Equity in Africa’s Extractives: A clarion call

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Below is an article I wrote for the FAIR OBSERVER° online magazine. As is common with media outlets, the original piece submitted underwent significant edits but it still came out true to the message I tried to convey. For the article on Fair Observer, click Here. If you are interested in the original doc I sent out without any edits, please find it below:

 

A lesson from history

There are critical junctures in human history where a clarion call is issued against an injustice so great but tolerated in one or more parts of the world. The succeeding decades following this call are greatly shaped by how the global family responded to such calls. One such call was the call to end slavery in the USA. Some headed the call. Others chose not to thus triggering a war between those on either side of the call. What would the world look like today if the south had won the American Civil War? I wager drastically different—a world that stood by whiles discriminations of all sorts fettered freedoms of all kinds. Thankfully those of that generation who heard and pushed for the end of slavery were fueled by an unconquerable resolve to live and bequeath a free world to posterity—a world which espoused the worth and equality of all human beings endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights. The eventual abolition of slavery to a large extent colors the world we live in today. It is no surprise the committee that came up with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was chaired by a woman from this free country which championed freedom and justice for decades.

Africa Progress Report 2013

Today, the world has slipped back into the abyss of massive discrimination rooted in self-aggrandizement—specifically in the global financial sector and in the extractives industries. Like with the global financial downturn, years of unethical mining transactions and practices leave in their wake enriched mining moguls, companies and government officials while impoverishing masses. This malevolence with its chimeric properties are elucidated in the Africa Progress Report titled “Equity in Extractives: Stewarding Africa’s natural resources for all“, launched on May 10, 2013 and which has already received wide coverage in the global media from sea to shining sea. But why all the media attention? There have been other reports about extractives. What makes this one released by the Africa Progress Panel different? The answer possibly lies in the impressive profile of the Africa Progress Panel and the amazing courage it took for the members of the Panel and its Chair Mr. Kofi Annan to confront unashamedly a prominent injustice in our time, not cowering to the possible consequences of not being politically correct. Though political correctness does have its place, in many instances in recent history, it simply has become a muzzle for the mouths of those who have been blessed with a voice, keeping them from speaking out for those who do not i.e. the under-trodden.

I cannot be thankful enough as a young African for the corrective clarion call to me, my peoples, the international community, African governments, multinational mining entities, civil society etc. I cannot help but admire the courage it took to issue the call to equity.

We are at that juncture again

It is now time for our generation to arise with backbones of steel and unquenchable resolve to push for equity in Africa’s extractives. The globe can no longer practice what Thomas W. Pogge aptly describes as “Politics as Usual: What Lies Behind the Pro-Poor Rhetoric” in the book titled same. We must move from rhetoric to seeing “Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor?”—the title of his earlier book. Proper ethical stewardship of Africa’s extractives by both governments, mining companies and civil society has the potential to convert rhetoric to action—potentially lifting millions out of poverty.

The way we all respond to the APR2013 call will set the course of freedom and justice globally for decades to come. If you have not heard the call, read the Africa Progress Report 2013.

The FT magazine ran 3 articles on the report in two days between May 9 and 10 with headlines Progress Panel has Congo deals in its sights, Annan report blasts ENRC for costing Congo $725m, and Heart of darkness inside the Congo. The Times ran a piece titled Kofi Annan turns up heat on ENRC and Glencore in pursuit of Africa’s lost tax. Mr. Annan’s own op-ed in the New York Times read, Stop the Plunder of Africa. The Guardian ran three headlines namely Annan calls for end to ‘unconscionable’ exploitation of Africa’s resources, Tax evasion still crippling Africa as rich countries fail to deliver support and Economic malpractice: time for a moral crusade against tax scams. SABC amongst others reported on the APR2013 Report launch and BBC interviewed Mr. Annan. The news is out there. Are we hearing?

As a young African who was privileged to assist the secretariat that produced this report in the smallest and most insignificant of ways thereby becoming acquainted with its contents, I implore everyone reading this to make time for this report, read it. If a few will arise to the challenge it throws, and do our part in promoting awareness of the report and carrying out its recommendations where practicable, we will leave behind a better world to posterity. Africa Arise! Thank you for reading and God bless Africa.

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