Everyone agrees that enhanced transparency—on payments, revenues, royalties and taxes—is essential to success in developing countries to turn earnings from oil, gas and mining into economic growth and poverty reduction. But that’s just the first step.
Back in 2004, Extractive Industries Review noted that “the overall framework of governance within which Extractives Industries (EI) development takes place will be a major determinant of its contribution to sustainable poverty reduction.” The expert panel called for World Bank Group to do more on governance and transparency of the sector.
The ancient cities of Bagan, Myanmar, and Luang Prabang, of Lao PDR offer today’s travelers a nostalgic vision of South East Asia: timeless landscapes and exquisite architecture. This vision is in sharp contrast to the rapid pace of recent economic activity in both countries. Myanmar recorded very strong investor interest in last year’s bidding round for oil and gas blocks. This was a clear signal of the successful reform process undertaken so far. In Lao PDR, the mining industry has increased annual production from around US$ 10 million in the early 2000s to well above US$ 1 billion a decade later – contributing around 15 percent of Government revenues in recent years.
Many African countries face a dilemma. After a decade of consistent economic growth, often propelled by high commodity prices, half the continent’s population still lives in poverty. Even if rising demand for raw materials from the booming cities of China and India, among others, has driven growth in Africa’s mining sector, most of the continent has not yet translated mineral wealth into industrialization and widespread economic development. Most African countries continue to export raw materials and then pay a premium to import the products made with them.
At Indaba Mining, the annual gathering Feb. 3-5 in Cape Town of leaders of Africa’s mining sector—from government, corporations and civil society—the words “sustainability” and “stakeholder outreach” were ubiquitous. This focus on sustainability issues reflects impressive progress made in recent years around how mining can contribute to shared value.
In downtown Houston last month, flags were unfurled everywhere promoting LNG 17 - the biggest global gathering devoted to LNG, or liquefied natural gas, as well as its whole value chain. Bringing together industry, governments and experts on everything from "peak shaving" to floating liquefied natural gas facilities – to how LNG contributes to energy security, the conference proved a good platform to raise up and coming issues. To that end, a World Bank Group session at the conference reviewed our own gas activities, and featured a discussion on "Petroleum Contract Transparency - the new normal?"
I recently gave a talk about ICT and Development at the annual Re:Campaign conference in Berlin, organized by Oxfam Germany. Anyone who knows me will realize that this is a bit odd – despite being a blogaholic, I am actually Rubbish At Technology. In front of 300 trendy, young (sigh) i-thingy wielding activists, I felt like a Neanderthal at a cocktail party. Still, at least the fear of being shamed up finally got me tweeting two weeks before the conference.
I decided to make a virtue of necessity and set out some core processes in development, and then reflected on what ICT does/doesn’t contribute. Why take this approach (apart from being a techno-caveman, that is)? Because there’s too much magic bulletism in development –microfinance, GM crops and now ‘cyber utopianism’. What all of these have in common is that they are too often presented as ‘get out of jail free’ cards, delivering development without all the messy business of politics and struggle. At best, new technologies shift power balances, sometimes favourably, sometimes not, but they don’t replace the process of struggle in development.
The title for this blog post comes from Mr. Amadou Cisse, Minister of Mines of Mali, who said that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) “was one of the most beautiful initiatives that the World Bank has ever supported.”
The Minister, along with many of his African peers, participated at the huge Investing in African Mining Indaba event, an annual gathering in Cape Town. Mr. Cisse went on to add that “if there is no transparency, there is no peace.”
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Africa is quietly undergoing a tech revolution that could transform the continent. CNN's African Voices has highlighted 10 leading tech voices from different African countries. Each one comments on the role technology plays in boosting entrepreneurship and empowering communities in Africa.” READ MORE
Open Society Foundations
How Open Society Grantees Are Advancing Access to Public Information in Latin America
“Since the landmark legal decision Marcel Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile of the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2006, the right to access public information has increasingly been recognized by Latin America’s governments as a human right. Fourteen of the region’s nineteen countries have access to public information laws, more than any other developing region in the world. Most of these have been passed in the past decade with the support of the Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program and partner civil society organizations.” READ MORE