Thursday, November 28, 2019

African Technocrats: Rats or Real Cats?

African Technocrats: Rats or Real Cats at the Global Scale?

By Evans Rubara 

Africa will not advance towards the long talked about unity, any time soon. 

This week has been an eye opener to the seeming ‘aimless’ traveler. Aimless, as the whole purpose and eagerness to reach the destination and interact with great African minds at a global scale, on matters of environmental integrity and human health, is thwarted by small minds dressed in expensive suits and flamboyant diction. 

In a city that has the towering 39 feet broken leg chair amounting 5.5 tons of timber, so is the image presented by the African technocrats. They stand high, and most of them from the government, fed by the tax-payers’ hard-earned money, as large and heavier than the 100 kilograms of sand. 
With such similarity, there is also a comparative contrast that can be drawn between the three-and-a-half-legged chair and the technocrats from Africa. The former symbolizes “opposition to land mines and cluster bombs”. The latter, only carry with them the weight of power from the countries of origin but with a seeming little palatable intellectual muscle to effectively and convincingly contribute to the discussion on the table.

Reading this, you realize that the traveler is not at all impressed by the African technocrats who travel heavily, giving hope to sending countries that they would deliver. Only to become beggars at the discursive platform and a lot that fight for leadership opportunities that would allow them to travel outside their countries. 

The Conference of the Parties
The Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP3) that commenced in Geneva on November 25 and will run until November 29, 2019 brought together high-level stakeholders from all-over the world. The meeting and the deliberations here are meant to discuss the well-being of our planet, including persons who come in contact with mercury during their lifetime.

According to the Minamata Convention, “mercury is a chemical of global concern owing to its long-range atmospheric transport, its persistence in the environment once anthropogenically introduced, its ability to bioaccumulate in ecosystems and its significant negative effects on human health and the environment” is unmatched. 

But it does not end there. The Convention expressly states that mercury produce “significant adverse neurological and other health effects […] on infants and unborn children”. With such hazardous and long-term life-threatening impacts, on February 20, 2009, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiated an “international action to manage mercury in an efficient, effective and coherent manner”. 

Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination
The proceedings of the meeting revealed that Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is the largest consumer of mercury. The prevalence of the use of mercury is in the developing economies in the global South. In the presented statistics, about 1,200 tons of mercury sediments already emitted on land and water comes from the ASGM sector activities. This is staggeringly shocking. 

When listening to the arguments and presentations, even though the different presentations revealed that between 2010 and 2015 most of the mercury emissions were recorded in Asia, West and sub-Saharan African populace is in great danger. According to UNEP’s Global Mercury Assessment for the year 2018, “…Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) accounts for about 70% and up to 80% of the emissions from South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively”.

A report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, released in 2018, on the Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM), shows an increase in numbers of people working in the ASM sector from 6,000,000 in 1993 to 40,500,000 in 2017 worldwide. But the same report also suggests that “Some sources estimate a much higher number – up to 100 million ASM operators – compared to seven million people working in industrial mining”.

Let’s bring this closer, home. A recent mapping activity carried out by the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), indicates that, in Tanzania alone, not even the whole country but in the north of the country, covering Mara, Geita and Shinyanga Regions, there are a total of a total of 337 ASGM operators. 
The majority of these operators have not yet started adopting the use of mercury-free processing of gold. They are still using the traditional mercury amalgamation. Let me not get started talking about the careless manner in which this hazardous substance is handled due to lack of proper structures that follow known Occupational/Environmental, Health and Safety principles.

In a nutshell, even though mercury is a global environmental and human health threat, the burden of its impacts is heavily borne by the end users in developing countries. The countries where ASGM activities are increasingly relevant for survival. Not by the producing countries.
Leadership and African Representation
Interestingly, the leadership in the processes that would create a safer environment for us all, especially for those who come from the ASGM operations intensive regions, come from Africa. This goes hand-in-hand with the Regional leadership from all the Parties. African Region is well presented. 

The most surprising thing is that sitting at the Regional Sessions for Africa, the discussions are not substantially focusing on the substantive issues that would come out with cohesive strategies that aim at minimizing the use of mercury use starting in the year 2020. 

This lot of persons from Africa appointed to lead in the processes that would contribute to the global strategies are busy fighting and conniving on who should be elected or re-elected into positions. Critical and constructive voices are swallowed in the majority of different Regional Economic Communities (REC’s) within the African Continent seeking these positions – for financial gain.

Looking around, the room is also attended by others from the donor countries that are reported to have contributed heavily to facilitate the development of the National Action Plan (NAP) for the mitigation of the use, and subsequently the impacts of mercury emission from the past, present and future activities. 

Unfortunately, my country of birth, the country I so love, a country where a lot of ASGM activities occur using mercury, is neither a party to the Minamata Convention – yet, nor sent a representation to these crucial deliberations. 
But by way of absence or obscene desire to be the ones who get the hefty DSA’s, adding non-performing accolades on resumes, and being received back home as a victor from a war, African leaders have disappointingly represented itself in these deliberations. Africa is continuing to shoot itself on the foot. The hopes of a United Africa is smoked into the abyss as long as this destructive thought and compartmentalization continues.

About the Author: Evans Rubara is stakeholder and policy engagement professional with an extensive experience working on cross-cutting natural resource-based development discourses and practices including global environmental politics. The writer can be reached through:

Monday, November 25, 2019

Whither Transparency in Extractive Industries?

Tanzania`s EITI agenda is stuck, and faces a bleak future

Dastan Kweka

Earlier this month, the Deputy Minister for Minerals – Hon. Stanslaus Nyongo – informed a diverse audience attending HakiRasilimali`s “Jukwaa la Uziduaji” (Extractive Industries Conference) in Dodoma, that the government was finalizing preparations for disclosing Beneficial Ownership information, stressing that there was a need to “educate the public” before such information is released. A Beneficial Owner is the true owner of an investment – one that, ultimately, benefits from the proceeds. The disclosure of such information is one of the key Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative's (EITI) requirements. The latest Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative's (TEITI) implementation report corroborates with what the Deputy Minister said, and notes that the government is working on an integrated public registry (online portal) that will host the information.

EITI has set a deadline of 2020 for member countries to ensure all companies that apply or hold participating interest in oil, gas and mining sectors disclose Beneficial Owners information. Will Tanzania honor this deadline? In my opinion, this is unlikely, given that the government is already advancing preemptive excuses in terms of the “need to educate the public” before disclosure takes effect. This familiar talking point has been used before to ward off demands for contract disclosure, and has since become a favored argument – one that has replaced “commercial sensitivity”. It is also quite unlikely given that the information will inevitably uncover the identities and interests of local politicians and prominent businesspeople – a potential mine field that any political establishment would seek to avoid, especially in the period leading to a general election.
There are more fundamental questions surrounding the future of TEITI. While the introduction of the Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Act (TEITA) in 2015 was seen as a positive step towards institutionalizing transparency and accountability in the sector, the country has seen multiple recent signs that point to a decline in government commitment. The first and most (symbolically) significant sign was the government`s decision to withdraw from the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2017. When the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Dr. Aziz Mlima - was interviewed about the position, he said at the time that the decision was a “temporary move because the government wanted to reassess the OGP” and find out “if it is in line with national interests.” This points to a certain level of suspicion that has for a long time been associated with initiatives that are considered “foreign”, especially in the extractives sector. A recent study attributes that suspicion to the legacy of Ujamaa – a socialist experiment that the country attempted in the 1970s, and which was predominantly against private, profit-oriented and (local or) foreign backed or owned initiatives.
The said suspicion has now been heightened by the fifth phase government`s growing emphasis on homegrown solutions. It is reiterated that “we must face our own realities, no imported solutions can resolve Africa’s challenges sustainably.” After all, we are reminded, “Watanzania Tunaweza”/Tanzanians are capable – and “mabeberu siyo wajomba zetu"/imperialists are not our uncles”. This clarion call is, in essence, a call for the country to devise solutions to its own problems, instead of relying on “imported” ideas. EITI is, of course, one of them.
There is another critical concern about the potential for institutionalizing transparency in the extractive industries sector, and thus the success of TEITI. It continues to be seen as a “project” for improving transparency in the government - one that will end at some point. This means that it remains peripheral in government plans, and when reforms are undertaken, such as we have seen recently, they are not necessarily informed, at least in part, by the desire to enhance its effectiveness. Reforms (2017/2018) in the extractives sector have shown us that the fifth phase government is more interested in (and willing to explore) government-centred (horizontal) accountability. Hence,  there has been a limited effort to establish a balance between internal checks and balances, on the one hand, and citizen-led initiatives, on the other hand. This is despite the fact that, through the Minister for Minerals - Hon. Doto Biteko -  the government issued TEITA's regulations in early 2019.
The preference for government-centred accountability, especially in the extractives sector, is embodied by the recent provision that “allows” the Parliament to review extractive industry contracts. After all, the ruling party has the majority in Parliament.
Ironically, implementation has stalled, but probably not for lack of a good reason! Those against the parliamentary review of contracts point to the doctrine of “separation of powers”. Their key argument is that the parliament has to exercise oversight and thus, if it involved itself in review and approval of contracts, it would be less independent in questioning and holding the government to account. One government lawyer offered to simplify it by saying, “Ni kama mlaji ambaye ameamua kupika. Chakula kikiharibika atamlalamikia nani”? (It`s like a customer who has decided to cook. If the food is messed up, who then will he lodge complaints to?) There are other concerns around “politicization” of issues, and the capability of parliamentarians to fully comprehend the contents. There is also a view that some agreements involve a huge deal of “balancing”, some of which may be hard to make the Parliament grasp.

The financing of TEITI is another area that raises questions about its future – if there is any! The initiative remains heavily reliant on “development partners” – the likes of Canada, European Union, and the World Bank. Its implementation reports show that government contribution has often hovered around 10% to 20% of annual budgets, and at times limited funding has led to significant delays in publication of reconciliation reports. One can easily tell what a government priority is, by looking at where its money goes.

Tanzania`s EITI agenda is struggling to transition from token disclosures to meaningful institutionalization, in spite of genuine and sustained efforts by civil society organizations, progressive media and extractive industry activists. Recent reforms have shown that the government doesn`t view limited transparency as a primary problem or central part of it`s quest to capture a fair share of benefits from the sector. There is a possibility that even notable achievements that have been seen to date may be reversed. Most importantly, the government is interested more in domestic solutions. 
Probably it is time for stakeholders to start exploring alternative options, in case the undesirable happens. For now, the potential for TEITI to make a significant contribution to improving accountability in the sector seems quite limited. This reality makes its future quite uncertain.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Public Talk on Producing African Entrepreneurs

Friday, November 8, 2019

Public Lecture on Producing the Entrepreneur

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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