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Natural resources: Africa VP calls for ‘creative dissatisfaction’ campaign

Derek Warren's picture

Mauritania mining corridor. Photo credit: World Bank Policy Note on Utility Service Reform in Mauritania's Mining Corridor. This was a lunchtime debate designed to induce a degree of indigestion!

Participants at an annual meetings session hosted by Africa Region VP Oby Ezekwisili faced the uncomfortable assertion that the majority of citizens in resource-rich African countries have seen little if any improvement as a result of decades of natural resource exploitation.

For some, oil or mineral wealth has proven a curse rather than a blessing, exposing them to economic instability, social conflict and lasting environmental damage.

To an audience including government ministers from DRC and Cameroon, Oby followed that up with a call for a campaign to generate a sense of ‘creative dissatisfaction’ – to provoke a demand for change in the way natural resources are exploited and the resultant benefits distributed.

Centre-piece of the debate was a new Natural Resource Charter, circulated in draft for consultation. Its intention is to aid governments and their citizens in resource-rich countries to use them to generate economic growth and promote the welfare of their population, without destroying their environment. It’s a blueprint for implementing the objectives of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

World Bank VP Obiageli Ezekwesili. Photo credit: World BankOne of the architects of the new charter, Oxford University Professor Paul Collier, is shortly to publish his own take on exploiting natural resource wealth, entitled Plundering the Planet. “Harnessing Africa’s natural resources is the best route to middle income status for many countries,” he said.

What’s holding them back, in his view, are a series of breaks in a crucial chain of decisions required to ensure effective exploitation of resources. His ‘weak links’ are the lack of sufficient investment in the discovery process, failure to impose adequate taxation, shortage of domestic investment of revenue, and the need to ‘invest in investments’ by building civil service capacity to manage investment portfolios. 

Other speakers echoed the potential for self-financed development for Africa – and recurring themes were the vital importance of greater transparency and the key role of civil society in ensuring that the benefits of natural resource exploitation reach everyone, especially the poorest.

You can access the ‘Natural Resource Charter’ – and respond to the consultation – at:
www.naturalresourcecharter.org.
 

Comments

Submitted by Christine Zarzicki on
The Natural Resource Charter seems to take into account all the necessary aspects that aim to thwart negative resource exploitation, protect the environment and distribute profits to the appropriate parties. Natural resource management is a crucial part of our world's future as well as an integral element in third world development. The only question I have about this Charter (and the above passage) is how can we expect that these changes will take place. The global economy is stuck in a rut that involves the developed world utilizing the fruits of the developing world. Why would any of these leading countries change their policies simply to avert environmental degradation and to assist Third World countries in developing? I may be cynical but I highly doubt that the world's superpowers will forgo exorbitant profits and control, simply for the greater good. Also, as mentioned above, the possibility of "self-financed development for Africa" seems very unlikely. Even the most promising of the African institutions is lacking the financial capabilities to alleviate problems within their borders, let alone to develop technologies for resource management. I truly hope that one day we can "Harness Africa’s natural resources" effectively. I also hope that the beneficiaries of such actions are those who deserve it. The Natural Resource Charter certainly highlights all the necessary changes that need to be made to enhance resource utilization. Hopefully this international initiative will inspire leaders and make a difference.

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