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).
One 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: