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Francophone Africa Actors Boost Abilities to Pursue Reform

To read the French-language partipants' magazine, click here

For barrister Yvette Nsangana, understanding more about the lack of gender diversity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mining sector was a main draw of a summer school run by the Francophone Africa Extractive Industries Knowledge Hub.

Nsangana hopes to be one of a number of female civil society actors in a better position to debate fiscal matters relating to the DRC’s mining code. Disagreements among stakeholders often stem from a lack of consensus over fiscal regimes, she says.  Fiscal complexities have taxed civil society actors and have prevented civil society organizations (CSOs), in particular, from making informed contributions, according to Nsangana.

Building stakeholder capacity to tackle issues like these is the purpose of the hub, known in French as the Centre d'Excellence pour la Gouvernance des Industries Extractives en Afrique Francophone, or CEGIEAF. Each year, the two-week course is hosted by l'Université Catholique d'Afrique Centrale (UCAC) with the support of NRGI and Misereor.

Civil society actors, journalists and other professionals were among the 27 participants who came together in August. Their aim: to improve their capacity to influence policy reform. 

Representatives from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), France, Mali and Senegal used interactive exercises, comparative analysis and case studies to develop their skills and knowledge. 

One of the key conclusions to emerge from of the course was that governments ought to adopt specific local content policies and law so that natural resource management has a meaningful impact. Participants used part of the course to compare various hydrocarbon and mining laws containing provisions on employment, development of infrastructure and the promotion of local goods and services. They noticed that the content of these provisions is often limited, or vague. It lacks clear indicators and monitoring mechanisms.  Their discussion was informed by hub alumnus Michel Bissou, program manager on extractives industries with Cameroon’s RELUFA. Bissou presented pilot work to monitor local content and fiscal obligations in Cameroon mining projects.
Participants listen to a presentation at the Francophone Africa Extractive Industries Knowledge Hub.

The debates that formed a key part of the course illustrated how anxious local communities are to see impactful extractives management. Positive stories emerged from Burkina Faso, where civil society, journalists and MPs worked in synergy to push for greater transparency and accountability from government and corporations, improving practice in the sector and changing policy and law. 

They issued studies and articles. They launched investigations, raising awareness, generating debate and informing the work of other stakeholders.  Alumni such as Elie Kabore, a journalist, were invited to take part in the discussions. He described his work with MPs and the role played by CSOs in Burkina Faso during its mining law review. Burkina Faso’s mining code, adopted in June 2015, includes several recommendations from civil society, such as contract disclosure, the creation of a fund for local development and clauses regarding conflict of interest and human rights. In December 2015, the parliament of Burkina Faso also created a commission to investigate and clarify the implementation of the revenue sharing provisions, corporate social responsibility policies and the allocation and management of licenses.

Local communities in Francophone Africa are increasingly demanding their share of natural resource wealth. Across the region, many mining laws now include provisions on revenue sharing. Implementation, however, remains a challenge.  In the DRC, provinces and local administration struggle to have the revenue sharing formula respected. In Cameroon and Burkina Faso, local communities have claimed they do not receive any money at all. Participants cited a lack of regulatory law and failures in coordination between national agencies as just some of the reasons behind these problems.

Despite these obstacles, stakeholders are still advocating for fair allocation of revenue to local administration and communities to contribute to local development and improve living conditions. To do this, plans reflecting local needs should be designed in a participatory manner and enforced through transparent and accountable mechanisms.

Evelyne Tsague is the Africa deputy director with NRGI.