East Africa: Civil society groups should strengthen their capacity & can ensure local communities benefit from growing extractive sector

Author: Christopher Byaruhanga, in Platform for Extractive Industries Information (Uganda), Published on: 15 October 2018

"East Africa walking a tight rope"

...Many factors have been advanced for...renewed interest in Africa’s resources. A good number of those point towards an unstoppable global population boom coupled with technological advancements that have increased demand for natural resources by manufacturers in the developed world. Technology has also created newer techniques of resource exploitation that make previously inaccessible reserves easier to exploit and those earlier thought to be commercially inviable, profitable. Underlying all this hassle is one fact though: The developed world is running out of natural resources to feed their innovations and must now turn to virgin fields in Africa to supply them. The weak governance in many of the targeted African countries is an added bonus because deals can be made without much scrutiny. How then, as East Africans can we reverse that narrative? How can we change that story so that the resources existing beneath our feet can in effect cause the much needed economic and social transformation of our society?...

Civil society and the general public should be allowed room to challenge governments on open contracting, implementation of local content policies, revenue management, environmental management, restoration and other issues. One good example of this has been in Kenya’s Turkana Region where, largely due to the numerous enlightenment efforts by local campaigner Friends of Lake Turkana, the communities have forced government and the international oil company operating there onto the drawing table to negotiate with them as partners, not mere recipients of good will.  It is not that the Turkana community is against development, no! They just want it to be done right...To do this effectively, civil society, the media and the public should pick more interest in the management of the country’s extractive resources. A good, inexpensive start is enrolling for the various short courses being offered by different organisations in Uganda and the Region...It is through such exposure that we can effectively pose difficult questions to government and elicit the right reactions from them. Let’s get started. We don’t have much time.

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