Highlights included an impassioned appeal to African countries to harness their immense wealth in natural resources for the benefit of their growing populations.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) specifically stated that the continent had got to the position where it was expected to be using the resources to accelerate wealth creation, thus bringing about faster and far more noticeable social and economic transformation.
The bank aptly noted that the continent boasted some of the world’s largest deposits of oil and gas, gold reserves and strategic minerals, among them uranium, cobalt and bauxite.
Indeed, it could hardly have expressed it better in saying that the challenge for the continent was “how to govern and harness this rich pool of natural resources to achieve a broad-based growth”.
Meanwhile, the UN Economic Commission for Africa said at the Addis Ababa forum that the continent accounts for three-quarters of the world’s platinum supply, half of the diamond and chromium, and one-fifth of global gold deposits.
UNECA added that Africa was a major supplier of cobalt, copper, iron and coal, and is home to 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land.
But analysts have long seen a paradox here in that, despite such wealth, Africa neither consumes its minerals nor adds value to them before exporting them.
By extension, the continent, has high potential to feed the growing global population but can hardly feed its own population simply because its underdeveloped agriculture translates into low crop yields.
In fairness to the continent, even if the statement is not “universally” applicable, some of factors commonly deemed as critical for a country to shift from being “resource cursed” to “resource blessed” have been addressed.
These factors include promoting responsible investment for broad-based growth, strengthening governance for enhanced transparency and accountability, and building capable and responsive mechanisms for human development and economic effectiveness.
Those with long memories will recall that UNECA recounted to delegates how outsiders continue to reap enormous benefits from Africa’s resources, giving the Democratic Republic of Congo as exemplifying countries where all the inputs of the mining companies are imported, nearly all outputs are exported unprocessed, and the most important tasks are performed by expatriate labour.
For its part, the African Union Commission raised questions concerning the continent’s wealth and development paradox for the forum to consider, with a view to formulating ways and means of tackling them.
In the AUC’s own words: “Africa is today among the fastest-growing regions in the world. How come the growth is not generating enough jobs for our people, especially the youth? How come the jobs our people have are low-level and poorly paid?”
One of the several observations at the forum, which ran on the theme ‘Governing and Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development’, was that the continent cost most effectively govern and harness its natural resources if it had a developmental state and transformational leadership.
It is noteworthy that ADF is a UNECA flagship biennial event convened jointly with the AU Commission, AfDB and other key partners to establish an African-driven development agenda.
As noted earlier, the nature of the forum dictates that governments and people across the continent ought to take the deliberations and recommendations at the likes of the ADF VIII with the seriousness they deserve. We hope this is the case.