Takeaways from 6th Tana Forum on Natural Resource Governance


| By Stergomena Lawrence Tax |

THE summary and take always are drawn from the delivered remarks, the concept note, background papers that were circulated, as well as presentations and discussions on the various topics under the theme “Natural Resource Governance in Africa”.

Summary of Key Issues are as follows:

1. The Forum reiterated that Africa is blessed with countless God-given resources, whereas, the resources are extremely beneficial they are often negatively impacted by poor or insufficient systems of governance. These resources if managed appropriately will transform African economies.

2. Natural resources extraction, distribution and usage have social, economic, environmental, and political underpinnings, influenced by both endogenous and exogenous factors. These attributes have generated low-intensity tensions or large scale insurgencies, and are more complex in situations where there is lack of transparency and insufficient accountability and management mechanisms in licensing, exploration, contracting, extraction, and in revenue generation and sharing, just to mention a few.

3. The relationship between natural resource governance and security is also affected by the global resource politics, which is mainly generated by the involvement of multinational corporations. This has fueled social inequalities, where the locals have not benefitted from the extractions while the global actors have become grandiose.

4. Africa is over reliant on external support for the management of its natural resources and strategies to address her challenges.

5. Illicit and illegal extraction of natural resources along the entire value chains benefit a few individuals, and illegal international syndicates at the expense of communities that own the natural resources.

6. Lack of, or inadequate benefits that accrue to the intended beneficiaries result in conflicts and, hence, insecurity, which give an advantage to the global illicit players to smuggle the resources. Due to the availability of the infrastructure for illicit financial flows, there is tendency to fuel armed conflicts and increase security threats in order to continue with illegal extractions.

7. The debate around natural resources governance should not only be restricted to the extractive ones, such as oil, diamonds, rear earths and others, but also the other resources such as land, water, forests, as well as marine resources. This is because they are also linked to conflicts, tension and violence, on the one hand, and cooperation and integration, on the other.

8. Africa has a young and dynamic population, which require adequate and appropriate investment in human resource development for proper management of the continent‘s natural resources. Right Education in essential fields and competencies is key, if Africa is to have experts and leaders to promote and ensure effective management and governance of natural resources.

9. Environmentally unsustainable methods of exploitation of natural resources have significantly contributed to the environmental degradation across the continent.

10. Land has become a high value resource in Africa, not only because of the many mineral resources being discovered, but because of the large scale commercial acquisitions. With growing population of Africa, the demand for land is a source of conflict and, hence, a security threat. At the same time, the investor rush for land is pushing away the local people from the productive land, creating shortage of arable land, leading to food shortages. The displacement of people, coupled with the food crisis, unemployment and poverty, are factors that are breeding conflicts in some of the countries in Africa.

11. Africa’s natural resources governance is also affected by the shifts in the global political environment, with the evolution of a new scramble for Africa’s natural resources. While investors have brought investments into the African states, there are obvious cases where the costs associated with the loss of the resources are more than the benefits from the investment.

12. Even in situations where the investors have been involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the rate of extraction of the natural resources has not been matched with accrued benefits to the communities. Investors leave behind huge environmental challenges which national governments have to address. This has become a source of conflict and dissatisfaction in many communities across Africa.

13. The growing interest in the African natural resources has escalated security threats, which have led to an increase in foreign military presence. This is especially the case in areas that possess resources of global strategic relevance, such as oil, uranium, diamond, rare earth minerals. Unfortunately, the presence of foreign militaries is a source of conflict, in its own right, and has sometimes resulted in human rights abuses.

Takeaways as a Way Forward:

Having presented the summary of key issues emerging from the 6th TANA Forum, the following are some of the takeaways from this Forum:

1. In order to ensure proper governance of the natural resources, there is need to re-orient the focus, from the conventional understanding of extractive industries, namely, oil, gas and minerals, etc, to broader natural resources endowments, which include non-extractive natural resources such as land, water, seas, forests and biodiversity. All these have a security bearing and direct impact to sustainable growth and development of African economies.

2. Africa needs to build the necessary capacities, in both, state and non state actors, that will facilitate proper management and governance of natural resources in among others, contract negotiations and management, enforcement of rights and responsibilities, monitoring and evaluation, etc. Without setting aside adequate funding for this cause, the whole agenda becomes easily distorted because, as it is said, “Those who pay the piper play the tune“. African countries cannot continue to rely on external funding if is to ensure proper governance architecture of her natural resources.

3. Natural resources are supposed to benefit the people of a particular sovereign state. This calls for participation of the local communities in decision-making processes to instill a sense of ownership and ensure sustainable use, thereby reducing tensions and conflicts. Deliberate efforts should be made to promote and facilitate reviews of national policies and legal frameworks in order to promote ownership and facilitate transparency and accountability in natural resource management and governance, while ensuring optimal use and benefits.

4. African governments should continue with initiatives to subscribe to international regulatory frameworks that should make it difficult for global actors involved in conflicts to finance violent conflicts with revenues from natural resources. However, these international regulatory frameworks should be harmonised and domesticated into the national regulatory frameworks and institutions.

5. While the African Union Agenda 2063 spells out issues of sustainable

natural resource management within the aspiration of a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, there is an urgent need to develop and implement homegrown norms and standards, with clear guidelines, that can contribute to natural resource governance, more appropriately through Regional Economic Communities. Africa needs to promote regional integration and use their comparative advantages, and to jointly manage shared natural resources, such as shared watercourses, power pools, transfrontier conservation areas, etc.

6. African countries need to synchronise bilateral, regional and multilateral trading agreements to promote normative ways of natural resource management that would lessen exploitation by global actors.

7. There is need to promote beneficiation and value addition across the value chains in order to enhance the benefits that accrue from African natural resources.

8. Africa needs to fund its own agenda, and to solve African problems through African solutions.

9. There is need to enhance investment in the development of human resource in among other areas, natural resources governance, policy development, inter-nation natural resources policy negotiations, and sustainable natural resources management for effective and efficient management of the continent‘s natural resources.

10. African governments need to re-examine the whole issue around attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) into the extractive and non-extractive sectors. While it is good to create incentives for FDIs, investments into natural resources should be based on actual or real returns on investment, rather than investments incentives, which distort the markets and make African governments lose the much needed revenues.

11. Africa needs to institute the right political decision making systems free from rent seeking behaviours that will promote sustainable utiization of natural resources, while leveraging dividends and benefits for the betterment our people. Transparency, and accountability should be institutionalised across all stages of natural resource management and governance.

12. There is need for deliberate measures to address institutional, and structural deficiencies, which need to be embedded in a long-term vision and transformation agenda.

13. Africa needs to review its policies, regulations, and systems in order to ensure a level playing field, and that the necessary tools are put in place to enhance good governance, transparency and accountability, while combating illicit exploitation and trade in natural resources. This has to go hand in hand with non-negotiable rules to combat impunity and abuse of human rights.

14. There is need to link management of resources to the broad socioeconomic transformation agenda, and avoid fragmented thinking by identifying and addressing all strategic bottlenecks coherently and holistically; Think, Plan and Execute strategically, coherently and holistically.

15. Africa should learn and use existing best practices, while addressing the legal complexities. International Investors are called upon to support Africa in this regard.

16. The role of Non-State Actors in the management of natural resources, including global environmental movements, should be enhanced to provide the necessary checks and balances, and spaces should be created to ensure promotion of rule of law and accountability. Non state Actors should also engage in a productive and accountable manner.

17. There is need for deliberate efforts and actions to eliminate unlawful players (criminal gangs) that determine African Politics for personal gains.

18. There is need to interrogate the quality and characteristics of appropriate leadership, and to strengthen the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) through dynamic intimacy, and honest discussions and peer reviews.


As I conclude, permit me to state the following:

1. As long as Africa continues to lose its natural resources to global actors, the continent will continue to face discontentment among its citizenry. This will continue to cause conflicts and threaten peace and stability in Africa.

Unlike the scramble for Africa of the yester-century, African citizens have become of age in terms of their knowledge of resource governance. They demand that African resources should be used for Africa’s development, and that can only happen if there are measures to institute accountable and transparent governance systems.

2. At the centre is how African national governments can develop a long term transformation ideology and strategy, and promote good governance, rule of law, accountability and transparency.

3. WHAT IS NEW? Are the summarized key issues and take always entirely new, have we been addressing them, if yes, to what extent, and if not why?

Major and Immediate Takeaways Therefore:

a. A need to link management of resources to the broad socio-economic transformation agenda, and avoid fragemented thinking by identifying and addressing all strategic bottlenecks coherently and holistically; Think, Plan and Execute strategically, coherently and holistically.

b. A honest debate on proper management and governance of Africa’s natural resources for the benefit of Africa. The debate has to among others interrogate qualities and characteristics of appropriate leadership, and address leadership deficiency and ideological vacuum. (Do we have transformative, visionary, committed, accountable leaders with moral authority, and who are capable to build trust? Where does Africa stand?). The debate has to also explore ways of putting in place effective mechanisms for transparency and accountability. This may be considered as a basis for the 7th Tana Forum theme.

Once again, I am very grateful for allowing me to be part of this noble event.

Being the text of the “Summary and Takeaways” a presentation by Stergomena Lawrence Tax, SADC executive Secretary, at the 6th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa under the Theme: “Natural Resource Governance in Africa” at the Blue Nile Resort, Bahir Dar, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, April 23, 2017

— May 8, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT


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