Africa is a continent rich in natural resources. It produces more than half of the world’s diamonds, nearly three-quarters of the world’s platinum, 20 percent of its gold, and 10 percent of its oil. The relatively small country of Guinea – about one-quarter the size of British Columbia – accounts for nearly half of the world’s bauxite, the main source of aluminum.
With such tremendous treasures lying beneath their feet, one would expect Africans to be among the most educated, healthy and prosperous people on the planet.
But that’s not the case. Even with these billion dollar treasures, tens of millions in Africa still live in extreme poverty. Why? The reasons are many and complex, but corruption plays an important role. Corrupt government leaders rely on secrecy and opacity to divert state funds into their own pockets that could be spent on things like health and education.
One important step in combating this corruption is making sure that citizens in African countries have access to information about the money that flows into their governments. That way, they can begin to hold government officials accountable for the responsible management and use of those funds.
Canada can play a critical role in helping citizens gain access to this information. With 60 percent of the world’s publicly traded mining companies and 35 percent of the world’s oil and gas companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges, and with Canadian oil, gas and mining companies operating in more than 100 countries, strong action by Canada’s provinces on this issue could be a real game changer.
Take action now. Tell Michael de Jong: Keep African corruption in check!
Greater access to payment information is important for all countries, but it is particularly critical in countries rich in natural resources, where the amounts of money flowing into government coffers are enormous, and the opportunities for corruption rife. In these environments, it is crucial that payments made by oil, gas and mining companies to governments are publicly disclosed. Only in this manner will citizens have a chance to hold their leaders responsible.
This is a common sense solution. It’s good for citizens, it’s good for the health of governments, it’s good for companies, and it’s good for the investors in those companies.
In fact, Canada’s two largest mining associations – made up of more than 1,300 companies and organizations – fully support this idea. So does the national government, which last year committed to making oil, gas, and mining payment transparency a reality.
But for that to happen, Canada’s provinces must take action. To date, none have done so.
This is British Columbia’s chance to lead. It can become the first province to put a rule in place that will require oil, gas and mining companies to reveal what they pay to governments.
If it does, citizens in Africa can make sure that their governments are spending money on saving lives and building schools, not lining the pockets of the politically powerful.
The time for action is now. And your voice is needed.