Friday, July 3, 2009
Africa: Governance & Accountability Challenges
The PWYP Africa Coordinator Marie-Ange presenting during the Launch
The Launch of Publish What You Pay in Zambia
It is an undisputed truth that Africa as a continent is endowed with massive reserves of natural resources but this truth is crowded by the sad truth that the same continent is rocked by poverty the world has never seen before.
The state of issues in our continent has made a number of people and or organisations come up with different strategies to ensure that Africa reclaims her glory, which has always been there but marred by the economic hit-man’s strategy. So we saw the launch of Publish What You Pay – PWYP Zambian Chapter.
It was interesting to note that when human beings and all the living creatures came into being the creator made sure that there was enough to sustain life. This was done by way of making sure that mother earth had enough to support the inhabitants thereon.
It was done by creating massive deposits of all sorts of natural wealth in its entire diversified manner. Mankind was neither meant to go without food nor to live a life that is encroached by abject poverty resulting in sorrow and mourning as African children fight for their rightful place in the world.
Good Strategies, unbalanced beginning
A number of actors have come up with seemingly good plans but have fallen short of reaching the desired goal due to rampant destructive bureaucracy around development in Africa. We have heard and known of the way a number of developed countries have used the money power to ensure that people who will favour their interests in our countries.
I hope we have not forgotten how the third phase government in Tanzania was quoted by a number of media houses in relationship to the Canadian multinational investment in the in the extractive industry in Tanzania. “Our man has been sworn in the office… now the Bulyanhulu file will move!”
Even at the launching of such good strategies as the PWYP, you hear the voices of concern on whether these will be affected and made operational in a local context to the benefit of the citizens of the land.
On this particular launch, the concern was raised on the negative picture the governments in Africa have evidenced on the discussion surrounding the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI).
It was a shared concern on the effectiveness of the council (s) of EITI in individual countries’ when the ministries handling the management of natural resources (ministries of minerals, in particular) does not show openness even in the way the invitations are sent out to key stakeholders.
In the Zambian case, a number of council members do not even know what EITI is all about. This was blamed on the fact that the ministry of minerals gave notice of the existence of such initiative to key stakeholders “a day before the meeting that was to discuss EITI.”
Now this attitude of our leaders must stop. These initiatives are not meant for personal use but for corporate and societal use to create a better world, which I believe is every man, woman, boy and girls longing. Selfishness on sharing information should be seen by our leaders as a destructive tool that works even against them.
Our policy makers should know better that failure to share such information; they stand a chance to lose their standing ovation politically speaking when other people offer such information.
All Governments are the same
In the context of Zambia just as it was in Tanzania, the ministries of minerals in the two countries were reported to have not sent out the invitations to the crucial gatherings that were discussing transparency issues on management of natural resources and the revenues thereof.
Participants complained of how the governments, “sent out the invites at the eleventh hour, expecting endorsement from the civil society organisations (CSOs) without even going through the materials that were supposed to be circulated to stakeholders some time before the meeting.”
This attitude of the governments in Africa places precedence for non-transparent dialogue on how Africa’s massive natural resource deposits could be a catalyst to an improved socioeconomic standing.
It must not go without saying that while Publish What You Pay is mandatory, the EITI remains voluntary and open-ended. This was another point of concern and something has to be done. In my view, this open-endedness of the EITI leaves a lot of space for ‘looting-minded’ multinational organisations to refuse signing.
There must be a way in which the countries which support and are registered members this initiative call for a more mandatory law and or policy to get companies from the developed North to open their books for scrutiny.
Arrogance and evading Scrutiny
I recall an experience with the general manager of Barrick Gold Corporation’s Bulyanhulu mine site, Greg Walker when we paid him a visit with a group of journalists in September/November 2008. He was asked by one of the journalists if he could give a statement of the mine’s annual financial report, annual production report and to tell the group the percent of royalty they pay; he retorted, “Go ask your government, I am not ready to answer such questions!”
That is the same kind of an answer you get from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals in Tanzania (unless they have changed in the last one month.) In Tanzania, even those who were chosen to be in the EITI council are people who are looked as ‘non-challenging’ development allies of the government. Here you must have in mind the fact that most of our African leaders even when they are said to be young; are in reality “a chip from the old block.”
It is time therefore that, such good project and development strategies are brought forth with well thought terms of references so as to reach the desired better end. We have a big struggle to ensure that the mother grinding in the traditional stone mill in the African most rural villages would see, taste and benefit from the harvest that God placed on mother Africa before He placed her inhabitants.
As we pursue equity, let us not forget that, “The work of many of the greatest men, inspired by duty, has been done amidst suffering and trial and difficulty. They have struggled against the tide, and reached the shore exhausted.”
But at the end they overcame.