Monday, April 14, 2008

Staple Liberia

“Liberia’s Staple”

Nation's staple
Nation’s stability
Riots of April 14, 1979
Businesses looted
People killed
People wounded
Of rice
Come let’s eat
The heart of the nation

- Anthropogenicagent, April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Transparency in the Extractive Industries

EITI++ Extends Oil And Mining Transparency Agenda
Publish What You Pay (London)

11 April 2008 Posted to the web 11 April 2008 Washington, DC

Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the global civil society coalition campaigning for transparency in the extractive industries, welcomes the World Bank’s effort to extend transparency in this sector beyond revenues through its new EITI++ initiative. EITI++ includes disclosure along the spectrum, from the licensing of concessions all the way to government spending. In order for this initiative to be credible, PWYP calls on the World Bank to implement it effectively across the globe and to meaningfully involve civil society throughout the entire process.

“We welcome the Bank's initiative to extend transparency in the oil, mining and gas sector beyond revenues to look at how concessions are awarded, contracts negotiated, and how the money is spent. Civil society has played a crucial role in shaping the EITI and we hope to play the same role in this new initiative because real change for the better depends on us using the information arising to hold governments and companies to account,” said Radhika Sarin, International Coordinator of the PWYP coalition. “The natural resource wealth of Guinea, if managed properly, is one of our best chances to lift our citizens out of poverty. We ask that the World Bank work with us as equal partners, and not limit itself to the government and companies. This hasn’t always been their strength in the past but we won’t accept anything less,” said Mamadou Taran Diallo, Coordinator of PWYP Guinea. The current focus of EITI++ is on Africa, with Guinea and Mauritania as the two pilot countries.

While the EITI is a good first step towards making public the flow of revenues from companies to government, it is not enough. “With the scramble for resources heating up across Africa and elsewhere, there is a pressing need for a more open and fair system for allocating oil and mining concessions, so that competition amongst Western and Asian companies doesn’t turn into a race to the bottom on corruption, human rights and the environment,” said Gavin Hayman, Campaigns Director of Global Witness.

PWYP would like to see this initiative move beyond just Africa and outside of just the World Bank to help define global standards of natural resource governance that all countries and extractive companies could endorse and apply. PWYP also hopes the World Bank will draw on existing best practice in this area, such as the IMF Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency.
For this initiative to have impact on the ground, genuine civil society involvement is necessary at both the international and the country levels. This can be achieved by building on the multi-stakeholder principle of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which sets a minimum global standard for the reporting of oil, gas and mining revenues.

The stated goal of EITI++ is to promote the use of natural resource revenues for development, and this can only happen if civil society is able to influence its own governments to manage these resources in the best possible way. But in some countries it is downright dangerous for citizens to challenge governments about how revenues from oil, gas and mining are spent. “The World Bank has an important role to play in protecting these activists and promoting their ability to work without fear or intimidation,” said Karin Lissakers, Executive Director of the Revenue Watch Institute.

“If EITI++ results in a more joined-up effort by the international community to promote and support this goal, we look forward to a constructive engagement on how to take things forward for all our benefit,” she added.

Publish What You Pay is an international coalition of over 300 NGOs calling for the mandatory disclosure of the payments made by oil, gas and mining companies to all governments for the extraction of natural resources and the resulting revenues earned by resource-rich country governments. The coalition also calls for the disclosure of licensing arrangements and extractive industry contracts.

Copyright © 2008 Publish What You Pay



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chinafrica (16) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

INDIA: Taking on China in AfricaBy Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
NEW DELHI, Apr 6 (IPS) - The world's two most populous countries, China and India, are now seriously competing with each other to engage resource-rich Africa, thereby imparting a new dimension to South-South relations.

From Apr. 7-9 New Delhi will host heads of government of 12 African nation-states and a similar number of regional economic groupings. Many see this as a modest answer by India to the grand Africa summit that Beijing hosted in 2006.

Among heads of government expected are Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Joseph Kabila Kabange of Congo, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, John Kufuor of Ghana, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Maitre Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Tertius Zongo of Burkina Faso and Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania.

The New Delhi meeting will be attended by leading functionaries of the African Union, various regional economic communities and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Notable absentees will be Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

While this is the first time India is organising such a large summit of African leaders, this country has had long links with the continent. "Indian traders once sold glass beads to an eager African market (and) now its expertise centres on science and technology," observes a media release of the Johannesburg-based South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

The release added: "China's inroads into Africa are well known; India's approach has been much quieter. The India-Africa Forum meets for the first time?offering a fresh insight into this modern-day scramble for Africa."

A government of India official told IPS, who may not be named according to briefing rules, that unlike "China's greed for Africa's oil, copper and other minerals", India is more interested in longer-term economic partnerships that are mutually beneficial and do not replicate colonial systems of exploitation of African wealth.

This official pointed out that India had for long supported South Africa's anti-apartheid movement because of the personal involvement of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the 'father' of the Indian nation, who had cut his political teeth in that country. More recently, India was the first country to send United Nations-sponsored troops to Congo.

The Indian government has, in addition, supported technical exchange and training programmes in most African countries. For more than four decades now, 1,000 individuals from sub-Saharan countries have been provided technical training in India each year. Besides, there are an estimated 15,000 students of African origin currently studying in Indian universities and educational institutions, many of them on government scholarships.

Pointing out that the "waters of the Indian Ocean united us" and that India and Africa had a "common civilisational heritage and shared experience of colonialism", India's Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee recently said "our commitment to solutions based on common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability remains steadfast".
Ethiopia's Minister of State for Trade and Industry Tadesse Haile, on a visit to India, last year, said this country should be a ''shareholder and not just a stakeholder in Africa's development process''.

India has participated in projects relating to rural electrification in Mozambique and Ethiopia, railways in Senegal and Mali, cement in Congo and computer training in Lesotho. Indian companies are involved in building Ghana's National Assembly and military barracks in Sierra Leone.

Private corporate groups in India have had long-standing ties with African countries. For instance, the Tata group has a presence in 14 countries in areas such as hotels, telecommunications, hydro power and transportation. The word 'Tata' is synonymous with 'bus' in a country like Uganda, writes Seema Sirohi, Indian journalist for the 'Outlook' magazine who was recently in Johannesburg.

Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer Cipla has led the way in supplying inexpensive generic anti-AIDS drugs to African countries in the teeth of opposition from Western multinational corporations. Other Indian business groups have made major investments in Africa in the areas of information technology, hospitality, electrical equipment, and hospitals.

Senior journalist Neerja Chowdhury told IPS: "India had ignored its natural allies in Africa for a long time and in fact, many in this country had a rather patronising attitude towards Africa that was seen as a backward continent. Thankfully, that attitude is changing somewhat and the Indian government is re-focussing on Africa." Nevertheless, she said relations between India and Africa are "still nowhere what they should be".

While annual two-way trade between India and Africa has gone up fivefold from five billion US dollars to 25 billion dollars over the last five years, this volume is half that of Africa's export-import trade with China. Indian officials, speaking off-the-record, say China's economic strategy is more aggressive than that of India's and basically aimed at capturing Africa's mineral resources like oil, copper and manganese.

In a paper, Navdeep Suri, India's consul-general in Johannesburg has written: "We cannot match China dollar-for-dollar nor do we have the command economy where state-owned companies can be ordered to pursue the government's directive regardless of their own bottomline."

India's Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, while stating that the New Delhi summit would "help the pace and spirit of historic and time-tested ties between India and Africa gather momentum", has argued that it "would not be correct" to see India-Africa relations as "competition with any other country".

Sirohi, who spoke to influential South African minister Essop Pahad, quoted him saying that while he wanted to engage with both India and China, the two countries would have to compete. "Let the best man win," he remarked.

Arun Kumar, professor of economics at New Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IPS in an interview that there is "considerable potential between India and Africa in the areas of agriculture, energy and sustainable exploitation of minerals". He added that the fact that persons of Indian origin had settled in large numbers in East African countries besides Libya, Sudan and Darfur, could help strengthen economic ties.

In Durban, South Africa's foreign affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa old the Press Trust of India news agency that the New Delhi summit could not only consolidate and drive the position of developing countries in the World Trade Organisation but also lead to the "writing off (of) the debt owed to India by the poorest countries of the world, a large number of which are African countries."

What may indirectly help India, Sirohi wrote in her article in the 'Outlook', is that the Chinese presence in Congo and Zambia has sparked off local resentment. Trade unions have protested against China's policy of 'dumping' cheap goods. Congo reportedly recently expelled 600 Chinese nationals and shut down three firms.