The big news that came out of Obama’s recent trip to Africa was the announcement of his “Power Africa” initiative. The initiative has been praised and criticized, but I’ll just note the last few paragraphs of the White House Fact Sheet that discuss transparency — almost as an afterthought:
Transparent Natural Resource Management
The recent discoveries of oil and gas in sub-Saharan Africa will play a critical role in defining the region’s prospects for economic growth and stability, as well as contributing to broader near-term global energy security. Yet existing infrastructure in the region is inadequate to ensure that both on- and off-shore resources provide on-shore benefits and can be accessed to meet the region’s electricity generation needs.
Although many countries have legal and regulatory structures in place governing the use of natural resources, these are often inadequate. They fail to comply with international standards of good governance, or do not provide for the transparent and responsible financial management of these resources.
Power Africa will work in collaboration with partner countries to ensure the path forward on oil and gas development maximizes the benefits to the people of Africa, while also ensuring that development proceeds in a timely, financially sound, inclusive, transparent and environmentally sustainable manner.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) adopted new standards intended to increase transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries. The new rules were announced in Sydney ahead of the EITI board meeting. Ironically, several of the major oil companies who sit on the EITI board are part of a U.S. lawsuit that seeks to weaken transparency legislation in the U.S. Inter Press Service describes the “disconnect”:
On the one hand, several of the world’s largest oil companies – including ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron – sit on the EITI board and are thus inferred to be in agreement with the newly revised transparency rules.
On the other hand, these companies are currently part of a lawsuit here attempting to dismantle Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the legislation on which the new EITI standards are mostly closely based.
I’ve not been writing much lately — too busy with other work. But a number of articles and reports have caught my attention.
Of course, mainstream reporting on oil is generally all good news. It’s the second golden age of oil! Drill, drill, drill. Oil and gas prices will drop! We will become energy independent! Oil and gas will transform economies! Investors will see great returns!
It’s all so wonderful that you can almost forget about climate change and corruption and the fact that we’re really not seeing oil money transform economies in a positive way. Not yet, at least. Oil is bringing in money and raising GDP, but that hardly means life on the ground is getting any better for the average citizen. And, as recent reports from Ghana suggest, oil there is boosting inflation and putting downward pressure on the cedi — hardly a benefit for the people.