Presented at the Zamyn Global Citizenship Forum on 6 June 2013
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Caroline Kende-Robb. I am the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a foundation Chaired by Kofi Annan.
It is my pleasure to welcome you all this evening to Zamyn’s Cultural Forum at the Tate Modern here in London.
This evening’s event is one in a series of debates focusing on political, social, economic and cultural issues related to globalization, citizenship and identity.
I would like to give a very special and warm thanks to Michael Aminian and his team at Zamyn. Thank you, Michael. You have put together such an interesting series of events. Your incredible dedication and commitment are truly commendable. And thank you too to Marco Daniel from Tatre. You have done a fantastic job of pulling all of this together.
Thank you also to the other sponsors – Accenture, Barclays, Penguin Books, SOAS, and the Tate. I think we can all be proud to be associated with this event and I am delighted to be introducing this evening’s theme on Natural Resources – an extremely complex sector. But I see we have an incredible high level panel here this evening.
We all know the story of the butterfly that beats its wings and — somehow through a chain of events unleashes a typhoon on the other side of the world. Something similar is happening when we use natural resources.
Most of us here in this room use such resources pretty much every single day of our lives – whether that’s fuel or even just the whitener in our toothpaste.
Our actions and decisions (some of them without even noticing) have an impact all around the world.
When we started writing the 2013 Africa Progress Report on oil, gas and mining one year ago, we recognized that although Africa was riding the crest of the global commodities wave, resource-led growth had yet to transform the lives of Africa’s people.
In many countries, natural resource revenues were widening the gap between rich and poor. Billions of dollars were being squandered on building personal fortunes often supporting corrupt and unaccountable political elites.
What we did not anticipate was that over the year the momentum for change would accelerate. Indeed, it is rare in global policymaking that interests align to the extent that we are seeing today.
Let me briefly outline some the significant changes that have emerged over the last year.
Twelve months ago, who would have thought the US mortgage crisis and the eurozone’s predicament might improve global transparency and accountability?
As austerity bites in many G8 countries, citizens are demanding fairness and action. They feel cheated, and will no longer tolerate secret deals, illicit financial flows, and tax havens. For citizens everywhere, in Africa, in G8 countries and across the globe, current tax practices raise questions about fairness, social justice, and citizenship. Such practices affect the grandma in Manchester as well as the mother in Mali – but they affect Africa more.
Another significant development is the recent passing of the Dodd-Frank Act in the United States and similar EU measures that require extractive companies to meet higher standards of disclosure. Now the G8 is on the case, with the UK Presidency putting tax and transparency on the agenda for the G8 Summit this month.
In Africa, too, citizen opposition is growing to the squandering of oil, gas and mining resources as evidence emerges of undervaluation and mismanagement. Indeed, trade mispricing costs African governments in the region of $34 billion annually.
Recognizing these costs, some African governments are taking action. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea now make mining contracts publicly available. And Ghana is strengthening accountability in the management of petroleum revenues. Such actions can strengthen the social contract between the state and its citizens.
At the same time, many companies are now looking beyond short-term profits towards long-term investment partnerships. These companies recognize the economic, as well as the ethical, case for strengthening linkages to local firms and engaging with local communities. They know that sustainable investment needs a stable country and a “social license to operate”.
What is emerging as the silos of secrecy crumble is a shared agenda, in which different parties have overlapping interests and similar goals. As Mr Annan states in the report “Building trust is harder than changing policies – yet it is the ultimate condition for successful policy reform.”
He adds, “Mutually beneficial agreements are the only ones that will stand the test of time”.
None of this will be easy going forward. But the report sets out a number of steps and I will mention just a few:
• The G8 Summit should serve as a launch pad for a rules-based global system on both transparency and taxation to be developed with the G20.
• All foreign-owned companies should be required to publicly disclose the ultimate beneficiaries of their profits.
• Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, all major conduits for offshore finance, should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.
• African governments can work towards adding value to natural resources before export, securing adequate tax revenues, and spending these revenues more equitably.
• Major investors in Africa’s extractive sectors like China and emerging investors such as Brazil must also engage.
Public scrutiny by citizens across the globe will continue to be a crucial force for change. As interests align, and the context shifts, everyone has a role to play in stewarding Africa’s nature resource wealth to transform the lives of many in Africa and across the globe.
The report concludes that huge opportunities exist in Africa and leaders across the globe – in government, industry and civil society – must take action now. The benefits of seizing these opportunities will not just transform the lives of Africans, but will also be felt in countries across the world.
It is my great pleasure to hand over to Robert Guest who will chair this evening’s debate.
Caroline Kende-Robb is the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel
About Africa Progress Panel
The Africa Progress Panel connects the influence of our Panel members with cutting edge policy analysis to advocate for equitable and sustainable development in Africa, especially on those policy issues that are critical for Africa’s development and where the nature of our organisation means we bring significant comparative advantage. Our Panel members have unusual access to the highest level of policy makers in Africa and across the globe and can speak with an African voice.
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