On behalf of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), I would like to express my utmost pleasure to address you here today on this important inter-party dialogue on the governance of natural resources in Central Africa. It gives me a great pleasure to join my distinguished colleagues in welcoming you to this exciting and very important dialogue jointly organized by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the International Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
This large gathering witnesses a reflection of our shared commitment to advance and enhance the dialogue space required to efficiently inform and advice policy and decision makers and transform Africa. In organizing this event, we individually and collectively as organizers recognize that the strategic goal of inclusive and sustainable development in Africa, described in the AU Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), cannot be achieved without a robust participatory and accountable democratic framework. It is in this light that we consider this dialogue important and this represents the beginning of many other initiatives we plan to do together.
I hence wish to thank International IDEA for the partnership and other partner institutions for being here and in anticipation of your constructive contributions to the discussions and actionable takeaways.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Perceptions about Africa have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Terms such as ‘Africa rising’, ‘hopeful continent’, ‘second fastest growing region’, etc. have been used to describe the economic growth performance achieved by the continent. However, economic growth in Africa has been declining recently from 5.7 percent in 2002 to 4.6 percent in 2015 and recent forecasts puts it further down to about 3.8 percent.
While we cherish the significant economic progress many African countries have registered, making the continent the world’s second fastest growing region after Asia, we also recognize some of the persistent challenges hindering Africa’s inclusive and sustainable development. Among these problems are pressing climate change issues, youth unemployment, infrastructure deficits, weakness of governance systems, domestic resource mobilization and slow progress in regional integration.
While these challenges are inter-linked in one way or another, the lack of sustainable, inclusive, transparent and accountable governance has a stronger cross-cutting implication on all the others. In the absence of political will, accountable and visionary leadership, countries will not be able to advance their economic transformation agenda. They rather become breeding grounds for corruption, conflict, injustice, political instability, mismanagement of resources and persistent poverty.
In the face of these challenges, the continent has spoken with one voice and demonstrated proper planning, with its vision and goals well-articulated in Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collective showcase of the commitment for transformation. On the other hand, weak implementation capacities stand between impressive plans and their translation into economic, social and political transformation that the plans are supposed to bring. ACBF flagship annual publication, the Africa Capacity Report has shown that 80 percent of the countries reviewed in 2015 had shown “Very High” policy environment but only 6.7 percent have registered the same rating in achieving development results. A similar picture was also shown in previous reports.
Development results do not come just because we put our dreams on paper. In the same line, we can’t be among the middle income countries just because our Vision statement says so. Fundamental transformation is what we need. Transformative leadership and change readiness with the relevant mindsets are important ingredients for the transformation we all strive to see happen. Structurally transformed economies will have the capacity to result in steady sustainable economic development with a capacity to tackle youth unemployment and hence migration, provide the infrastructures needed, address inequality, and foster regional integration for the countries to be competitive in the global market. African countries need not to just formulate strategies for development but commit to self-finance, and implement them in honest concern to the citizens as well as demonstrate ethical leadership styles, exercising strong governance practices with a true sense of ownership and accountability to people. This will clear the path to Africa’s economic transformation which is the safest way to tackle the challenges faced by our countries. Africa needs transformation not only because it is the best way to create wealth, reduce poverty, minimize inequalities, strengthen productive capacities and enhance social conditions of its people, but also it ensures the achievement of sustainable development.
When we talk about transformation for Africa, we are saying the countries should tap into areas of competitive advantages and use them to the best. Through economic transformation, African countries will ensure to make optimal use of their exhaustible natural resources as a basis for their economic diversification towards industrialization. Moreover, to the extent that structural transformation promotes industrial development, it therefore broadens the drivers of growth, ensuring the resilience to commodity price shocks African countries have been facing recently.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What is the role of natural resource and natural resource governance in transformation agenda? You will agree with me that in addition of having the youngest population, Africa has a huge natural resources endowment, holding more than half of the world’s rare minerals, 10 percent of global oil reserves, 40 percent of gold, 90 percent of Chromium and Platinum, and vast arable land and in-land fresh water resources. This endowment in natural resources does not however mean anything if it does not translate into economic transformation that results in tangible gains for citizens.
The natural resources African countries are endowed with have helped the growth of the developed world, and yet the continent still has a significant proportion of the world poorest. In fact, developed countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries have become rich and technologically advanced through a judicious use of their natural resources wealth. Natural resource wealth is a real development asset when coupled with investments in skills and technological capacities and with good macroeconomic institutions and management.
That said, the revenues from the renewable and non-renewable natural resources could have already placed the continent in a much better position. Bemoaning the past would only benefit if we learn from what worked, what didn’t and why, and commit to do it better. According to the ACBF’s Africa Capacity Report 2013 focusing on capacity development for natural resource management, only 6 countries out of the 42 reviewed were found to have very transparent transactions in mining sector, 4 not transparent and the rest fairly transparent. With specific regards to the 9 central African countries surveyed, only 2 countries have developed a specific strategy for the mining sector with very transparent transactions in mining sector. Being transparent tightens the control mechanisms, prevents mismanagement and helps countries to get better concessions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A number of initiatives at the international, regional and national levels around natural resource governance are encouraging, and can be seen as an indication of genuine interest to improve the processes and management. The High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, the African Mining Vision, the multi-donor trust fund for Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and the attention given in Agenda 2063 for natural resources are some of the evidence of commitment to improve the governance. So, what is preventing us from moving forward?
All the challenges we discussed earlier point to one major missing link: Capacity. In particular, in order to effectively harness optimal benefits from our natural resources, we need (1) capacity to implement our plans and strategies for transformation; (2) institutional and human capacities for good governance; (3) capacity to have transparent and accountable systems; (4) capacity to negotiate better extractive contracts, (5) capacity to improve natural resources taxation, and (6) capacity to ensure sustainable management of the natural resources. The capacity to translate the windfall from natural resources into development results which relates to the strategic use of revenue from natural resources for the challenges of today such as infrastructure, education and health versus saving for future generations is a major governance capacity challenge. The capacity dimensions that need to be addressed include the development of soft and hard skills for the policy-makers, leadership and technicians, the establishment of appropriate policies, strategies, systems and tools, the set-up of relevant institutions and structures, the use of ICT in exploration, extraction of resources, and the analysis and sharing of data through the use of GIS/GPS and relevant applications. Capacity of all actors and stakeholders involved in the natural resource value chain—extraction, processing, marketing, and management of revenue—is of fundamental importance in turning the sector to benefit the broader society. Building such capacity requires the decisions and commitment of political power, hence political parties are critical in this regard.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to see that many of political party representatives came to Brazzaville despite your other competing priorities. This is a reflection of the growing concern that the governance of natural resources is falling short of delivering the huge potential it has for the continent’s economic transformation. As the potential of natural resources to confer great economic and strategic benefits to African countries receives more attention than ever, an innovative, inclusive and sustainable approach to the governance of natural resources has become increasingly central.
I won’t pretend to know all what political parties need to do for effective natural resource governance. I, however, would like to highlight some of the most important responsibilities that the political parties in the legislative are expected to fulfill. I am sure you can further develop them and add more in your discussions during these 2 days. They include:
- Formulating the right policies to guide the executive in managing natural resources in a prudent, sustainable and responsible manner,
- Establishing appropriate institutions to oversee transparency and accountability in the use of natural resources,
- Ensuring the selection, engagement and negotiation of natural resources exploration and extraction deals are to the full benefit of the country and its citizens,
- Engaging in trans-boundary and international commitments in a mutually beneficiary manner,
- Promoting active participation and ownership of the principles of the African Mining Vision,
- Ensuring the integration of the extractives sector into rural economies and the development models for community development agreements,
- Advocating for improved education of the electorate which would have a positive impact on people’s ability to process available information and to better influence the management of natural resources,
- Monitoring of implementations of contracts,
- Using the income generated for economic and social transformation, and most importantly, and
- Providing the necessary political and financial support for capacity building of the political parties and relevant players on issues around governance and management of natural resources.
Success in delivering good natural resource governance and hence effective use of the income generated are underpinned by political will, the rule of law, and developed democratic institutions with strong capacity. One important recommendation from the ACR2013 is that in order to achieve optimal use and governance of the natural resources, countries also require peace and political stability. This entails including diverse societies into decision-making (women and excluded groups), and enhancing the accountability of public officials to the citizenry. This inter-party dialogue is hence in line with the implementation of such recommendations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Given all the above are a reflection of the capacity dimensions I outlined earlier, it is imperative that such endeavors for African countries to manage their development using their natural resources are supported through relevant capacity development, hence ACBF’s vision being “an Africa capable of managing its own development”. In addition to the vast capacity building interventions ACBF has been implementing for the last 25 years in Africa, our new Strategic Plan for the period 2017-2021 has devoted two of the strategic pillars on supporting the development priorities at continental and national levels. The other two pillars are supporting the capacity development of the private sector and civil society as well as supplying policy makers and all partners with the relevant knowledge for effective development. All the four pillars have a direct implication in enhancing governance of natural resource in Africa.
To conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to again refer to our ACR 2013 to say that there is no inherent curse in natural resource endowments. It is rather the capacity implications, especially at the policy and implementation levels, that determine the ability to achieve optimal outcomes. When political leaders are committed to national development via natural resources, they will keep an eye on the underlying principles of sustained economic development. ACBF, as the capacity coordinating institution on the continent, remains committed to supporting African countries capacity for holistic and effective results; the change and transformative capacities; and the critical, technical and sector-specific skills for implementing the required capacities for natural resource management and governance.
It is very important, therefore, that African governments and development partners provide the necessary political and financial support to capacity building institutions such as ACBF in pursuance of their capacity building mandate across the continent. Otherwise, capacity will still remain the missing link in tackling such important issues as natural resource governance on the continent.
Lastly, I would like to reaffirm that it is our strong belief that the country representatives in this meeting will share their experiences and pertinent lessons and at the end of the dialogue take back with them good practices and actionable recommendations in governance of natural resources.
Thank you for your attention.