All too often, the countries in Africa that nature has endowed with the most economically valuable resources have also struggled with devastating instability and conflict: A paradox that the African Union and European Commission wish to see ended though strong emphasis on democratic accountability and capacity development.
Convinced that revenues of natural resources can be an important enabler for more sustainable development, the protection of human rights and the consolidation of peace, thirty African and European experts as well as representatives of civil society organisations spent four months in 2011 considering how Africa and the European Union could collaborate to ensure that natural resources are better managed.
"The wars that broke out over the last decades in Africa did so in places where gold, diamonds or oil are abundant," said Penda Mbow, President of the Mouvement Citoyen, a civil society organisation based in Senegal. "If natural resources constitute a threat to the security of populations, they don't serve the people. We need to fight and ensure that these resources have an impact on development."
Along with many other delegates at the second Africa-EU workshop on governance and natural resources, which took place in Brussels in September, Ms Mbow wants African governments to ensure that revenues from the exploitation of natural resources are accounted for in a clear and transparent way. These funds should improve citizens’ lives, ending dissatisfaction and reducing the risk of instability.
"We need to ensure that the exploitation and investments in natural resources are transparent and have a positive impact on citizens' lives," she said.
If people can see that funds from natural resources are providing schools, hospitals and opportunities for the nation’s people, it could prevent conflict and unrest.
Also attending the Africa-EU workshop was Emile Ognimba, Director of Political Affairs at the African Union Commission, who explained that there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
"Some initiatives have already been taken here and there and we need to implement them,” Mr Ognimba said.
In this respect, the Africa-EU partnership has an important and unique role to play in adding value to these existing initiatives and helping develop innovative responses to outstanding challenges in what can be a sensitive area.
The exploitation of natural resources "is a relatively sensitive issue," explained Mr Ognimba, "as it is linked to the governance of our economies as well as the redistribution of national wealth and beyond that to the development and well-being of our populations."
The Africa-EU Working Group on governance of natural resources advocates for multidisciplinary and integrated approaches in addressing issues linked to the exploitation of natural resources. The stakeholders and independent experts involved in this Working Group produced some key recommendations with regard to conflict prevention and management, financial transparency, the respect for human rights and the environment, and the need for a solid institutional framework.
For Mr Ognimba, one of the main priorities should be to develop African governments' capacity to control the illegal flows resulting from the exploitation of natural resources.
Participants to the EU-Africa working group also identified the capacity development of all the actors involved in the exploitation of the natural resources as a key priority.
We need to "build and strengthen the capacity of accountable institutions, oversight mechanisms so that revenue that is taken from mineral resources is actually benefiting the people," said Marit Kitaw, Governance Policy Officer for the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
For Ms Kitaw, accountable partnerships between the private sector and governments underpin accountable institution building.
"There should be linkages between the mineral sector and other local sectors of the economy," she explained. "One of the things could be the building of infrastructures, linking local companies and empowering them to be an actor of the mining sector, so that there is knowledge transfer from these mining companies to the people. That way, there is gain and then eventually poverty reduction."
Recommendations from the Africa-EU Working Group will be matched with the various existing initiatives and actors active in the domain. In this context, the African Union Commission and the European Commission will take up areas that can be integrated into their future cooperation.
A number of recent other events address similar issues and include initiatives from the European Commission's DG MARKT and DG ENTR.
At the African Union Summit in January 2011 - “Toward greater unity and integration through shared values” - the EU committed to reinforce its efforts in the fight for more transparency of European extractive and forestry industries active in Africa. The EC has since then adopted legislative proposals for the Transparency and Accounting Directives, requiring the disclosure of payments to governments on a country and project basis by companies with activities in these sectors. These measures aim to improve the management of natural resources and to increase the domestic fiscal resources available to provide basic social services to citizens.
The European Commission has also introduced a package of measures to support entrepreneurship and responsible business, including a new strategy for corporate social responsibility and the Social Business Initiative, which will help companies that address social objectives as their corporate aim to fulfil their potential.
Coming up soon:
The Africa-EU High Level Conference on Raw Materials to be held in early 2012 is scheduled to hold a session on governance during which experts will present the Africa-EU Working Group recommendations.
- Penda Mbow
- Marit Kitaw
- Emile Ognimba
Topics & Subtopics
- Biodiversity & Ecosystem services
- Capacity Development
- Climate change, disaster risk reduction & desertification
- Environment & green economy
- Fragility, Crisis Situations & Resilience
- Governance & Corruption
- Knowledge Sharing
- Private Sector Development
- Sustainable Forest Management
- Trade & Regional Integration
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