The piece of Africa in your pocket

Photo by Julien Harneis

Since 1998, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been embroiled in Civil War and the number of people who have died numbers more than 5 million. In the Eastern part of the country, sexual violence has spiraled out of control, and has earned the region the dubious honor of being the rape capital of the world.

Why am I telling you these sobering statistics on this techie tutorial blog? Because in purchasing electronic devices like cell phones, MP3 players and laptops, we have all unwittingly contributed to the problem. Nearly all of these devices contain minerals such as tin, tungsten and gold, which are abundant in the DRC. Many of the mines where these minerals are found are controlled by the armed militias who are responsible for the atrocities that have been committed, and use the proceeds from the mining operations to finance their operations.

In the US, there has thankfully been recent action to make companies disclose if they use any of these conflict minerals in their products. As consumers, it’s our purchasing dollars that influence what electronics companies put into their products. Once we’re aware of what our purchases are helping fund, change won’t be far off.

To learn more about conflict minerals, I highly recommend watching the above video, which was produced by the Enough Project. Their website is also an excellent source of information on the topic. You can also make a commitment to purchase conflict-free electronics, where you can directly contact 21 of the largest electronics companies by filling out a short form.

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