Africa has been blessed with resources for centuries, yet once again, stupidity from outsiders is preventing their use to bring the continent’s people into prosperity.
Today’s example regards elephants, rhinos, and Gabon (Reuters):
The central African nation of Gabon will burn its government stockpiles of ivory on Wednesday against the backdrop of a surge in the killing of elephants and rhinos across the continent to meet surging Asian demand.
No one wants to see elephants and rhinos made extinct, least of all said Asians desiring their ivory – and that’s exactly the point that seems to have been missed here. Basic microeconomics tells us that a resource valued by consumers becomes profits for producers. When the resource is renewable (such as in the case of elephants and rhinos), said producers have every incentive to keep the resource from disappearing – provided that they own the resources in question.
That’s where the story of Africa’s ivory resources takes its first tragic turn. Rather than take the obvious economic steps to ensure ivory sellers and/or native Africans have the incentive to breed and maintain elephants and rhinos via a firm definition of property rights, the “conservation groups” – who repeatedly reveal their complete ignorance of economics – call for complete bans and government “protection” of the animals.
The result is as completely predictable and all the more tragic: no one has an incentive to preserve and grow the elephant population, and the only profit to be gained is by breaking the nonsensical ban – which only encourages criminal elements and short-term thinking . . .
. . . and bizarre situations where the government itself becomes the largest ivory supplier – if only by accident (same link):
. . . the tusks and carvings would be set alight by Gabon’s President Ali Bongo after they had been subjected to an independent audit to ensure none had been pilfered for illegal sale.
. . . wildlife groups reported that Zambia lost 3 tonnes of ivory from government storage last week while Mozambique had 1.1 million tonnes stolen in February.
It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. The people of Africa lose an avenue to prosperity; criminals have an easier time swiping ivory for sale; and governments trying to stop the ivory trade become its largest de facto enablers.
Are the egos of foreign “conservation groups” really worth that much?
Cross-posted to Bearing Drift