This debate by speakers attending the Chatham House Conference was sparked off by a presentation on the emerging oil sector in Kenya by Governor Josphat Nanok of Turkana.
”The oil companies in Kenya do not divulge or share information with the county governments and the communities on their operations. This has strained relations more often leading to protests by communities,” Nanok said.
He added that Kenya is cautious and was not willing to turn oil into a curse or the ‘Dutch disease’.
Ian Gary, senior policy manager for extractive industries Oxfam America, said extractive industries should be ready to disclose contractual agreements to avoid mistakes which may have been done before in the continent.
”For the last 12 years, we have been talking about transparency and still doing that, the pace has been too slow,” Gary lamented citing the Kenyan case, “‘Look at the case for the extractive industries in Kenya, the contract has still remained between President (Uhuru) Kenyatta and the companies.”
Gary however commended the work done by the World Bank and the civil society that has made it now possible for open discussions on the extractives to take place adding that initially, the people had very little information on their rights from the extractive industries.
Kerfalla Yansane, the Minister of State for Mines and Geology in the Republic of Guinea noted that the involvement of the African Development Bank to help create a legal framework for operations of multinational companies may be a relief to Africa in such undertakings.
The debate mainly focused on two aspects of extractive industry; oil exploration and mining in Africa.
While Kenya focused on oil in the wake of falling prices, Rachel Turner, the Director for East and Central Africa Department for International Development, UK, urged the conference to look at the extractive industry in a more holistic approach where social issues have also space especially citing the importance of participation of women and girls.
”The oil prices situation is not scare, but it gives us time to focus on other areas. There is a real window of opportunity in capacity building,” Turner said.
As day-one of the conference came a to a close, the direction was very clear, that there was need for companies to increase the level of transparency by disclosing their contracts, allowing communities, civil society, the media and governments to scrutinize their operations.
The conference is focusing on new approaches to overcome enduring challenges in the extractive sector in Africa and speakers were drawn from all over Africa with expert panellists from the academia world.