MAC: Mines and Communities

Facing up to challenges of Africa's extractive sectors

Published by MAC on 2011-07-11
Source: Statement, The Standard, Pambazuka

Clarion calls from Zimbabwe & Ethiopia

"The fundamental reality of Africa is that it is integrated into a global system of kleptocratic capitalism characterised by primitive accumulation or ‘rent seeking' by the rich nations and within each nation by the rich power elite.

"This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people."

So declared renowned Ugandan political commenter, Yash Tandon, in an address to the "GO GREEN" international conference, held in Ethiopia last month.

At around the same time, more than thirty African activists, joined by other civil society representatives, met in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe,  to determine just how desperately-needed continental and regional mining reform agendas can be implemented.

Among the outcomes of this  13th annual meeting of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and society (AIMES)  was a commitment to "influence the reform agenda by raising awareness, resisting threats and promoting norms which promote community rights, the environment, human rights and fiscal regimes".

And a pledge was made to "intervene and influence the outcomes of the [Durban 2011] Climate negotiations and Rio+20".

Africa's extractive sectors face challenges

By Chipo Masara

The Standard (Zimbabwe)

27 June 2011

It was apparent at the 13th annual strategy meeting of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) held in Harare last week that challenges posed by the mining industry are similar throughout the continent.

The event, which was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (Zela) and Third World Network-Africa in collaboration with ActionAid International (Zimbabwe), ran from June 21 to 24.

Held under the theme: "The African Mining Reform Agenda: Mobilising for Developmental Impacts", the meeting saw Aimes member countries, among them Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ghana, DRC, Zambia, and Zimbabwe taking part.

It was a chance for the "Pan-African network of organisations, groups, communities and individuals engaged in extractive sector advocacy, in particular mining" to come together and share experiences. It was also meant to analyse the issues of concern in different countries with a view to map out strategies and re-positioning advocacy strategies for more effectiveness.

The AIMES meeting, among its many objectives, aimed at coming up with strategies to vigorously advocate for mining companies to not only accept the need to have a CSR policy, but to make it mandatory.

The general feeling among the different country representatives was that Africa finds itself in this predicament because it was not united with each country thinking in terms of "my own territory".

Those with the capital, mostly Western investors, backed by their governments, are reported to be taking full advantage of this by imposing conditions and regulations that are largely in favour of their own interests.

"We live in poverty. We do not have what it takes to properly exploit the resources and transform them into developmental structures," said Abu A Brima, the executive director for Network Movement for Justice and Development (Sierra Leone).

"We need to develop a minimal standard taking into account all the problems we are facing and enforce standards without compromise.

"In spite of our poverty, we need standards that ensure the environment is protected and preserved and that people participate at a local level and are awarded the chance to make decisions on where, how and what to mine."

One thing for sure, the AIMES meeting provided a chance for African countries to cover common ground and collectively tackle the myriad of problems bedeviling the countries as a result of mining activities.

"There is now a clearer understanding of the African mining agenda and how it provides an opportunity for the positive reform of Africa's mineral regime," Zela programmes officer Gilbert Makore said.

"The meetings provide a vehicle through which to redress the negative impact of mining and to ensure enhanced local and national economic benefit from mining."

Country Reports Blast Miners Over Compensation

The report from Ghana on how the mining companies in that country are generally reluctant to compensate the communities displaced to make way for mining operations immediately reminded me of the situation in Chiadzwa.

Hundreds of families relocated to pave way for diamond mining activities were resettled in areas without basic amenities.

And like in Zimbabwe, interest groups in Ghana are concerned about their government's manipulation of the natural resources. They are concerned about the lack of clearly structured platforms for community participation in decision making on issues that have an impact on their lives, like how the natural resources are utilised.

In Congo, there are reports of endless conflicts between the communities and the government over the latter's alleged bias towards the mining companies at the expense of the ordinary citizens.

It is the ordinary villagers that have had to suffer as a result of "unfriendly" mining operations that are detrimental to people's general well-being.

This appears to be the same case in Zimbabwe where the majority of the mining companies act as if they were above the law as they continue to get away with the most dreadful environmental abuses.

While this is happening, the government remains seemingly oblivious to the plight of the ordinary people whose health and general well-being is jeopardised.

Activists from Uganda, like those in South Africa, focused mostly on their continuous efforts towards getting the mining companies to not only accept but implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

CSR calls for the companies to carry out their operations in a manner that does not endanger but instead enhances people's lives through environmentally-friendly programmes and giving back to the communities they operate from.

Statement of 13th Annual Strategy Meeting of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES)

21-24 June 2011

Harare, Zimbabwe

1.0 Introduction

We, 32 members of the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) from Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Zambia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe and our partner from the United Kingdom and such networks including the Africa Trade Network, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Tax Justice Network, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA) held our thirteenth Annual Strategy Meeting from June 21-24, 2011 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

2.0 Context and Purpose

The 13th annual strategy meeting was timed because of on-going mineral policy reform initiatives, the climate change negotiations leading to the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) in December 2011 and the preparations towards Rio+20 (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development).

The meeting took place when there are growing threats to the Africa's mining reform agenda and the essential outcomes of the climate change negotiations and the Rio+20 meeting.

Therefore, the 13th annual strategy meeting was structured as a platform to:

1. Build the capacity of African civil society organisations to enhance their advocacy on the reform agenda
2. Provide opportunity for networking and sharing of experiences
3. Develop and adopt specific policy positions and campaigning strategies to optimise the benefits of mining and the outcomes of the climate change negotiation to the peoples and economies of Africa
4. Evaluate and reposition AIMES as an effective African vehicle for advocacy on mining, climate change and the Rio+20.

3.0 Issues

The meeting discussed:

The continental and regional reform agendas including the impetus of the reforms, economic competition, the prospects of the reform, the Africa Mining Vision and the Report of the International Study Group as alternatives to the current mining regimes in Africa, as well as the mining policy reform processes at SADC and ECOWAS.

The growing threat to the reform agenda including the EU's Raw Materials Initiative, the Natural Resource Charter, the Africa Mineral Governance Programme and Bilateral Investment Treaties.

Domestic resource mobilisation and the challenges of financing the reform agenda in particular and Africa's development in general

The arenas and sites for advocacy, examining in particular the AU and its institutions including the Regional Economic Blocs, the linkages between mining, climate change and the green economy proposed under the Rio+20 conference

Strategies and the role of AIMES as an effective African vehicle for advocacy on mining, climate change and the Rio+20.

4.0 Observations

Based on shared analysis and understanding of the issues discussed, the meeting made the following observations:


Mineral resources have the potential for social and economic development of African countries. However, the main beneficiaries of the vast mineral resources of the continent have been private corporations and economies other than Africa, while the cost is externalised to local communities and the environment.

Part of the reasons for Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) being prescribed for the continent stemmed from the failure of primary commodity dependent African economies to use their vast mineral resources for economic development and transformation. SAPs themselves turned out to be instruments of de-development of mineral commodity dependent economies.


Implementation of the liberalised mining regimes since the introduction of SAPs has resulted in a race to the bottom on the continent as well as a renewed scramble for the continent by old and emerging economic powers. The race to the bottom and the scramble for Africa's resources, work together to exacerbate the de-development of the continent.

Reform Initiatives

The on-going reform initiatives at the continental and regional levels are in response to the failure of the current mining regimes on the continent. The fundamental focus of the reform initiatives is to put trade and investment in mineral resources under better regulation in order to optimise public benefit in Africa, including community benefits, value-addition, ecological and human rights protection.

Threats to the reform initiatives

We observe that the on-going reform initiatives are under threat, particularly from a number of emerging policy initiatives such as the EU Raw Materials Initiative, The Natural Resource Charter, the Africa Mineral Governance Programme by the World Bank, as well as Multilateral and Bilateral Investment Treaties.

While the continental and regional reform initiatives aim to improve regulation, the Raw Material Initiative emphasises unregulated and unrestricted access to raw materials.

The Natural Resources Charter on the other hand reinforces the existing unequal relationship between African governments, communities and multinational corporations.

he underlying tenets of these parallel emerging initiatives is the preservation of the unacceptable status-quo with regards to the exploitation of the minerals of Africa.

Domestic Resource Mobilisation and Financing the reform agenda

Extractive resources have the potential for domestic resource mobilisation in Africa. This potential has not been realised due to the overly aid-dependent economies run by African governments. The cost of running the aid-dependent economies tends to result in excessive expropriation of the mineral resources of the continent.

Climate change

We recognise that climate change is a major global problem, with Africa most exposed to the consequences of climate change and climate variability.

These problems arise principally from the policies, practices and production and consumption systems of the industrial north. Extractive sector activity which is one of the major economic activities on the continent not only contributes to diminishing the carbon sink but also constantly reduce the capacity of rural populations to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

We are concerned however that the ongoing climate negotiations do not adequately take into account the developmental priorities of Africa as there are serious attempts to roll-back principles and conventions which recognised the common but differentiated responsibilities.

Rio +20

Ten years after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), twenty years after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and forty years after the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the United Nations is convening a conference in June 2012 on the title United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD).

The conference is seeking to provide a platform for the international community to rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet.

The main issues of the conference are the promotion of a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as well as an institutional framework for sustainable development.

Africa Union and Regional Economic Communities (AU & RECs)

We recognize the Africa Union and Regional Economic Communities as sites and arenas for advocacy. The transformation of the OAU to AU makes it a more people centered institution and a continental body for uniting African governments in their relation with the world. REC being the building blocks of the AU bringing pertinent issues from the regional perspectives.

5.0 Demands/Recommendations

We call for a speedy completion and implementation of the harmonisation of existing policies and formulation and adoption of norms which enhance cooperation.

We call on African governments to improve understanding and quality of the reform agenda and secure maximum support for it while remaining united in their commitment to forge ahead with the reform as an alternative paradigm to mining on the continent. African governments should also ensure coherence and alignment of aspirations and strategies between the regional and continental level processes.

We call on African leaders and Africans at home and in the diaspora to resist any pressure on African governments to abandon course on the reform agenda as happened with the Lagos Plan of Action in the 1980s. We also demand full respect and promotion of the right of African governments and citizens to policy and development autonomy

We recognise the relationship between domestic resource mobilisation, economic development and democracy, in particular accountability of public institutions. On the basis of this recognition, we demand a shift of emphasis from aid-dependence to domestic resource mobilisation by such actions as enhancing the fiscal policies as well as exploring alternative sources of financing development.

We demand an equitable solution to climate change which must arrest global warming and facilitate Africa's development. We demand that the industrial north should live up to its historical and legal obligation in the upcoming COP 17 in Durban

We demand that the concept of the green economy should not be used to intensify free market, commodification and privatization of public goods such as water land, air and forests. Experience has shown that the privatization of these public goods has adverse consequences for the quality of life of the majority of the African population.

We call on the AU and the Regional Economic Communities to improve access by citizens through reforming their internal structures and rules of access

Information is a right and a critical resource for participatory development and accountability of public and private institutions. We thus call on African governments to ensure and promote public access to information by passing relevant laws on access to information

6.0 Conclusion

We concluded the meeting with an understanding and commitment to work together in collaboration and solidarity with communities affected by mining, African civil society organisations, partners from the global north and south to:

We call on the media to echo our demands and calls

Third World Network-Africa is secretariat of AIMES. For further information please contact +233-21-500419/503669 Email: environment[at]

Kleptocratic Capitalism: Challenges of the Green Economy for Sustainable Africa

By Yash Tandon*

Pambazuka, Issue 537

30 June 2011

Africa remains at the mercy of a self-interested international ruling class interested purely in maximising profit at all costs and consolidating its position, claims Yash Tandon in the following article which comprises a speech he gave  at the 'GO GREEN International Conference' held at the African Union Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in June 2011.

As the continent faces up to the enormous challenge of climate change and the creation of a sustainable ‘green economy’, it must look inwards and draw upon its own expertise and resources and resist the temptation to rely on compromised external ‘experts’, Tandon stresses.

This meeting seeks to address one of the most difficult issues of our times – the question of sustaining growth and development in Africa while at the same time protecting the environment and ensuring that growth benefits entire communities and not just a small minority.

There are only two points I wish to make in the limited time I am given. One is that Africa’s development or growth model is seriously flawed. It has not translated into people’s welfare over the last 40–50 years. And the second is to caution African countries and the African Union against ‘outsourcing’ policy issues, especially those relating to international negotiations – such is the case with climate change – to ‘experts’ from outside Africa.

Kleptocratic Capitalism

In a recent paper the UN ECA argues that despite high growth rates in Africa there has been no improvement in employment and welfare of ordinary people. The paper gives Africa’s commodity export dependence as the primary reason for it.

I agree, but the main reason, in my view, is the global system of production and exchange of which Africa is a part (AU/UNECA issues paper: ‘Governing development in Africa - the role of the state in economic transformation’, 22 March 2011).

The global system of production of wealth and its distribution is characterised by kleptocracy, primitive accumulation and dispossession. Economists call it ‘rent seeking’, and they justify this with the argument that ‘surplus’ from the rural and agricultural areas is needed in order for Africa to grow and industrialise; that this is how they did it in the West. That is historically true.

However, the early model of competitive capitalism of 19th and the 20th centuries is not applicable to Africa today because we live in a different world. It is a world of kleptocratic capitalism. Some ‘left’ intellectuals call it ‘financialised capitalism’ – finance is king; production takes a second place. But this term is limited to only its predominant economic characteristic.

In essence, in political-economic terms, kleptocratic capitalism is a system of economic production and exchange, the creation of fictitious wealth without going through production of real wealth and political governance controlled by ‘looters and daytime robbers’. It is ‘rent seeking’ by the rich nations, and within each nation by the rich economic and power elite. This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people.

This, when everything is said and done, is at the root of the rebellions by the masses of the people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab and North African countries. This is a current that could swell into a tsunami tidal wave to other parts of Africa – if not today, then tomorrow or the day after. It is inherent within the very dynamics of kleptocratic capitalism’s contradictions.

At the global level we have Ponzi schemes that create wealth out of thin air – money made out money without going through real production; money out of fraudulent deals and speculation. The Madoff investment scandal in the US is a good example. Bernard Madoff is now in jail, but for a long time he was the chairman of NASDAQ, a stock market that dealt mainly with industrial and technology shares. But he is not the only one.

The global banking system is itself, by its nature, a huge Ponzi scheme. I cannot go into a detailed explanation here. But what is happening in Europe, for example, is a good indicator. German and French bankers buy Greek bonds guaranteed by the Greek government; the ostensible reason is to ‘bail out’ a bankrupt Greek treasury. But in the process, the banks exert pressure through their governments, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to impose severe austerity measures on the people of Greece in order to ensure that the Greek government does not default on the loans.

If it does it would put into jeopardy the EU currency system, and possibly the entire European project that is largely pushed by European corporate and finance capital. The people of Greece and Ireland have to suffer so that the ‘system’ survives.

The system’s survival is more important than the wellbeing of the people. The term ‘systemic risk’ has become part of the vocabulary of economists since the 1997–98 financial/economic meltdown. Ireland was an ‘aid donor’ to Africa only yesterday; today it is a beggar nation – beggared by the Ponzi-like global banking system.

Globalised capital (the so-called ‘foreign direct investments’ or FDIs) and its several manifestations – banks, insurance companies, shipping agents, commodity speculators, wholesale traders, chain retailers, etc – are in league with the local economic and power elites in the ‘recipient’ countries, and their god is ‘accumulate, accumulate and accumulate’.

Even China and India are not free from this virus – displacement of people from land is creating staggering problems in these countries. These ‘new’ capitalist countries are still significantly underdeveloped from a science and technology perspective. The battles over intellectual property in the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and in the industrial–corporate world testify to this reality.

Power in the global banking–financial market lies in the boardrooms of a dozen or so big players, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup Inc., the Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. They operate in an unregulated market, i.e., largely outside of national control, not even that of the United States. Like an octopus, they have their tentacles everywhere, including China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Africa Undermined

Africa has been one of the major resource providers of global kleptocratic capitalism. By means of the so-called ‘development aid’ and FDIs, Africa’s resources are exploited to sustain ‘the system’.

In real terms the investments and ‘aid’ are a gigantic credit system that creates a mountain of debt which Africa has been paying in the form of transfer of real values – coffee, cocoa, cotton, cobalt, platinum, gold, chromium, manganese, uranium and titanium, to name but a few. (Africa holds 90 per cent of the world's deposits of cobalt, 90 per cent of its platinum, 50 per cent of its gold, 98 per cent of its chromium, 64 per cent of its manganese, 33 per cent of its uranium and 80 per cent of its columbite-tantalite).

In a recent paper by Kandeh Yumkella, director general of UNIDO, and Rob Davies, South Africa's minister of trade and industry (from which the above figures are taken), the authors say that Africa has 80–200 billion barrels of hydrocarbon reserves, but most of these are exploited by global corporations. A ton of African titanium sand, to give but one example, brings about US$100 in export revenues, whereas a ton of titanium alloy brings $100,000 but to countries outside Africa – a ratio of 1:1000.

The gross exploitation of Africa’s resources is underpinned by a global credit system run by the World Bank, the IMF and the aid industry. ‘Development aid’ is a charade. (See Yash Tandon, ‘Ending Aid Dependence’, 2009).

What the IMF and the German–French dominated banking system has been doing to the peripheral European countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal) in recent years is exactly what the IMF, the World Bank and the so-called ‘donor’ community have been doing to Africa for the last 50 years.

They have been sacrificing the welfare of the people of Africa so that the ‘system’ of corporate greed and ‘rent seeking’ by the rich and powerful can survive and prosper. It is no wonder that people in Africa remain poor and unemployed.

Africa has its own domestic over-consuming power and economic elite (the plutocrats) in league with their imperial overlords – the bank-robbers and global corporations – that exploit the masses of the people.

One of the manifestations of their greed is the massive land grab that we are witnessing today. A lot of the land grabbing is done by these domestic plutocrats. Also, many African governments are selling off or leasing agricultural lands to foreign investors from Europe, the US, India, China, the Gulf States and further afield. There is a rush for all of Africa’s resources, not just land, but also its forests, oil, gold and diamonds.

The price of this intense exploitation is paid by the ordinary people. In recent court cases in South Africa, for example, tens of thousands of former mineworkers received little or no compensation for occupational lung diseases working in asbestos mines and other kinds of toxic environment.

Hundreds of thousands of African rural people are displaced and dispossessed to make space for domestic and foreign land grabbers – often, ironically, to grow food ‘for the poor’ – using agro-chemicals or the magical biofuel ‘green gas’ jatropha. These climatically displaced refugees (CDRs) are swarming rural countryside and peri-urban areas across Africa.

AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) is one example of this kind of exploitation that is encouraged by mainstream African economists and power elites. Under the guise of providing Africa with ‘climate-sensitive’ food crops and flowers, Rockefeller and Gates foundations-funded AGRA (with the blessing of the former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan) is pushing agro-chemical crops using multi-genome patents. Their objective – or at least the end result – is plain to see: the control over Africa's plant biomass to generate super-profits for mega-chemical and seed corporations.

From Mali to Mozambique small peasant farmers are resisting the takeover of their lands and life-saving meagre means of sustenance. But they are scattered and weak in political organisation to mount an effective resistance.

When the ‘Arab spring’ hits the cities of these countries – as inevitably they will – these displaced and disempowered millions will enlist in droves into ‘rebel armies’ to remove the neocolonial dictators of Africa from their perched thrones.

This, in brief, is the first point. Africa is run by a global kleptocratic system, a system which enriches a minute number of economic and power elites in Africa and the global bankocrats and corporatocrats at the one end of the pole while impoverishing the masses of African people at the other. Economists call this ‘rent seeking’, but it is, bereft of linguistic and technical finesse, simply looting.

What can be done? It is too vast a subject to take on. I will give two contrasting models that exemplify polar conceptions on how to go about addressing the challenges Africa faces.

One is South Africa's second Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP-2) based on ‘market-based policy measures’, mega-projects such as the Coega complex near Port Elizabeth and carbon trading. This is the route of the trodden past – its outcome is predictable.

The second is the pledge the government of Rwanda made at the ninth session Forum on Forests around tackling poverty in ‘forest communities’ with a 25-year plan to tackle ecosystem degradation and improve rural livelihoods.

What is significant about the Rwandese concept is its dual objective of saving the forests and also the ‘forest communities’. For the environmentalists forests are simply biomass that on the one hand provide fuel and on the other hand carbon dioxide absorbing ‘lungs’ as a counter against global warming. But besides the forests there are also forest dwellers.

The challenge is to save the forests and the forest communities; the people as well as the environment. Those who are sensitive to the welfare needs of the people within African governments and African parliaments must support people’s movements that take on this dual challenge.

One example of this is the ROPPA (Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organisations of West Africa) which coordinates and strengthens a number of rural women's associations working towards saving the communities as well as the environment.

From COP-17 to Rio+20 and Beyond

My second point is of more immediate concern. There are only five months left from now to the COP-17 in November 2011, and less than a year to the Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)) that will take place from 14–16 May 2012 in Brazil.

In this short period, African governments and activist civil society organisations might draw lessons from the 2009 COP-15 in Copenhagen and the 2010 COP-16 in Cancun. Both these conferences were followed by widespread dissatisfaction on the part of those that are striving to save the environment as well as the communities that live off what nature provides them for their sustenance without these being expropriated by global corporations and commodity speculators.

For the purposes of this conference, I wish to focus on just one lesson. And this is that Africa needs to be wary of the use of finance (or the so-called ‘development aid’) by the industrialised countries (ICs) to divide and rule the developing countries (DCs).

Globally, if there is a near-clear North–South divide, it is on the question of climate change.

Until the 1990s most scientific research and diplomatic negotiations on global warming focused on emission mitigation. The language of adaptation first emerged at the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 as a result primarily of pressure from the DCs. The UNFCCC, which hitherto had focused on mitigation, now recognises the significance of adaptation and the historical responsibility of the ICs to compensate the DCs for the damage they have caused to the environment during their period of industrialisation.

This historical responsibility is reflected in the UNFCCC’s treaty provisions that oblige ICs to provide new and additional financial flows (as well as technology transfers) to the DCs to support the latter’s costs for implementing the UNFCCC and to undertake climate adaptation. The Kyoto Protocol endorsed this principle by placing these two categories of nations with common but differentiated responsibilities in, respectively, Annex 1 and Annex 2 categories.

At the international level African countries are members of the Group of 77 and China (G77+China), which forms the primary negotiating group for the developing countries in climate change negotiations. This group also includes members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). With such a differentiated group, it is natural that there should be differences among them on their concerns and priorities. The ICs take advantage of these differences in order to ‘divide and dictate’ to the DCs the terms of the climate change negotiations. What makes Africa vulnerable is its dependence on the West for the so-called ‘development aid’ and ‘technical experts’.

One significant illustration of this is the manner in which the industrialised West has used money and ‘technical assistance’ as a means of ensuring an outcome at COP-16 in Cancun after they had failed to do so at COP-15. Europe and the US mounted a coordinated offensive to break the ranks of the countries of the South. Some of this was quite overt and open, for example, through the use of ‘development aid’ and other financial incentives. Others were covert and secretive, such as the use of US spy network – exposed, partially, by WikiLeaks (see Pambazuka issue 510, Dec 2010).

The biggest ‘bribe’ is the US$100 billion per year in finance for adaptation and low-carbon development to poorer nations by 2020. This is just pie in the sky. Africa should not hanker after it, for even if it materialises, it would be so firmly ring-fenced with ‘conditionalities’ as to auction away the sovereignty of African nations at the altar of ‘green capitalism’ or ‘good governance’.

In early 2011, for example, the US withheld about US$350 million grant to improve the energy sector to be disbursed to Malawi through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) on the grounds that Malawi had failed to observe governance and human rights issues. As for the annual fund of US$100 billion, the certainty that it will be similarly ring-fenced is the fact that it will be administered by the World Bank.

In a February 2011 report ‘Storm on the horizon? Why World Bank climate investment funds could do more harm than good’, the Eurodad (a network of 57 NGOs from 19 European countries) argues that the World Bank is not the best-placed institution for a legitimate and development-friendly climate finance architecture for the future.

In general, many European NGOs are sympathetic to the concerns of Africa. My own experience working with a number of them on the issue of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that Europe is trying to foist on Africa has been very positive.

This said, it is important that African countries are self-reliant on matters related to policy issues, especially when it comes to negotiations in the global system. It is an easy (and cheaper) way out to ‘outsource’ policy advice to ‘experts’ from Western NGOs on the grounds that African countries do not have the experts or the money to finance them.

This is a relevant and important point in relation to climate change negotiations. As we move to COP-17 and Rio+20, it is important that the African Union Commission builds its own network of experts to advise African countries on technical and political issues that are likely to emerge in the months ahead. It is in this light that I need to caution Africa against the processes being in put in place by several interested parties in the West to offer ‘technical advice’ to ‘poor’ African countries.

One such is the CDKN initiative. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network, founded in March 2010, is a consortium of consultancies and think tanks which helps decision-makers in developing countries design and deliver ‘climate-compatible development’.

CDKN claims that it can help African countries to maximise their opportunities to tap climate finance and build their capacity to manage these funds. It will also support them in assessing climate risks and vulnerabilities, and work to reinforce the Legal Response Initiative (LRI). The CKDN offers ‘real-time, free legal advice to climate negotiators’. This makes it suspect. Why should it offer ‘free’ advice? What is its agenda? Who finances it? It is not unfair to reason that somebody along the chain benefits from this ‘free’ advice. Nothing comes ‘free’.

The CDKN consortium includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA), SouthSouthNorth, LEAD International and INTRAC. I know some of them well from previous interactions with them. The ODI, for example, advertises itself as an ‘independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues’.

From my knowledge of the ODI (on matters related to development aid, trade and EPA negotiations, for example) I can say without a moment’s hesitation that it is really an arm of British foreign policy. It is the ‘soft arm’ of British imperial diplomacy whose ‘strong arm’ comprises of instruments of force, including sanctions and war.

‘Policy making’ is not something that African governments should ‘outsource’ to anybody from outside Africa. It is best for Africa to develop its own expertise than depend on outside help, not only on negotiations on climate change but all matters of vital policy concern to Africa. It is of course understandable that individual African countries may have limited resources to create think tanks and research institutions. But they can take advantage of bigger institutions of which they are members.

The most important collective organisation is of course the African Union. But there are others. For example, African countries are significantly represented in the South Centre that was created in 1995 under the inspiration of Third World leaders like Julius Nyerere and Mahathir Mohammed.

The centre is well placed to provide technical expertise on a range issues from trade negotiations to intellectual property rights, finance for development and, yes, climate change. The South Centre, for example, made a significant contribution to the African Union Commission’s position on the EPA negotiations in a meeting the AUC organised in Kigali in November 2010.


Real knowledge comes not from information but from a thorough and deep understanding of Africa’s situation. There is a vital and strategic distinction between information and understanding (verstehen) – an interpretive or participatory examination of social phenomena.

The fundamental reality of Africa is that it is integrated into a global system of kleptocratic capitalism characterised by primitive accumulation or ‘rent seeking’ by the rich nations and within each nation by the rich power elite. This creates at the opposite polar end the dispossession and disempowerment of the masses of the people.

The present phase of the evolution of capitalism is caught up in its own contradictions, but capitalism is not about to disappear. It is a long road. In facing the challenges of the demands of a ‘green economy’ that ensures ‘sustainable Africa’, Africa has to balance the human rights and needs of the masses of its people with the imperative of protecting Africa’s environment.

Africa should not hand over policy matters and negotiating strategies to outside ‘experts’, however benign they might appear. Above all, Africa must build a common united position on climate negotiations in alliance with the other countries of the South, leading with the COP-17 and then Rio+20. The African Union and the South Centre can play a significant role in leading towards Rio and beyond.

*Yash Tandon is a well-known Ugandan policy-maker, political commentator and author.

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