Book Review: Managing Africa's Natural Resources Capacities for Development

Managing Africa's Natural Resources - Capacities for development. Edited by Kobena T. Hanson, Cristina D' Alessandro and Francis Owusu

Managing Africa's Natural Resources Capacities for Development is an interesting collection of chapters, including empirical content as well as case studies, aimed at a broad audience of stakeholders related to natural resources governance in Africa. The contributors have extensive individual and collective experiences and insightful facts as well as opinions to share about natural resources management [NRM]. They are academics, researchers, consultants and practitioners with solid experience.

The evident aim of this book is to persuade readers to rethink frameworks for natural resources governance. It places emphasis on transnational knowledge sharing and a coordinated approach to NRM while calling for a capacity-leadership-governance mix which effectively develops and engages stakeholders such as leaders, CSOs, institutions of governance and the private sector.

The book starts with the interesting debate on whether Africa suffers from a “natural resource curse”.  Is having an abundance of natural resources detrimental for the progress of African countries due to ensuing corruption, rising inequalities and environmental concerns or can the transformation and governance of institutions through capacity development help capitalize on these resources and yield growth dividends? It is claimed that natural resources are, and must be taken as propelling instruments. Contributors like Joseph Ayee in chapter 2 and Peter Arthur through his literature review in chapter 3 make a strong case against the inevitability of the curse. Authors claim that the situation today is ripe for such a transformation in thinking and action. An informed, participatory and coordinated vision of NRM is to be seen in contemporary Africa. Promising avenues for financing, technology acquisition, global or private governance and an empowered portfolio of stakeholders productively exercising agency can help Africa outperform itself in the future.

Authors have used simple language, case studies and ample secondary references to identify key capacity development issues and lessons. The weaker capacity of legislature as compared to the executive has been pointed out and a similar comparative capacity disadvantage is told to exist between governments and multinational corporations thus affecting the sovereignty of nations in cases. Governments lack the capacity to negotiate with these MNCs, at times deliberately. Chapter 3 talks interestingly about the need for building capacities for ensuring laws are forceful, there is regulatory support and the needed technical expertise to strengthen institutional infrastructure and policies exists. Key concepts highlighted are transparency, accountability, rule of law and participation. Stated is the need for building the capacity of media with specialized trainings in natural resource management and extractive reporting so that it can effectively be a monitoring watchdog. A pertinent example of capacity gaps given in the book is that of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative [EITI] implementation across several African countries, including Cameroon, where local civil society groups' lack of training prevented effective analysis and monitoring of governments and businesses. Chapter 5 by William G. Moseley uses three insightful African country case studies and references to literature to conclude that capacity development is needed for evolution to secondary and tertiary forms of economic activity and building value chains encouraging regional economic integration so that talent is not lost to countries outside of Africa. Claudious Chikozho includes short and engaging water sharing case studies from different regions of Africa in chapter 6 and makes a convincing argument for maintaining a long term and systemic perspective when it comes to capacity building. The author asks for both knowledge as well as skill deficiencies [examples given of negotiation, stakeholders participation and strategic communication skills] to be addressed for effective capacity development. The list of capacities given in chapter 7 for effective environmental governance is based on lessons from Ghana but has applicability across other regions of Africa. The authors D'Alessandro, Hanson and Owusu state that civil society needs capacities to negotiate, inform communities, manage expectations, monitor actions, propose mitigation measures, influence policy making, promote regional cooperation and information sharing and to manage as well as prevent risk. As you can decide from the above examples the spot-on identification of real issues is extensive and the book is rich in proposing workable recommendations.

All in all the book is an optimistic and interesting amalgamation of well researched view points with reliance on literature and secondary research. With plenty of positive examples discussed and rational evidences presented it does encourage the reader to think strategically about the role of capacity development in using Africa's natural resources as a blessing. Another commendable aspect of this book is the variety of African countries covered through case studies and incidents cited. It is expected that this volume will succeed in pushing forward African stakeholders in their efforts for developing accountable and transparent institutions, coordination, integrated planning, the sustainable investment of tax proceeds from the use of African natural resources and for building leadership, peer learning and knowledge sharing capacities. The book joins others such as Managing Natural Resources for Development in Africa, The Scramble for African Oil: Oppression, Corruption and War for Control of Africa's Natural Resources and Natural Resource Investment and Africa's Development in giving the larger global audience important lessons about how capacity development issues related to NRM affect development, national, regional and global governance systems, integration and the quest for improving the quality of lives  of millions of people.

This book review was written by Atif Rahim Khan, SPHR on behalf of LenCD

Atif is a capacity development expert, trainer, consultant and currently an Adviser to the Commonwealth Foundation

Contact Atif via email atifrahimkhan@gmail.com or view his profile here and on LinkedIn