So Afghanistan is going to be “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, but a more prosaic way of putting the point might be that Afghanistan is, if it’s lucky, poisoned to become the next Bolivia. Indeed, when last we saw geopolitical lithium hype this was the concern and thanks to lithium’s use in batteries for the hypothetical fleet of electric cars that will allegedly save the planet, Bolivia’s been called “the Saudi Arabia of the green world”. But it’s also an impoverished backwater.
On the one hand you have a “foreigners come in to exploit resources in partnership with corrupt local officials” model and on the other hand you have the “socialist president scares off foreign investors so you can’t run the mines” model. Neither quite gets you what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Afghans are working in the agricultural sector and there’s a risk that an influx of foreign dollars to invest in mining operations could lead to currency appreciation that makes agricultural exports uncompetitive. Of course if funds from mining operations are invested in ways that improve the productivity of Afghan farmers (better roads? irrigation?) then you’ve got a win-win. But if not, you’ve got a bonanza for whoever captures the revenue stream (corrupt officials, most likely) that could actually make most people worse off.