ACCRA, 15 March 2011 – It is up to the African governments to make sure there is full transparency and accountability of resources, including in the petroleum sector, and that they are used effectively to generate revenues for economic growth, said participants at an international policy conference that ended in Accra today.
The two-day event, titled "Competitiveness and Diversification: Strategic Challenges in a Petroleum-Rich Economy", was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“African leaders must have bold visions and good planning. Ambition is the catalyst that can propel African leaders to bring about structural changes and create wealth and opportunities for decent jobs on a sustainable basis, as well as the right infrastructure, and add value to natural resources,” said UNIDO Director-General, Kandeh K. Yumkella.
“African countries must set a bold development agenda for the next 20 years to restructure their economies, and diversify beyond oil and gas to avoid the so-called ‘Dutch disease’. They must make sure the new wealth does not destroy the old one. Africa must develop manufacturing to become competitive on a global scale.” The “Dutch disease”, or the resource curse, is the often observed connection between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and the decline of the manufacturing sector.
Director-General Yumkella met today with the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills. Yumkella was accompanied by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretariat.
The President called upon UNIDO to use the conference model to turn it into a broader dialogue in the region on the issue of diversification.
Yumkella also said that “Ghana can become a model for the West African sub region. A stable democracy coupled with the oil find could turn the country into an economic powerhouse.” But industrialization policy, he added, should include agribusiness and agro-industries as an extra engine of economic growth.
He went on to say that UNIDO stood ready to assist Ghana in building its industrial capacity. “UNIDO works to reduce poverty through sustainable industrial development and assists countries like Ghana in developing the productive sector, increasing their participation in international trade while safeguarding the environment,” said Yumkella.
At the conference, Ghana Government representatives said they were committed to make sure the oil find became a blessing rather than a curse, as had been the case of some countries.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Hanna Tetteh, said: “This conference is an opportunity for participants to reflect on how the availability of petroleum resources could affect industrial development policies and programmes. The discussion has given us food for thought for considering development options, in terms of new sectors of our economy, and translating these resources into a variety of products and services for our own consumption and for export."
Participants, including African ministers, researchers, and business experts in the oil and gas industry, agreed on the need to improve the governing structures in African countries, and to fight corruption through democratic reform and the rule of law. National resources belong to the people not politicians, they said. Future generations should not be deprived. The State should act as a trustee of the people.
Experts speaking at the event suggested Ghana closely looked at Norway’s successful experience in dealing with oil revenues, including setting up an independent authority, or tasking the central bank to properly account for oil proceeds, and protect them from misuse.
The Norwegian model established the principles that natural wealth belongs to all citizens, including the unborn, and that all mining deals should be completely transparent to the public. Adherence to these principles ensures that private rent-seeking and appropriation of oil profits, a major dimension of the so-called resource curse, is avoided.
To visit the Conference website, please go here.
For more information on the conference, please contact:
Frank L. Bartels
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