Tana Pre-Forum Dialogue: Natural resource governance needs to “outlast electoral cycles”
It was noted that lack of proper management systems at national, regional and continental levels to govern these resources has pushed states to excessively rely on resource rents. This, in turn, has hindered the continent’s ability to structurally transform its natural resource sector and diversify its rent sources.
30 March 2017
On 16-17 March 2017, the Tana Forum in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the African Union Border Programme (AUBP), hosted a pre-forum workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, on the theme of ‘RECs as a Platform for Regional Cooperation in Natural Resource Governance in Africa’. The workshop brought together 25 participants - drawn from academia and regional and continental organisations - to deliberate on the prospects and challenges they face in natural resource governance.
Notwithstanding Africa’s 12% of global oil reserves, 40% of gold deposits and two-thirds of the world’s most suitable land for farming, it was noted that lack of proper management systems at national, regional and continental levels to govern these resources has pushed states to excessively rely on resource rents. This, in turn, has hindered the continent’s ability to structurally transform its natural resource sector and diversify its rent sources.
Dr. Kojo Busia, Coordinator of the African Minerals Development Centre at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), stated that an excessive reliance on natural resources to collect rents immerses states in an “enclave model” of resource utilization. He noted that in such an economic model, states are only accountable to the few companies that extract minerals and pay rent. The shift in accountability at the expense of citizens, he argued, breeds political, economic and socio-cultural resentment, often leading to conflicts.
Structurally transforming economies is by no means an easy exercise. Dr. Busia pointed out that such a transformation requires long term vision, strong institutions and regional cooperation. He stated that long term strategic visions that outlast electoral cycles are vital in the process but they need to be coupled with institutions adequately tasked with implementing them.
RECs, it was stressed in the workshop, are well-positioned to develop policies that can enable states to strategically deal with this enclave model. The Africa Mining Initiative, for instance, encourages states to divert income from mining to other sectors in the economy in order to diversify their rent sources. To attain such a spill-over effect, RECs need to design polices that can effectively create regional value chains. “Ideally, a single state should not extract, manufacture and market a resource by itself; these three processes can be performed by three different states if a proper regional value chain is created,” Dr. Busia argued.
The workshop also noted that RECs are well-suited to identifying the competitive advantages of their member states and allocating responsibility to extract, add value and market natural resources. Dr. Yonas Adaye, Academic Coordinator at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), stressed that with the right policies and firm political commitment, RECs can play a pivotal role in natural resource governance.
However, as reiterated by Dr. Debalkew Berhe, Environment Protection, IGAD Secretariat, even with the right policies in place, RECs lack the adequate authority to implement policies. States are often too protective of their sovereignty and unwilling to cede power to regional bodies. Moreover, most states belong to more than one REC thereby dividing their commitments and forcing them to implement at times contradictory policies.
Dr. Berhe suggested two processes to resolve this trend. First, the African Union (AU) should encourage and drive the process to reduce the number of RECs on the continent, in order for member states to belong to larger political and economic groupings on a regional level. Second, there needs to be a system where regional bodies are directly responsible to the AU. “RECs are mandated to serve as the building blocks of continental integration processes, but the required system tying continental and regional bodies under a common administrative structure is not yet in place,” he noted.
Outcomes from the pre-forum workshop are expected to be included in the discussions of the upcoming 6th Tana Forum set to take place on 22-23 April 2017 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, is set to deliver the keynote speech and over 200 government officials, policy influencers, academicians and journalists are expected to attend.
Click here to view photos from the pre-forum workshop.