News / Africa

Africa's New Oil Producers Get Tips on Avoiding Curse

An oil exploration tower in Tonya on the shore of Lake Albert, April 25, 2008 (file photo)
An oil exploration tower in Tonya on the shore of Lake Albert, April 25, 2008 (file photo)
Nico Colombant

While more and more countries join the African club of oil-producing nations, U.S.-based researchers are trying to help them avoid what they call the oil curse. The saying refers to countries suffering from increased violence, poverty, authoritarianism, pollution and corruption along with their oil riches.

A recent paper by the Washington-based Center for Global Development is called "Oil for Uganda or Ugandans?" The subtitle is "Can Cash Transfers Prevent the Resource Curse?"

The idea that is being proposed is for Uganda's government to distribute future oil revenue through direct cash transfers to Ugandans, money which would then be taxed.

Oil revenue accountability

The authors of the report say they believe this would make government spending more accountable, and less prone to corruption and deteriorating governance. They also are proposing directing oil revenues toward an education fund for Uganda's youth.

One of the authors is former World Bank official Alan Gelb.

"I think that the paper has the potential to stir debate in Uganda, first of all on the question of accountability. How should Uganda, or Ugandans, what should they expect from government as the government starts to use this money?" asked Gelb. "After all, in most countries oil revenue is the property of the nation or the people of the nation, and the government is using it on their behalf."

So far, Ugandan government officials have pointed in another direction, which is to spend oil revenue on infrastructure projects, an area which Gelb says is particularly prone to corruption and political entrenchment and patronage.

Follow the dollar

Whatever options are eventually chosen, Gelb is calling on Ugandan journalists, civil society activists and lawmakers to sharpen their understanding of oil related transactions so they can track money and apply informed pressure.

"Look for key points where one can ask, demand and expect transparency and open information. One is on the total receipts from the oil industry. Secondly, one would like a very clear picture on how these are being used and what the results have been, how contracts have been tendered, those kinds of things," he said.

Uganda's government is now saying the country may hold deposits of up to 6 billion barrels of oil, with production expected to begin next year from the Lake Albert Basin.

Another U.S.-based researcher, Ian Gary, recently went to Uganda to share lessons learned from new oil producer Ghana, which he has been studying closely as part of his work with the group Oxfam America.  

Gary has been advocating for an open exploration licensing process. Licenses are paid for by companies before they are allowed to begin exploration.

"There have been a lot of issues coming up in Ghana about whether politicians may be behind some of the small and little-known companies that appear on some of these oil licenses," said Gary.

Environmental, budgetary best practices

Another disappointment for Gary came when Ghana recently allocated about $300 million in excess revenues from oil production into the current budget rather than directing the money to newly established savings and stabilization funds. The funds are meant to finance development projects, as well as protect Ghanaians from the volatility of oil prices.

"What we are seeing right now is a little bit of lack of discipline on the part of the government and early deviation from the law, so that is a concern on our part, that early on, the government is deviating from the terms of the law," said Gary. "Obviously the budget was prepared before the revenue management act was put in place, but it is concerning that in this transition period the government has not followed the letter of the law."

Ghana started exporting oil this year, less than four years after a major offshore discovery was made. Gary says legal and oversight frameworks have not been able to keep pace with the new challenges Ghana faces, including establishing better environmental protections.

With neighboring countries Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone also poised to increase oil exploration in their waters, Gary says there is no shortage of lessons to be learned on best practices to avoid the so-called oil curse.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid