In line with the Yaounde meeting, activists from African member states of the Publish What You Pay coalition, PWYP, have addressed a letter complaining about the injustice and lack of information in the management of their natural resources to the American president. In the letter, they express their unhappiness with the lack of transparency and accountability in the management of their natural resources. A copy of which was dropped in the American embassies of all states concerned.
“We leaders of the African civil society of Publish What You Pay, a world coalition which campaigns for an open and responsible sector in the extractive domains of Gas, Petroleum and Mines address you on the eve of the U.S –Africa leaders’ summit scheduled for August 5 and 6, 2014 in Washington D.C.
We are addressing it to you as worried and weak citizens who see our countries deprived of revenue whereas financial mongers continue syphoning our resources. Erroneous commercial tariffs, opacity and jurisdictional secrets have made our continent loose more than 1 billion dollars in the last 30 years. Africa generates revenues which fall into coffers of companies and pockets of those in power, to the detriment of populations who continue getting poorer.
This is unheard of and unacceptable.
We are writing to you as parents who are worried about the future of their children who stand the risk of never benefitting from the proceeds of the exploitation of natural resources. In our opinion, the exploitation of our natural resources would be the means through which our countries would create better standards of living for future generations, but if good governance does not prevail, this opportunity shall be lost.
We are writing to you as concerned Africans and actors of a credible civil society who stand for good governance. Despite these difficulties, good governance is gradually being implemented in Africa. Some countries are adopting and putting in place some norms such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative the governments are taking hold of the management of their natural resources, for example by adapting a mining vision for Africa. These mining codes are being modified not only to encourage investments, but equally incorporate their principal mechanisms in favour of transparency and responsibility. When we visit our extractive communities, we ask them how the money gotten from their petroleum and mines is spent. We create expectations because we know the government has a role to play in the management of these natural resources in a responsible and transparent way. But we, as civil society, need a secure landscape and a platform so that we can be able to function.
You declared on one occasion that “Africa’s hope belonged to Africans” and that is what we are asking for. We fight every day to change our future. We risk being stopped and we are facing intimidations on a daily basis to discourage us from publicly evoking the question of natural resources. Thanks to our action, our fellow citizens are more and more conscious of their rights and openly clamour for them. The extractive sector comprises many actors and the civil society has a limited say on the current situation. We want to fully play our role and ask our governments to be accountable, but the current extractive sector which favours secrets and corruption has to change. The United States and other developed countries, as well as international extractive industries, benefit enormously from the sector and her regulations which are favourable to them. This has to change.
We are not asking you for charity, we are simply asking to be on an equal step. We consider the U.S –Africa Leaders’ summit as a major opportunity so that all parties concerned would make concrete engagements in a bid to ameliorate governance in the extractive sector. We are asking our governments to get engaged in the creation of open budgetary procedures, in a way that we would be able to be sure that the proceeds from the extractive sector would be spent responsibly. We are asking them to equally include forms declaring real properties in public offers and contracts.
We are conscious that our governments cannot act alone, reason why, Mr. President, we look towards your direction. It is more than four years since you signed the Dodd-Franck act whose article 1504 obliges all American extractive enterprises to publish payments that they make. This law, if implemented would generate essential data which would help us ask our governments to account, but unfortunately, it hasn’t been implemented. We are asking you to instantly plead with the SEC to rapidly publish rules upholding article 1504 to guarantee that the new norm is in line with the recent legislation of the European Union so that with her, recently born, be applicable worldwide in favour of extractive transparence.
The United States were on the fore front for extractive transparence, we call on you to move on with this commitment and collaborate with other countries of the G7/G20 to adopt and put in place similar measures to those of the Dodd-Frank 1504 and the accountable and transparent directives of the E.U.
We are asking you to be committed to reinforce multilateral rules on fiscal issues to slow down erroneous fixing of commercial tariffs and the prices of abusive transfers in order to ensure that African countries have at least an opportunity to profit from their resources.
Finally we plead with you to take the commitment to create a public register for information on the owners of real enterprises. Some countries amongst which the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia are trying to suit themselves within the norms of the EITI, and the United Kingdom is committed to do it within the framework of the order of the day, fiscal and commercial transparency of the G7. We wish that American leadership follows this example.
Africa has resources necessary in the moulding of her own destiny. All the same, we need to change the global system which has been halting our ambitions. The revolution is in favour of transparency and open governance to begin, we ask you to help us to uphold it.”
The letter was signed by representatives of the pilot committee for both Africa and the world, and those of the National Advocacy Coalition for Extractives.
By Lionel Tchoungui Bidzogo