copper) from the earth by their removal from an open pit or burrow. Open cast mining method is usually employed when mineral deposits are found near the surface, like the situation in Nchanga and Chambishi mines, where the ore occurs near the surface.

The underground mining or shaft method is an extractive method that requires tunnelling into the earth, when mineral deposits occur deep below the surface. Some of these underground mines are more than 1,000 metres deep. Roan Antelope mine is a good example of a mine that employs the shaft method of mining.

Zambian copper reserves are estimated to be in excess of 700 million tons with cooper content of 3.7 percent. The raw copper ore is therefore, usually refined before it is exported. The process of refining involves four major stages, that is, (a) Blasting (b) Floating (c) Smelting and (d) Electrolytic refining.

Blasting is the first stage of refining copper. It involves blowing up the ore bearing hard rock with explosives, after which the broken rocks are moved into the mill. Here it is crushed into small pieces, ground into fine powder and moved to the next stage which is called floating.

Floating involves mixing the fine-powdered ore with water and chemicals, after which air is blown through the mixture. The copper particles cling to the air bubbles and rise to the surface, where they are collected and dried as copper concentrates and sent to the smelter. At the stage of smelting, the copper concentrates are put into a furnace, heated together with limestone and coal until they melt. The molten copper (called matte) is very heavy and sinks to the bottom of the furnace, the lighter waste materials (called slag) float on top of the furnace. The matte or molten copper is further refined in an electrolytic refinery, where it is cast into bars for export.

Copper exploitation in Zambia has contributed immensely to the economic development of the country by generating foreign exchange, creating employment opportunities, stimulating industrial growth and infrastructural and urban development. The contributions of copper production in Zambia notwithstanding, the industry is currently facing a number of problems. These include the falling price of copper at the international market, shortage of equipment and spare parts, industrial unrest and competition in the market with other metal such as aluminum, which can be substituted for copper. In addition some of the mines are too deep to be economically viable thereby leading to the closure of some of the mines in recent times.


Gold in South Africa

South Africa is the richest and most developed country in Africa. It has large deposits of a variety of minerals and has foreign exchange accruing from the exploitation of mineral resources, such as gold which has contributed significantly to her development. South Africa is the largest producer of gold in the world and the second leading producer of diamonds; the leading producer of coal in Africa and a major producer of manganese, platinum, asbestos, chrome ore, uranium, phosphate and vanadium among many others.

Gold has remained the most important and chief revenue earner for South Africa. Gold has become synonymous with South Africa and has helped to initiate an industrial revolution which has led to the transformation of the country from a poor agricultural country to the most industrialized state in Africa. Gold which was discovered in 1886 in the country can be said to be the story of South Africa.


Uses of Gold

Gold is a shiny yellow metal; it is rather soft for a metal hence has to be mixed with other metals. It is a highly precious and the most valued metal throughout human history; it neither rusts nor deteriorates, hence it is used in precious ornaments. Gold has been used throughout history as a measure of human wealth and it is the standard for the world’s monetary system.


Mining Areas

There are three major gold producing areas in South Africa namely:

  1. The Witwatersrand goldfield just referred to as the “Rand”.
  2. Klerksdorp goldfields, centred in Klerksdorp.
  3. Orange Free State goldfields centred on Welkom.

The “Rand” gold mine is the oldest, as mining started there with the discovery of gold in 1886. It is the largest goldfield in the world. It is centred in Johannesburg and extends for about 120km from East to West.

The Klerksodorp goldfield is centred in Klerksodorp; and the Orange Free State goldfield commenced production in 1947, hence it is the youngest goldfield in the country. The three goldfields talked about stretch out in a semi-circular fashion on the landscape of South Africa, forming an arc; fondly referred to as the “golden arc of South Africa” The arc is 480 km long.


Mining Methods and Processing

The three main methods of mining gold are:

(a) Crushing method.

(b) Recycling Method.

(c) Panning method.


Crushing is the most important method of mining gold. The process involves crushing hard rocks to obtain gold. This is done either manually or mechanically with machines.

The panning is the mining method employed where gold is found on alluvial deposits such as, along river valleys, while the recycling is a recent development. Gold usually occurs as small grains or particles embedded in quartz veins called reefs. These reefs are very hard and vary in thickness from a few centimetres to one metre. The process involves blasting the reef with explosives underground and the particles brought up to the surface. The rock particles are crushed and ground to fine powder in mills. The ground gold grains and dust is then melted and cast into gold blocks or bars measuring between 30cm by 10cm. Each gold block weighs about 31 kg, which contains 90 per cent pure cold. The gold blocks are further refined to remove impurities and improve the quality of the gold blocks or bars. The impurities or wastes are piled up in mine dumps. There is currently a new technology to recycle and extract gold particles from mine waste dumps, in a process referred to as recycling.

Panning is the method of extracting and processing gold from alluvial deposits in river valleys. The method requires very little capital; hence can be operated by individuals who are interested in investing in the sector. All the person needs is either a calabash or pan, which is used to collect sand and water from the river bed. The sand is washed several times by turning the calabash round and round, this eases the heavier gold particles to sink to the bottom of the container and remain there. This is not a modern method of mining gold, and there is the possibility of not finding any gold after working for several days or weeks.


Contributions of Gold to the Local Economy

The contributions of gold to the development of South Africa are not in doubt, as the country has benefitted socially and economically from the exploitation of the mineral; no wonder therefore, there is the saying that the story of South Africa is the story of gold. Specific areas of contribution are as follows:

  1. Gold mining has provided employment for about 50,000 whites and over half a million blacks from within South Africa and also from neighbouring countries.
  2. Gold production generates a lot of revenue and foreign exchange for the government and people of South Africa. The country is the largest producer of gold in the world.
  3. The revenue that accrues from gold production is used to develop other sectors of the economy such as, agriculture and industry; consequently South Africa is the most developed agricultural and industrial nation of Africa.
  4. Gold production has led to the development of basic social and economic infrastructures, such as, railways, communication networks, health, educational and water supply, among many others.
  5. Gold production has led to urbanization, as new cities have emerged as more and more people are attracted to the region.
  6. Due to the precious and valuable nature of gold production, a lot of internal investment has been attracted to South Africa.
  7. Uranium is a mineral mined along side with gold, because uranium is found in gold-bearing rocks. More than 98 per cent of uranium produced in the country is derived from gold fields. This generates additional revenue for the country.


Problems of Mining Gold in South Africa

Mining gold has its associated problems and these include:

  1. Heat and Ventilation in Mines: As mines shafts or tunnels get deeper, the hotter it becomes. The situation is such that for every 670 metres of descent, temperature increases by 1°C. In some of the very deep mines, the temperature can get as high as 60°C. This type of mine fields need to be supplied with fresh air and properly ventilated for miners to survive at such great depths. Air and ventilation shafts are usually put in place to supply fresh air but it is not uncommon for such air and ventilation systems to be out of order. This puts miners in deep mines at great risk as they can be suffocated in the process of mining.
  2. Flooding, Rock burst and Subsidence: Where water bearing rocks lie above a gold mine, there is the danger of such mines been flooded thereby drowning miners; and the mine collapsing under the weight of the over bearing weight of the water-bearing rock (aquifer). In addition, the great heat and pressure in deep mines may cause rock burst.
  3. Disease: Mining gold has its own health hazards. Miners inhale and are exposed to dust during the process of mining and they may contact Phthisis, a form of tuberculosis.
  4. Water Problem: Mining gold requires a lot of water for the processing, which often is in short supply. It has been found out that about two metric tons of water is required for each metric ton of gold ore mined. This need has made water a serious problem in gold mines.
  5. Labour Problem: The competition from agricultural and industrial sectors has made recruitment for gold mines increasingly difficult. An increasing number of people perceive mining as a high risk job hence they tend to seek other safer jobs.
  6. Depletion and Declining Production: Exhaustion of gold ore in a number of mine fields in South Africa has led to declining production in recent times. Some of the gold deposits at great depths from the surface are economically lucrative. It is important to note that the deepest mines in the world (4,000m) are found in South Africa.


Petroleum and Natural Gas in Nigeria

The Niger Delta region is the main petroleum and natural gas producing area in Nigeria. Exploitation of oil is carried out both on-shore and off shore.

Crude petroleum and natural gas are fossils, like coal and are non renewable sources of energy.

The first attempt at drilling for petroleum in Nigeria started as far back as 1908 by a German Company, known as Nigeria Bitumen Cooperation (NBC). The company’s search for oil was quite unsuccessful. Much later in 1937 the Shell BP Company started search for oil and its first major discovery was in 1956 at Oloibiri, in River State. It was in the following year that Shell BP exported its first crude oil and launched Nigeria into the league of oil producers.

Further discoveries were made by other foreign oil companies, such as, Mobil, Agip, Elf, Texaco and an indigenous National Petroleum Company (NNPC). This has helped to increase the total oil production from the country. Nigerian crude oil is low in sulphur content and light in specific gravity, hence finds a ready market and is highly priced.

Nigeria is currently the largest producer and exporter of crude oil in Africa; and the seventh largest producer of crude oil in the world. Oil production in the country has continued to increase since it was discovered in commercial quantities in 1957, except for a brief disruption during the Nigerian Civil War years (19671970). In 1958, only 9,000 tons of crude was exported, rising to 20.7 million tons in 1966. International oil prices were very unstable in the 1970s and 1980s.

Much natural gas is also produced; in 2001 the annual production was about 15.7 billion cu m (554 billion cu ft), which is used to fuel domestic power stations. The amount of gas recovered at present is only a minority of what is produced as a by-product of the oil industry; the majority is flared. A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project is currently been executed, to export gas to the European market. Gas reserves were estimated at 3,114 billion cum (109,924 billion cu ft) in the early 1990s, and estimates have increased since.

Nigerian oil fields are concentrated in the Niger Delta area and a network of pipe lines supply crude oil to oil refineries, storage tanks and the oil terminals at Bonny from where crude oil is shipped for export. There are oil refineries at Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna.


Processing and Products

Crude oil is a thick, black sticky liquid which needs to be refined before use. A number of products are formed or produced in the process of refining crude oil in an oil refinery. Petroleum products formed from refining crude oil include: heavy used in ships, aviation fuel used in aircrafts, petrol used in cars, diesel oil, lubricating oil, kerosene, bitumen (tar). Petroleum products are used to produce commodities such as, paints, detergents and fertilizers, all types of plastic products, polythene, nylon and polyester.

Oil refining is a complex process; the main process however is called fractional distillation. The process involves heating the crude oil until it turns into vapour, which is turned back to liquid at different cooling temperatures. Different petroleum products (petrol, diesel oil, kerosene etc.) are formed at each different cooling temperature.


Economic Importance of Crude Oil to Nigeria

The story of Nigeria’s wealth in the last half a century cannot be told without mentioning the significant contribution of the oil and gas sector to her economy. It has oiled the engine of development in Nigeria.

  1. Contribution to Government Revenue: Oil has remained the main revenue earner in Nigeria. Revenues from oil exports, exceeded US$20 billion in 1980, declined to US$10 billion in 1982. Oil exports, for example, rose and dominated external trade revenues. In 1994, they accounted for over 97 per cent of the total value of exports.
  2. Infrastructural Development: The enormous revenue realized from oil export since the mid-1970’s has been invested massively in building social and economic infrastructure such as, roads, schools, airports and rural development generally. Some oil companies also provide basic infrastructure, such as pipe water, for communities within their operational areas.
  3. Urban Development: Oil exploration and production has led to the development of urban centres. Port Harcourt and Warri in the Niger Delta are very good examples in this regard. These cities do not only provide housing for oil workers but are also home to petroleum allied industries.
  4. Employment and Manpower Development: The oil industry has directly and indirectly created employment for both skilled and unskilled workers. In addition, oil companies have continued to develop their human capacity, through award of scholarships to Nigerians to train in oil related disciplines in the country and abroad.
  5. Cheap Power: Petroleum products generally, are relatively cheaper in Nigeria than neighbouring countries, though, there has been several price increases in the country in recent times; oil price still remains low, when compared to other African countries. The price of cooking gas is also relatively cheap when compared to the price in other countries. It is important to note that electricity supply to most oil producing areas is free of charge. It comes through gas turbines.


Problems of Crude Oil and Gas Production in Nigeria

The social and economic benefits of oil production in Nigeria, notwithstanding, the industry is encountering a number of problems. These include:

  1. The Niger Delta where the bulk of oil production is carried out has a difficult environment that is swampy and waterlogged. There are numerous rivers and tributaries, raising the cost of providing operational infrastructures such as roads and bridges.
  2. Some of the oil deposits are found off-shore; consequently, floating oil rigs are usually constructed. Their construction is not only expensive but hazardous.
  3. Not all attempts at drilling for oil are successful. It is therefore very wasteful and frustrating if ‘dry wells’ are struck in the process of drilling because of the enormous amount of money involved.
  4. The fluctuating nature of global oil price is another problem, particularly if the national budget is prepared based on a particular oil price. For example, in 1982 crude oil sold for $30 per barrel, but in 1986 it dropped to about $12 per barrel. The price in 2005 was over $60 per barrel. This usually affects national plans and programmes particularly under a situation like Nigeria’s, where there is over dependence on revenue derived from crude oil while neglecting such a sector as agriculture.
  5. Oil production is capital intensive and highly technical; hence does not generate much employment. Furthermore, most of the profit goes to foreigners who own and manage the industry. (Capital Flight)
  6. The oil producing areas in the Niger Delta are neglected by the government and oil companies; hence they have remained underdeveloped. This has led to conflict, youth restiveness, and agitation for self determination by the people of the Niger Delta, in order to control the oil resources found in their locality. In addition, farmland, water supply sources and diversity of plant and animal life (biodiversity) are destroyed by oil pollution and spillages that are associated with oil exploitation and sabotage. The gas flaring in the Niger Delta tends to cause acid rain, which destroys corrugated roofing sheets.


There is need for the government and the oil companies to put in place policies that will help to curtail some of the problems earlier discussed. Besides, basic socio-economic infrastructures such as roads, housing, water supply etc needs to be developed to stem the high level of poverty and underdevelopment in the region.



Lumbering is defined as the trade of cutting, preparing or selling timber. This is a major primary economic activity in the equatorial and rain forest regions of Africa.

Timber is one of the major forest products in Africa, other major products are firewood and charcoal, poles and posts. Minor forest products vary from one country/region to the other and even from one area to the other in Africa; and include yam sticks, chewing sticks, wrapping leaves, bamboo, cam wood, shea nut and tie-tie (ropes). Other minor products are sourced from hunting of animals or wild life, which provide protein and the gathering of various seeds, medicinal leaves and herbs, among many other products.

The heavy rainfall and high temperatures together provide suitable climatic conditions that support the growth of rich equatorial forest. This forest region covers an extensive area in the Congo Basin and spans to the coastal areas of West Africa. Notable countries that produce timber for export are Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Cameroon and Angola in Central Africa; Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria in West Africa. Others are Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in East Africa and Mozambique in Southern Africa. Ghana is one of the leading world producers of hardwood, the main source of supply being in the area west of the Pra River.

In terms of value, timber is the third most important export commodity in both Ghana and Ivory Coast. In 1970, for example, about N15 million and N60 million were realized from timber exports from Ghana and Ivory Coast, respectively. Timber exports from Nigeria are worth only N2.5million annually, while exports from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were valued at only N1.5 million per annum in the early 1980’s. Exports from Mozambique and Angola are much higher than those from East Africa.

About 8 per cent of Africa’s land surface is covered by tropical rain forest, that is, about 228, 000 hectares. The trees have straight trunks and are tall, sometimes reaching up to 60 metres in height. Common timber species include mahogany, walnut, sapele wood, ebony, iroko, obeche, abura, wawa and oukome. Timber from Africa finds a ready market in industrialized countries in Europe. African forests are gradually being destroyed by sustained felling of trees for export and energy, without replacing them. Poor and primitive agricultural practices in many parts of Africa have also contributed immensely to the destruction of the forest in Africa. There is therefore need for a policy of reforestation to contain the threat of deforestation.


Importance of Lumbering

The importance of the exploitation of Africa’s forest resources for timber, to her socioeconomic development cannot be over emphasized. Notable areas of importance and contribution to the continents economy are:

  1. The lumbering industry is a source of employment to many people.
  2. The export of timber yields an enormous amount of foreign exchange.
  3. The lumbering industry provides the hardwood used in making boats for water transportation in various riverine and coastal regions of Africa.
  4. Communication and service poles such as telephone and electricity are acquired through lumbering.
  5. Wood and planks for building construction are all products secured through lumbering.
  6. Wood is also used in the construction of wooden bridges across streams and rivers.
  7. Wood pulp, veneer, plywood and particle board are other wood products obtained from lumbering.


Problems facing Lumbering in Africa

The lumbering industry like any other industry has its own problems, which if not addressed could lead to the fall in out-put and in the long run the relevance of lumbering as an important revenue earner.

  1. The forest contains a variety of numerous tree species. It is often difficult to identify economic trees from non-economic ones, for the purpose of felling.
  2. Economic and/or useful trees are not concentrated in one location within the forest but are scattered. Roads therefore need to be constructed in order to reach useful trees. These make-shift roads are more expensive to build because of the difficult terrain and wet environment; and most often the roads are not strong enough to carry heavy duty vehicles that convey timber from the forest to the market.
  3. In situations where there is a concentration of lumbering or timber companies operating in one forest location, felling of trees becomes a serious problem. Instead of felled trees falling to the ground/ they hang on others, thereby, making access to the forest extremely difficult.
  4. Floating logs in water is a way of transporting timber to sawmills and to the ports for export. At times this mode of transportation encounters the problem of large,heavy logs sinking instead of floating, due to their immense size and weight.
  5. Some countries in Africa have no afforestation policy. The forest in such countries is being rapidly depleted.
  6. The use of tropical hardwood, found in Africa is limited. Temperate soft woods are usually favoured in the production of paper; this has led to a fall in the demand of tropical hardwood.
  7. Tropical hardwood is very hard and difficult to work with when compared to soft wood. This is a further reason for the fall in its demand.
  8. Forests, especially those in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are in remote locations, making transportation of timber to the ports quite difficult and at great cost.
  9. Lumbering is capital intensive. The needed capital is not readily available to build sawmills to process the logs before exportation.
  10. The hot and humid climate conditions in tropical forest areas, where lumbering is carried out, do not readily attract highly skilled labour that could help to effectively exploit the forest.


Besides the problems facing the lumbering industry in Africa as earlier discussed, the industry itself creates a number of environmental problems that needs to be examined. These problems are:

  1. Rapid deforestation and indiscriminate destruction of the tropical rain forest.
  2. Soil erosion and degradation due to the removal of tree cover.
  3. Depletion of the biodiversity.
  4. Felling of trees may affect the climate and ecological balance of forest regions.
  5. Removal of tree cover may lead to flooding and land slides in high relief areas.


Lumbering in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Lumbering in Nigeria has some similarities and differences. In Nigeria, lumbering is an important primary economic activity, carried out in the tropical rain forest, the fresh water swamp forest, and the mangrove or salt water swamp forest areas of the country. The tropical rain forest of Nigeria remains the leading timber producing area.

Several sawmills have been setup in the forest region to process raw timber for both the domestic and foreign markets. One of the leading sawmilling companies in Nigeria is African Timber and Plywood Company. The annual harvest of round wood in 2002 was about 69.5 million cu m (2.45 billion cu ft).

In years past, the felling of trees was done by men with large axes; and it took up to six strong men to fell a large tree in a day. This is a laborious process of lumbering, which has given way to a mechanized method, which involves using power saws’ to fell trees. Due to the large buttress roots of tree, platforms are usually built at above the level of the buttress, to facilitate the cutting of tree at points where the tree trunk is narrow.

There are government policies and institutions that regulate the felling of trees in Nigeria. Lumbering is only allowed in forest areas. Good trees are not usually found in one location; hence lumber – men usually search the forest to locate trees which are good for timber. The hardwoods usually marked for felling are mahogany, iroko and Sapele.

After felling, the logs are dragged from the forest, with the help of tractors to locations where they can be transported either by lorry or floated on water to sawmills and/or to the port for export. Often times, logs to be floated on water are tied together into rafts and dragged by motor boats to either the saw mill or port. Due to the difficulty of transporting logs from the forest, lumber-men normally select good trees that are close to roads or transportation routes. However, where this is not practicable and the trees are felled in the heart of the forest, the logs are sawn in the forest.

In Nigeria, timber is used to produce a variety of wood products. These include sawn wood (in form of planks, beams, rafters etc), wood pulp, veneer, plywood and particle and fibre board. Some quantity of soft wood is currently being sourced from the local soft wood forest reserves; However, the supply has not been able to meet the demand from the paper industry. This has necessitated the importation of a large quantity of soft wood from abroad. The main problems of lumbering in Africa, as earlier discussed, are also applicable to Nigeria.


Lumbering in Democratic Republic of Congo

(DRC) basically has similar features like that of Nigeria. There are however some important differences:

  1. The forest cover in DRC is more extensive than forest cover in Nigeria. Over 70 per cent of the land area of DRC is forest, while about 20 per cent of the land area in Nigeria is forest. This is significant because the DRC forest cover of 1.5million sq km is about seven times the forest area of Nigeria, and more than the total land area of Nigeria.
  2. Nigerian forest cover is located close to the coast, which is within 100km from the coast. The situation is however, different in DRC, where some of the forests stretch as far inland as 1, 500km from the coast.
  3. Transportation of timber in DRC, is quite a problem because her coast is extensive and in addition floating of logs on the Congo River is a problem. There are numerous rapids and cataracts along the course of the Congo River; this hinders smooth floating of logs. Nigeria’s forest belt on the other hand is close to the coast and there are few rapids along the course of the majority of the rivers in the region; this considerably helps to reduce the cost of transporting timber to sawmills and to the port, as against the high cost in the DRC.
  4. DRC has a large stock and reserve of virgin unexploited forest. The case is however different in Nigeria, where the tropical rain forest is highly depleted; the natural rain forest is giving way to secondary type of vegetation, due to the massive exploitation of the forest in order to meet the developmental needs of Nigeria’s 132 million people (2006 estimate). But in DRC, the pressure on the forest is less comparatively, because of its sparsely populated nature.
  5. As a result of the massive exploitation and consequent depletion of the rain forest in Nigeria, policies, laws and in some instances total ban has been established to check the sustained depletion of the forest. In DRC, there is no need for either any restraining policy or ban because of the vast stock of unexploited forest.


Fishing and Fish Farming

Fish is an important source of protein. It used to be cheaper than meat in many Africa countries, but fresh fish is currently being priced out of the reach of the poor majority in Africa. There are abundant fresh water and marine water fisheries in Africa, which has not been fully exploited, though fishing is a major primary economic activity on the continent.

Fishing is carried out along the coastal areas as well as in large rivers and lakes. The total fish catch has not been able to meet the local demand in many African countries; hence a lot of money is spent on its importation. The need to develop the available fish resources in order to meet the ever rising demand for fish, and reduce the expenditure on fish importation in the continent, has received increased attention and investment by many African countries.


Fresh Water Fishing

Fresh water fishing is more important than marine water fishing in tropical Africa. This is because it is wide spread, the volume of catch is higher and a larger number of people obtain their living from it, than in marine water fishing. For example, the combined fish catch from fresh water sources in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, in 1969 was 272, 000 tons, worth N20 million, compared with only 24, 000 tons, worth N4 million, from marine water sources. In East Africa, the Great Lakes region, made up of lakes Tanganyika, Victoria, Turkana are among the most important fresh water fishing grounds in tropical Africa. The bordering areas of Lake Victoria for example, are densely populated and provide a ready market for the fishing industry in the region.

The fresh waters of the Niger Delta, the middle Niger valley and the Lake Chad are notable fresh water fisheries in West Africa. A large number of people in the region earn a living from fishing. Fish production has been on the decline in the region in recent times. This is essentially due to the prolonged Sahelian drought and desertification, which has reduced the volume of flood waters in the Niger Delta and in Lake Chad.

In the Niger Delta in particular, petroleum exploration and exploitation has negatively affected fish production. The fresh water is polluted by oil spillages and gas flaring, consequently destroying the fish stock and other fresh water plants and animals (biodiversity). The main fishing ethnic groups in the Niger Delta are Sorko, the Samono, the Bambara, the Babo and the Bozo.

The methods used in catching fresh fish vary from one area to another. Conically shaped fish traps are the most widely used method and/or equipment in catching fish in tropical Africa.

Other methods are dragging nets from canoes. Hand nets are also used, but these are more popular in smaller rivers where spears, lines and poisons are also used. The use of poison for fishing is on the decline due to enlightenment about its dangers on human health. It is important to note that most methods and equipment used in fresh fishing in tropical Africa are of low technology. This essentially affects the fish catch.


Marine Water Fishing

Marine water or open sea fishing is not well developed in tropical Africa because fishing in marine waters requires a high level of technology, which is virtually absent in most African countries that are involved in fish

production. The situation is gradually changing as more fishing terminals and support facilities are being built to enhance fish production on the continent.

Marine water fishing involves the use of motorized fishing boats and trawlers; it is capital intensive and the few established fleets are owned and operated by foreign companies registered in Japan and Europe (see plate 47.4). Major rich marine fishing grounds in Africa, are countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, such as, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Angola and Mozambique, which have extensive continental shelves (see plate 47.5).The coasts of Mauritania and the Canary Islands among others, which attract large fishing boats or trawlers from Portugal, France and Britain are among the richest marine fishing grounds in Africa. The main fishing season in these waters extends from April to November, and the fish catch consists mainly of sardines, mackerel and tuna.

Other notable fishing grounds along the West Africa coast are located in the drowned estuaries that stretch from southern Senegal to south-eastern Sierra-Leone and the Gulf of Guinea. The main fish species caught here include sardines and shade or bongo fish.

Most professional local African sea fishermen, such as, the Ijaw and Ilaje Yoruba of Nigeria, the people of Zanzibar and the Wolof of Senegal, fish along the continental shelves of their respective coastal waters. This is because they have small fishing boats which usually encounter problems when used for fishing in the open sea. Although, some of the marine fish catch is sold fresh, a considerable quantity of the catch is processed in factories into canned fish and fish meat, while some is exported.


Fish Farming or Aqua-Culture

Fish farming or what is regarded as aqua-culture has been developed in many African countries. This is essentially to meet increasing demand for animal protein; and in particular to supplement the fish catch from both fresh and marine water sources, which is unable to meet the demand for fish and fish related products.

It is important to note that fish farming is relatively cheap and uses simple technology, which needs to be adapted to the African environment, for high fish production. Suitable and major fish farming areas in Africa are the extensive coastal lagoons in West Africa and along the Indian Ocean. Minor fish farming grounds are the swampy and marshy lands found along major lakes, seasonally rain-fed swamps such as the Cross River Plains in Anambra in Nigeria and the grassland swamps of Sierra Leone. Fish farms are also found in artificial lakes which are as a result of hydro-power projects like those in Kainji in Nigeria and Volta Lake in Ghana, among others.

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