Lessons from the Niger Delta for Africa and IOCs
2013 has been an exciting year with rapid growth in many African economies. It’s been a year when we’ve seen the growth of democracy too for example in Somalia, with the end of a war there and a near stop to maritime piracy off their coast. Positive political changes in places like Somalia and Sudan have brought huge benefits to East Africa but unfortunately we hav’nt had much time to take it all in, not least because of the continued problems in the north, in Algeria, Libya and Egypt and of course with the continued creep of extremism from the north into countries like Nigeria and Kenya. We can all see that there are opportunities to be had in 2014, with the spread of democracy and more political stability, right across Africa. Not just because this leads to more job prospects and more money flowing into government coffers from new mining, oil and LNG concessions, for example in Mozambique and Tanzania but lets not forget because it’s generally good for local people if new roads and ports are built and demand for consumer goods goes up. Growing stability with the promise of good governance and more enterprise is a sustainable model. How can those countries who must fund social programmes through primary industry, make a more sustainable progress (politically, environmentally and economically)? Perhaps we should start by looking more closely at Nigeria, rich and full of professional expertise but also full of insecurity, fuelled by a gargantuan rich-poor gap. With the largest population in Africa , 170 million people, it’s now said to be the largest economy in Africa but it’s also a place with massive youth unemployment. International confidence is creaking on the benches where investors look on and where political and environmental issues are passed about as contestants prepare for the big match: the 2015 Nigerian Presidential elections.
As these issues come more into view it might be useful for us all to think more widely. To what extent will the coming discussions and the proposed solutions apply to other geographic regions in African countries with similar African problems? What would you like to see addressed as primary industry is given new opportunities across Africa? For example:
Balance of power between regional and central government
Distribution of resources between the urban and rural regions with primary industries
Measurement and accuracy of social, economic and environmental data
Transparency in government and in the extractive industries
Money paid from international communities through traditional aid models
As the Gulf of Guinea replaces the Gulf of Aden as the most dangerous place in Africa the spotlight is on Nigeria where there are many and complex security problems but the discussion is bound to come down to what are the lessons we can learn from the security and environmental problems related to the oil industry that we can clearly see there? Some of those lessons are probably going to be political, directed at the Federal Government but others will be directed at International Oil companies. How can we do things in a more sustainable way and critically how can any African country avoid high crime rates that tend to follow investments by IOCs in Africa? What we know is that pipelines are always very difficult to protect without local buy-in and that the local environment suffers tragically with all the knock-on human rights issues for local communities. There is probably a useful lesson here for a more sustainable approach and probably better forms of partnership between IOCs and local authorities: as pointed out by the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi in London recently, there is a strong argument for investing in local businesses first, not least with better training for environmental management, mobile-communications and other built infrastructure. More than some acknowledgment is needed that better security for investment starts with the environment and local job opportunities.