Politicians must no longer manage Africa’s natural resources unilaterally, say experts
On Day 1 of the 12th African Economic Conference, which began on December 4, 2017 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), experts from Africa called for the inclusive management of the continent’s natural resources, where there is a high level of inequality, during the third plenary session entitled “Inclusive resource governance as a driver of structural transformation”. They asked political leaders to stop making decisions alone.
“We talk about the governance of natural resources because we have millions of people living near these resources, but extraction causes more problems than it solves,” said Hannah Forster, Executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS). “These populations endure conflicts and poverty.”
She continued: “We have nations that are rich in oil, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage. We have land that is a resource capable of attracting investors and turning them into happy people. Unfortunately, they are not.” According to Hannah Forster, future prospects for these African populations are anything but bright.
“We have to put an end to these inequalities. Politicians must involve civil society in decision-making to manage natural resources,” she said. Governance should therefore include the development of leadership, the promotion of dialogue with civil society, and the increased accountability of communities.
“We must allow our citizens to identify their needs and determine their priorities. They must take their destiny into their own hands,” Forster stressed.
Claude Kabambe, Director of Research at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSIWA), an organisation that aims to encourage the creation of open societies in Africa, agreed.
“In African countries, we are struck by the poverty that exists alongside the abundance of natural wealth. Where does the problem lie? We have, for example, established advanced mining codes,” noted Claude Kabambe. “But the problem arises when we apply them, because within our ministries there are no technicians, no logistics, in other words no infrastructure. So, if we want to fight poverty, we need to add value to our minerals by involving our populations, with governance models that enable the participation of communities.”
Another major problem, according to the Research Director, is the monopolisation of mining resources by politicians. “Every time the government changes, we go back to the drawing board in terms of the existing environment. This is not good because it does not allow for predictions. And it is a diversion from the model of contractual negotiation. Legislation must not simply provide the right to exploitation because this leads to corruption,” he said.
Yao Graham, Coordinator of the research organisation Third World Network Africa (TWN), based in Accra, Ghana, suggested that economic planning should be revived in African countries. “We cannot transform our economies if we cannot overcome this lack of planning. We must work out how to create an environment that promotes the development of home-grown businesses, especially since the market is dominated by foreign companies,” he suggested.
The 12th African Economic Conference was held from December 4 to 6, 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the theme “Governance for Structural Transformation”.
Organised jointly by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the AEC provides a unique forum for economists and decision-makers to discuss ways to improve access to information and research on economic questions and the quality of decision-making in this field.