Daniel Howden: A golden example for Africa's resources

Lake Victoria Notebook: Mwanza is one of those places that doesn't get written about

Share
Related Topics

Ask yourself, where would you be today without gold? For some people, the answer might be several ounces lighter around the neck, ears and fingers. For others, possibly, in search of replacement fillings.

In this case, the question was posed by the director of a gold-mining company coming to the end of an inspection visit to a string of new mines on the Tanzanian shore of Lake Victoria.

Mwanza is one of those places that doesn't get written about, an African boom town of middling size and increasing prosperity. There are no horrifying human rights abuses and the resource is not a curse. Africa's largest lake is ringed by overpopulation and poverty, its ports have no shipping to speak of and most of its towns are in decline.

Not so Mwanza, where the relentless rise in gold prices has seen a mining boom. There's a shiny new conference centre, two new hotels, the once cratered roads are paved and the port's many market places are heaving with small traders.

Frank Roberts of Holdtrade Mining thinks that his industry is given an undeservedly hard time. "The mining industry gets so much negative coverage but you ask people in Mwanza what they think," he says.

The age of digging for nuggets is over and nowadays gold is mined by leaching huge quantities of ore with lethal chemicals in order to collect tiny traces of the precious metal. It's a dirty business that leaves huge ponds of contaminated water. But for now it's an economic mainstay.

"We encourage them to ask themselves every day, where would you be without it?" says Roberts.

For now, the answer is much worse off. Whether that holds in the future depends on how much the mining companies are prepared to spend on cleaning up after the gold rush.

Africa's real beauty is hidden

A vast inland sea, the reservoir of the Nile, Lake Victoria ought to be a fabled destination. It isn't. Most visitors to East Africa make for the Indian Ocean beaches or the safari parks, the greatest of which, the Serengeti, is just 15 kilometres from the lake's shore. Cities like Mwanza, above, don't make the itinerary as the emphasis is on selling fantasy Africa and working hard to ensure that the real thing is kept out of sight.

So the "Rock City" with its incredible circular stones that seem to suggest that one day it rained boulders on the landscape, goes largely unseen. As does the noisy coming together of its modern glass-and-metal towers with the low-rise Indian architecture of the late colonial period. And wildlife watchers miss the onset of dusk over the lake when clouds of fish eagles wheel and dive in their hundreds in a staggering display that is yet to trouble a travel brochure.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice