Often referred to as a ‘pool and paradise of natural resources’, many analysts believe that the African continent would not be looking as ugly as it is and its people would not be dying of hunger and poverty if these resources were well managed, and the income arising from these resources were fairly redistributed.
Some observers have said it in the past, and continue to say that the real problem of Africa is its leadership, which they describe as ‘corrupt’, ‘reckless’ and ‘cruel’.
The leadership, according to these observers, uses these natural resources for their own benefit, and most of the times take the lion’s share emanating for the sale and extraction of these resources, and leave a few peanuts to their people to share among themselves.
That is why poverty and social inequality still persist on this continent.
The 2013 Africa Progress Report released recently by the African Progress Panel has pinpointed to this problem.
“Africa is standing on the edge of enormous opportunity and African policy makers have critical choices to make, the report said.
“They can either invest their natural resource revenue in people to generate jobs and opportunities for millions in present and future generations. Or they can squander this opportunity, allowing jobless growth and inequality to take root. ”
The report adds: “In many African countries, natural resource revenues are widening the gap between rich and poor. Although much has been achieved, a decade of highly impressive growth has not brought comparable improvements in health, education and nutrition. ”
In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, which are blessed with enormous rich mineral resources many will struggle to properly describe the living conditions of the majority of their people there. Scandalous ? despicable ?
It is not by coincidence that the Africa Progress Report details five deals cut by the DRC government between 2010 and 2012, which were said to cost the country billions of dollars in revenues.
The report says these five deals cost the DRC over US$1.3 billion in revenues through the undervaluation of assets and sale to foreign investors.
“This sum represents twice the annual health and education budgets of a country with one of the worst child mortality rates in the world and seven million pupils out of school, ” the report says.
The Africa Progress Panel, chaired by former UN secretary-general Koffi Anan, said in a statement that it was convinced that Africa can better manage its vast natural resource wealth to improve the lives of the region’s people by setting out bold national agendas for strengthening transparency and accountability.
However, international tax avoidance and evasion, corruption, and weak governance represent major challenges, it says.
This year’s report includes, among others, the following few points as a shared agenda for change:
• African governments must improve their governance and strengthen national capacity to manage extractive industries as part of a broader economic and developmental strategy
• African governments should put transparency and accountability at the heart of natural resource policies, secure a fair share of natural resource revenue for their citizens, and spread the benefits of this revenue via equitable public spending
• International business should follow best practices on transparency, help build national capacity, procure more products and services locally, and raise standards in all areas of corporate accountability and responsibility
• Civil society should build capacity and continue to hold governments and companies to account
But, it is unlikely that Africa’s ruling political leaders – described by some as businessmen and businesswomen – will heed this sound advice and improve the situation.
For now, there is only one sad song for the people of Africa to continue singing: Cry the Beloved Continent.