CSOs Forum- Natural Resource Management in Africa


This year I was lucky enough to be among those invited by Africa Development Bank to take part in the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Forum which brought together representatives of CSOs across Africa. The objective of this forum was to reiterate the Bank’s commitment to working together with non-governmental organizations which are the voice of local communities. In the views of many who attended the Forum, this is a very important step being taken by the bank.

The first question many ask would be what do the local communities want especially when comes to National Resources? In this post we are going to explore some of the issues raised in regards to Natural Resources during the Forum.

Defining the Problems

The first question that came up at the Forum is whether people understand the problems facing African Natural Resources. This is a question that most people might take lightly but it is a fact that to get a solution, knowing the exact problems is important. Africa, the land of plenty in terms of Natural Resources has her citizens languishing in poverty. A sad fact indeed, but where is the problem?

They are many and among them is the fact that Africa operates on the supplier side of the divide, be it oil, minerals, forestry or Agriculture. In other words Africa has the resources but supply the likes of China, Us, Europe who play on the demand side. Switching the sides and starting to play on the demand side should be the main priority for the African policy makers. It is also the point where the Africa Development Bank is expected to play a major role

It is sad state of affairs that manufactured goods only constitutes 14% of Africa’s exports. The big question is how the Bank can help Africa move forward especially in the area of manufacturing? The major challenges are electricity, transportation issues, shortage of skills, corruption and political instability in some countries. Many within the Forum and those commenting through online media agreed that Africa should urgently address the Transportation and Electricity issues. The movement of goods and people across the borders is something which bothers most African citizens although the leaders seem not to see it as something they should deal with as a matter of priority.

Protection of Africa Natural Resources

It is one thing to be on the supply side of the equation but it is completely a different issue when you cannot protect your resources. It could mean that in future Africa might not be on any side, supply or demand. From Kenyan Wildlife, to Oil fields in Nigeria, to Congo minerals, Africa resources are over exploited and in most cases illegally. The main problem in this case is lack of planning. When the discovery is made of any Natural Resource in Africa, the rush to mine or exploit it is usually in top gear without checking whether there is capacity to protect the resources.

The struggle to define the Natural Resources Location

Location is an issue due to the fact that most of the Natural Resources fall within shared borders or regions. In most cases, this becomes the source of conflict between communities and even nations. In fact, many agreed that the major conflicts seen in most parts of Africa in the past came as a result of the competition for the resources. A well-defined location, means well-defined ownership.

Natural Resources and Jobs Creations

“Jobs jobs jobs”….those were sounds of Africa youth voices across Africa. So on one hand Africa owns massive resources and on the other hand the continent is not able to create jobs for her young population. Majority of online questions during the Forum were all about jobs and how to turn the massive resources within the continent to provide jobs for the young Africans. According to the AFdB, jobs is not a Natural Resources question issue but an industrial development question for each country. For example, after 100 years of Ghana producing Gold or after 100 years of Zambia producing Copper, the youth in those countries still lack jobs.

So this again takes us back to the policy makers, and the question to them is clear, how fast can the continent manage to switch sides? Yes from supply to the demand side!

Natural Resources and the Role of the state

The role of the state got sharp scrutiny during the Forum. It seems most citizens do not fully trust the Governments to manage the Natural Resources. This does not end there, the activities of the companies involved are also suspicious in the eyes of the public. In the end, the Governments across Africa were advised to clearly explain some of the laws and policy put forward to help in managing the Resources.