Research Project to meet the Challenge of the New Scramble for Africa’s Resources

Africa holds nearly 30% of the planet’s mineral reserves, including 40% of its gold, 60% of its cobalt and 90% of the world’s platinum reserves. The continent is also an increasingly important global oil producer and has the second largest tropical rain forests in the world. Rather than these resources being a driver of African development, in many cases their exploitation and extraction has led to environmental degradation, but also to poor governance, underdevelopment and conflict.

A second “scramble for Africa”, driven by the consumptive demands of the major world powers, is underway to extract its natural resources intensively. It is contributing to the pressing issue of global energy insecurity and environmental degradation which is already playing itself out in the oil wells and gas fields of Africa, as well as in its mines and tropical forests. A future global crisis in energy security will not only have an economic knock-on effect in Africa; it will have the potential to lead to military and strategic conflict on the continent.

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) announces the launch of its Governance of Africa’s Resources programme that seeks to strengthen Africa’s ability to meet these new developments and derive the maximum benefit from the extraction of its natural resources.

The Programme Web Pages can be accessed here.

The SAIIA programme will develop continental expertise on natural resource governance challenges amongst key African stakeholders, particularly governments, corporations, NGOs, civil society, the media and trade unions. By partnering with institutions from the North, who have worked on natural resources and governance, SAIIA will take advantage of the opportunities for synergy between Africa and the North, while ensuring there is ‘ownership’ of the findings and inputs from key African stakeholders. The overall goal of the programme is to enhance and improve the governance of Africa’s natural resources thereby advancing the achievement of the continent’s developmental goals and imperatives.

Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Sudan will be researched in some detail during the 30 month period, but the programme will have an African-wide purview. It will focus on three key sectors: minerals/mining, petroleum/gas, and timber/logging (with a subsidiary theme of fisheries). The role of China in the extraction and exploitation of these resources will also be examined.

The programme has three core objectives:

  • improve the understanding of the governance issues surrounding the extraction and exploitation of Africa’s natural resources
  • improve the policies, practices and procedures governing the management, exploitation and extraction of Africa’s natural resources
  • expand and strengthen the co-operation between multilateral institutions, governments, corporations and non-governmental organisations, towards the enhanced governance of Africa’s resources.

The programme will examine these issues against the sustainability challenges to Africa of climate change, energy security, water stress and environmental degradation. SAIIA National Director, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, comments,

“Africa has a once-off opportunity to benefit from the extraction and exploitation if its natural resources, but to do so needs to strengthen considerably its governance regimes. Moreover, the continent must act in a co-ordinated way and involve the all stakeholders, governments, the business sector and civil society in these governance initiatives if they are to succeed in a sustainable manner.”

Stakeholders who will benefit from this research are:

  • African governments, policy-makers and parliaments
  • African regional and multilateral organisations such as the Regional Economic Communities, the African Development Bank, the NEPAD Secretariat and the African Union Commission
  • companies engaged in resource extraction and exploitation in Africa
  • African civil society, academics, researchers and policy advisers (the programme will strengthen the research capacity of African researchers, academics and civil society through the establishment of an African research network)
  • international and multilateral organisations engaged in resource governance on the African continent

The programme will be headed by experienced researcher, Tim Hughes who has conducted primary research in 20 countries across the African continent as well as in Asia, Europe and the Americas and is regarded as an expert on conflict diamonds. He has recently edited the SA Journal of International Affairs issue on the Politics of Resources in Africa. Facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria and funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the initial phase of the programme will run to the end of 2009.

For further information, please contact the SAIIA Media Liaison Officer.

21 Apr 2008