Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 Africa for Results Forum: Towards an Affective Management of Natural Resources

On the wings of AfDB and ACBF, I was asked to attend this forum in Harare. I bring you my own personal excerpts from the discussions, on a day by day basis. This is Day 1:

Yesterday was a long morning at the AfCoP 6th Annual meeting  on Effective Management of Natural Resources for Africa & the Afrik4R Gender and Youth Issues on the Continent. AfCoP, MfDR, Afrik4R, AfDB, ACFBF are the key abbreviations you need know as platform for this entire conversation. This year, the gathering is in Harare, Zimbabwe, and it was opened yesterday by a league of powerful men and women from across the continent.

The opening statements were given by 4 stalwarts, the final and the ultimate being Hon. Walter Chidakwa, Minister for Mines and Mining Development for Zimbabwe. By the time he began giving his speech, most participants, in the usual style, were beginning to nod off, and I was gagging myself on mints to stay awake! It was a long, rather boring morning of ‘opening statements’. Hon. Chidakwa read his 20-minute speech, which at the time, we did not know was a prepared speech, at the end of which time, he went into a slight lull. The whole room became very silent. Chidakwa’s voice changed.

Walter Chidakwa - Min. for Mines & Mining Development Zimbabwe
Mr. Chdakwa with South African Minister for Mining Susan S.

'As we all know', he announced in that voice I know so well – that voice that natural orators switch to when they are about to make a declaration that will never leave time and space the same again – 'whenever ministers have these functions, they have permanent secretaries defining and scripting for them the things they should say, and the presentations they should make' (not in Ghana, where most political leaders speak out of their backsides). He continued, speaking of how Africa has always been of the heart, not only of the mind, and therefore, he was going to put away this dutiful script and speak from the heart.

Excerpts from his ‘Heart’ Welcoming Address:
'A few days ago, I was at a gathering of ministers, where we were discussing issues pertaining to the extractive industry (mineral and oil) of the continent, and most of us agreed with the realization that everything concerning Africa’s resources and Africa’s future is discussed by everyone …but Africans themselves. Well, today, when I return, I am going to call my colleagues and tell them that that is not so true; a gathering of people just arrived in my capital to do exactly that – discuss Africa’s Natural Resources. Whenever this industry comes up, some of us keep finding ourselves referring to the colonial challenges we faced and continue to face, and yet some of us get frustrated and say, “But why do you keep raising this age-old problem?” My response is as follows:

In Africa, we have models we operate on for our extractive industry. Models that have been there for more than 100 years. Models that gave foreigners access to our Natural Resources (NRs) even before we were born. And so they dig into our land, take our minerals, and use words and figures to detract our attention from the fact that we are actually holding the losing end of the stick. If you say you have given us 49% of the shares of your holdings, and that 40% you have given us translates into $USD70million per annum, whereas after taking your 51% through processing, you get $USD900million per annum in your coffers, who is gaining from whom? And when we point that out, they get flustered and annoyed and say, ‘Let us just stick to percentage shares, and stop negotiating for the monetary value’. So therefore, if we have not benefited from this model after a 100 years, must we sit and watch? Must we accept it as God-given?

He takes the speech a notch higher
Just because you have used your equipment to mine it does not make it yours. Just because its value has reflected on your spreadsheets does not make it yours. You take the value in our ground, tear open the bowels of our earth, and take the value, convert it and put it on paper and leverage it for more money.

They take this same value, these figures on paper, and on the back of this paper, go and list on stock exchanges that are outside of our countries, and leverage our wealth there, making revenues that never come back to us, or come back in minutae.

Africa MUST have hubs of value addition. Hubs that add value, that process our minerals and resources and send them out, for greater value, under better negotiations. Hubs that not only serve sub-regions of Africa, but ultimately unite them. Because we cannot move on to this next phase of owning our own resources if we go about it individually.

And now, in true colonial style, let me quote from Shakespeare ….. (which he does, at great length and impressively). During the official gathering photos that were taken right after, I strolled down the staircase with him, in a brief chat. I was heavily moved by his statements, I told him. He has balls, I told him. He stared at me, but I continued. If only our own ministers had half his balls, Ghana will be such a great country. He nodded. I know about Ghana’s wealth. We ministers meet again in a few weeks. We shall talk, he said.'

Well, Mr. Chidakwa, I don’t know just how much of an impact you will be able to make on my Honourable Ministers for Energy, for Environment, for Lands and Natural Resources and their complementary Directors. But you, you keep on doing what you are doing, and soon, the young shall join you save Zimbabwe!

Tomorrow, I bring you more on deliberations and conversations going on here. Stay tuned.

Harare, Zimbabwe.
2nd December, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment