MPs and academics from African countries have expressed concern over natural resource governance in the continent’s extractive sector and are pushing for a common law to address transparency and accountability.
Meeting in a continental conference in Yaounde Cameroon on Thursday African legislators sought to adopt and ratify a model law on a new development approach to natural resource governance in Africa.
They noted that Africa finds caught up itself in a paradox of plenty where its abundant endowment in natural resources does not lead to equivalent levels of prosperity, development and industrialisation.
“The model mining law would give pointers that would, for example, strengthen the negotiating capacity of Parliaments; ensuring meaningful collaboration between key players and providing support for the required social dialogue,” Dr Paul Jourdan, one of the panelists, said.
He explained that the African Mining Vision (AMV), adopted by African heads of state during their July meeting in 2009 in Kigali, is seen as a solution to the poor governance, lack of strong institutions and weak policies in African states.
Jourdan said that the AMV framework is operating in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Lesotho and, Tanzania.
Where operational, it is also supporting countries to develop world class geological survey systems so that they can negotiate from a point of knowledge. He said they hope to work with the Pan African Parliament to train parliamentarians on contract negotiations.
While legislators appreciated the need for a model law to regulate mining on the continent, they noted that there are some hurdles that need to be overcome.
Geoffrey Lungwangwa (Zambia) was concerned that some colonial land laws still obtain in Africa.
“If you have title to land, you are only confined to the surface and anything under the surface belongs to the state. That land law still prevails in our countries today and it is a contributing factor to poverty,” he said.
“Many of our people are being removed from land once minerals are discovered. They are not even given shares in the mining companies. Is this really socio-economic transformation?”
He said there is need to have a model law that eventually will empower local communities to have shares in the mining companies.
Bernadette Lahai (Sierra Leone) from a diamond mining area said exploitation and child labour is rampant.
“Children as young as six years work in the mines. We don’t want mining to affect education,” she said, adding that “mining agreements are conducted between government and the mining companies leaving MPs and the local population in the dark.”
According to the African Development Bank, minerals account for an average of 70 percent of total African exports and about 28 percent of the gross domestic product.
The bank says that earnings from recent oil, gas and mineral discoveries in Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania could lead to an increase in government revenues of between 9 percent and 31 percent in the first 10 years of production.
Legislators noted that because of the structure of Africa’s extractive industries, most countries remain exporters of unprocessed commodities. They proposed that Africa needs to add value to her exports so as to unlock the full economic potential of its natural resources.
Ssembabule woman MP Hanifa Kawooya (Uganda), however, pointed out that the diversity in Africa may not allow for a uniform law.
“We have different land laws and policies. Having one unified model will be complicated,” she said. “There is also the issue of who owns the land where the minerals are found. The land tenure in African countries is different. Some land is owned by the government, individuals, and others owned customarily. We also don’t know how much of our natural resources we have,” she added.
In an attempt to reverse the curse of resources, the East African Legislative Assembly is in the process of adopting a mining law for the East African region.
The East African Mining Bill, 2017 will provide a legal framework to regulate mining operations in the region and ensure environmentally friendly and sound mining practices. The bill was presented for first reading in March.
The four-day conference on the theme “The issue of political and socio economic integration of the African continent: The role of the Pan African Parliament” ends today in Yaounde, Cameroon.