Oct 19th, 2012 9:00 AM UTC
By Katherine Lay
Whether Africa will ever harness the full potential of its natural resources to combat poverty is a question that is more relevant now than ever, as new discoveries of coal, oil and gas look set to transform global energy markets and – we hope – the economies of resource-rich African countries. It’s a question the BBC will pose to global experts in the Africa Debate in Addis Ababa at 19:00 GMT/UTC on 26th October. ONE will be participating in the debate and citizens across the continent will be airing their views. We’d like to hear yours.
Extractives governance is in the spotlight. Africa hosts about 30% of the world’s reserves of extractive resources, but most of its resource-rich countries have been trapped in recurring conflicts, corruption and mismanagement, losing critical opportunities to leverage resources for their social development. Victims of the “paradox of plenty”, these countries are plagued with inequality, high poverty levels and slow progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
But it’s not all bleak.
Twenty-one African countries have signed-up to the global Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative to improve their resource governance and investment environments. According to Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, revenue transparency has generated an improved credit rating for Nigeria and led to sizeable increases in foreign direct investment of $6 billion a year in the oil sector and $3 billion a year in the non-oil sector. This has produced much-needed development finance for the country. And Liberia’s Dr Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the lead in enacting the continent’s first national extractives transparency law, which has helped restore socio-political stability amongst previously warring factions and has increased revenue flows in a country ravaged by mineral-fuelled conflict. Botswana’s long-standing former President Festus Mogae has made clear that the country’s impressive health and education gains have depended upon efficient and transparent management of its diamond revenues and that without these revenues, Botswana would have long lost all hope of winning its life and death struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Such initiatives are supporting the continent’s economic boom and extractive resources have shaped the economic trajectories of many countries. But in Africa, these sectors have operated in a closed circuit for far too long, with weak links to the broader economy. There has simply not been enough action to maximize government profits from extractive endowments and to channel them through government coffers to the people. For this to happen, leaders need to crack down on corporate tax evasion, corruption and massive revenue leakages throughout the extractives supply chain. Those revenues are needed to profit Africa’s people, not corporate and government pockets.
But is this enough? What are the broader solutions? stronger government-citizen accountability? Better corporate social responsibility? Open contracts and an end to secret deals? Independent parliaments monitoring corporate and government compliance with transparency laws and anti-corruption regulations? Public influence on state spending of extractive revenues and stronger demand for revenues to be channeled into public service delivery? Or all of these?
Here’s a chance to raise your voice and exercise your right to be heard…
Add your questions in the comments below. We will then pass them along to the producers, who will incorporate some of your comments into the on-air debate.
You can also take part on:
Twitter – using hashtags #bbcafricadebate and #resourceafrica
And tune in to the BBC World Service at 19:00 GMT/UTC on Friday, 26th October to listen to the broadcast from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!
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