Africa, it’s said, is the mother of modern civilisation, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Congo is. Consider your mobile phone. Before it was assembled in a Chinese factory, the coltan in its capacitors may have been dug by miners in the Eastern Congo, where millions have died in a series of wars over ‘conflict minerals’, though we give this no more thought than previous generations of Westerners gave to the Congolese origins of the ivory in their piano keys, the rubber in their tyres, the copper in their bullet casings or the uranium in their bombs. The mobile phones and computers that connect us to the world also conceal our relationship to it. Some would say that’s just as well. ‘The conquest of the earth,’ Conrad wrote, ‘is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much….’
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