On 13 March 2017, the Tana Forum Secretariat organized an ambassadors’ briefing for the 6th Tana Forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The annual briefing is held for ambassadors and international partners to discuss ways in which the selected theme is relevant to their work and the interests of the countries they represent. The meeting was chaired by H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Tana Forum Board Chairperson and Former President of Nigeria, and H.E Amb. Berhane Gebre-Christos, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and a member of the Tana Forum Board. The briefing began with a short presentation by both chairs, during which they highlighted the significance of the Tana Forum as well as unpacked this year’s theme of ‘Natural Resource Governance in Africa’. The meeting was then opened to the floor with the purpose of sharing experiences, best practices and areas the participants would like to see addressed during the Forum.
This year’s Forum will discuss the theme according to five key sub-themes - extractives, land-use, in-land water, the seas and forests. These sub-themes highlight the fortunes of the African continent but also serve as a reminder of the negative effects they have had on the wellbeing of its people. The theme proves timely given the direction of the African Union’s vision of Silencing the Guns by 2020, as there is an undeniable link between effective natural resource governance and greater stability on the continent.
i) Identifying the Gaps in Natural Resource Governance
The 6th Tana Forum background paper was identified as a comprehensive document on natural resource governance as its scope went beyond just the governance of extractive sectors. It was noted that renewable resources, which can also be poorly managed and highly exploited, have often been side-lined during discussions on natural resource governance.
Population growth and the pressure it places on natural resources was identified as an important discussion point for the Tana Forum. Such growth requires the adequate response of governance mechanisms to diversify sources of livelihood beyond that of agriculture, as increased pressure on existing natural resources can act as a trigger for conflict. Although an important discussion point, the management of population growth can sometimes be considered a sensitive topic of discussion. It therefore needs not be isolated as an issue on its own but dealt with as a greater part of the various challenges that exist in sustaining natural resources that fall under the identified sub-themes.
Obasanjo identified natural resource diversity and organised crime as important topics when discussing natural resource governance. He further reflected on the need to examine the link between poor natural resource governance and the flourishing of transnational organized crime. The illicit financial flows associated with such crimes undermine state institutions and are interlinked with a greater web of insecurity involving human trafficking and terrorism.
The use of land in Africa was raised as another important discussion point for the Forum. There is a growing trend of African land being purchased by other states for purposes that are not mutually beneficial. Land formerly used for local food production has either been purchased to extract resources or, if any food is produced, it is exported to the purchasing country. Such mortgaging of land has caused tension between locals and foreign actors making this practice a source of insecurity and strained relations between states.
Africa’s strategy to steer and manage maritime resources, particularly those that are in strategic economic zones, was also identified as an important discussion point. Obasanjo highlighted that African states with coastal responsibility often do not have the adequate capabilities to manage their coastal resources. Information sharing and collaboration amongst African states was identified as the most important solution to this challenge particularly, with regard to piracy.
ii) Best practices: The case of Norway
The case of natural resource governance in Norway was presented as a best practice, mainly for the ways in which it has benefited greater Norwegian society. Norway’s strategy was aimed at developing local competency around its oil industry. It accomplished this through creating a local supply chain for both upstream and downstream linkages and through the creation of partnerships with various Norwegian actors and institutions who have developed a strong supportive industry. In the 1960s, Norway’s oil industry depended on foreign capabilities, but today, contracts are awarded locally and this local industry is able to compete internationally. This strategy has been successful as it not only promotes local content and strengthens local expertise, but it also allows for greater sustainability in the sector.
The ambassadors’ briefing set the tone for the type of critical and productive engagement expected to take place at the 6th Tana Forum. The Forum will allow states and organizations to share experiences of what has and has not worked, with the ultimate aim of encouraging participants to implement and facilitate strategies to strengthen natural resource governance in Africa and in their areas of influence.
Click here to view photos from the ambassadors' briefing.