Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 2018) – The Congo Diaries and Africa’s Energy Bounty

1. The Last Frontier…Africa’s gargantuan energy bounty!

Originally written in 1899 and titled Congo Diaries, this great piece of English literature was written by a Ukrainian who set out to find adventure. London had become too boring and lifeless for him. Africa was one of the few places that remained hidden from the Western mind, shrouded in darkness, which increased the young man’s desire to venture out to explore the interior of this unknown world. 

On his way to the African heartland, his fascination grew, as he passed along the misty shores of the west coast of Africa, like a solid mass that one cannot penetrate, a thick forest that lay behind a shoreline of little significance. Europeans had recently begun to exploit the continent for resources, and in the wild there was virtually no control or oversight by anyone given the distance and it was very hard to encounter the newly arrived resource managers. They were not limited by supervisory authorities, able to extort more concessions.

2. Europeans Rising to Their Level of Incompetence – In Africa

What fascinates us is that the newcomers to the African continent were once full of energy, they were enthusiasts who wanted to explore and expand their own horizons. They came to build bridges where rapids could not be crossed. As they spent time in Africa, the wilderness, risk and dangerous conditions led them to take a more short-term approach to managing the risk involved in running an African business. Such an approach meant that managers in Africa and Congo had to compromise, they had to move up the corporate hierarchy quickly. This meant that they had to make profits quickly because they were still accountable to shareholders and superiors in Europe who wanted to be compensated for the risk of investing in Africa.

It was an all-or-nothing approach. They pushed their way up the business chain, expanding their business vigorously and penetrating deep into the African continent. They had to move up the hierarchy and achieve the goals of their superiors, who were quite inflexible. Even if they are not able to run this business in this particular environment without any social and physical infrastructure, they had to do it or leave Africa with almost no reward. That was the paradigm. The longer they worked in Africa for their superiors, the more invested they became in a long-term goal that became like a lottery.

3. Congo’s Energy Dilemma

The dilemma Congo faces is that it needs foreign investment to exploit its energy resources. There are the uranium and oil deposits under a thick layer of very fertile soil that make Congo famous. The exploitation of resources would put Congo almost in the same position as in the past.

4. Long-term investments matter for Africa’s future. They also tell us something about how we should invest.

Many have come to enrich themselves, but not many have come to invest for the long term. The industrialists have come to speculate. But their investments have quickly seeped into hungry minds and been lost in obscure channels never to be seen again. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that only long-term investments and a clear overview of where the money is spent lead to prosperity.

5. References:

Conrad, J 2007, Heart of Darkness, Penguin Group, London.

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