The African resources sectors are likely to continue to see a steady increase in disputes between and among foreign and local investors, governments, communities and others – all at potentially vast human, financial, environmental and political cost.
The problem is not that there will be differences over how resources are utilized, as disagreements are both normal and even healthy.
It is the lack of accessible, appropriate and effective means of resolving the resulting tensions.
Sowing seeds of deeper conflict
Current approaches to disputes are sorely inadequate and frequently sow the seeds of deeper conflicts.
They also deter investment, inflate costs, derail development, promote inequality and inefficiencies, and encourage corruption.
Litigation and arbitration tend to be unsuitable ways of resolving such differences, partly due to the difficulty of adjudicating on social, cultural and environmental issues.
They also do not encourage people to use resources more efficiently; they seldom resolve the underlying dispute; and their adversarial nature can create even greater discord.
Moreover, regional and ethnic rivalries, organised crime, corruption, geo-politics and powerful vested interests invariably muddy the waters.
A simple, effective solution
Many potentially crippling disputes might readily be avoided by the use of a simple expedient: a statutory requirement that all those involved in extracting resources should seek to resolve their differences by non-adversarial methods before resorting to litigation or arbitration.
There are several cost-effective measures which governments and companies might readily adopt – dispute review boards, for example.
Suitably structured, such measures can also promote diverse other policy objectives – from local content to environmental protection – in a more collaborative and constructive way than at present.
This won’t avoid or resolve every dispute, but it will often clarify and narrow the issues in dispute, as well as highlight the extent and significance of shared interests.
It will usually also greatly reduce the risk that emotions and/or legal costs will rapidly spiral out of control, locking the parties into a vortex of resentment and conflict.
EEE Lex is ideally qualified to advise on most resource-related matters.
We are keenly aware of the commercial, political and historical significance of Africa’s natural resources.
We also understand the dynamics of related disputes, and we know just how easily they can spill over into other issues, sectors and areas.
We have an in-depth knowledge of the Sub-Saharan resources sectors. Members of the team have been involved in practically every aspect of the sectors – as judges, lawyers, financiers, investors, operators, regulators, administrators, service providers and conservationists.
We are committed to helping to develop and implement creative, holistic and enduring solutions to the often wasteful and destructive scramble over the continent’s resource wealth.
Women in the Resources Sector
Commercial resource projects in Africa often marginalize and impoverish women, usually unwittingly. It is a sensitive topic, especially in areas where gender disparities are culturally entrenched.
Greater gender-sensitivity could greatly enhance economic development and social cohesion, particularly in remote areas, since research indicates that women typically invest 90% of their earnings in the family.
There are many things that the extractive industries might realistically do to facilitate opportunities for women, especially as regards property rights, access to credit, sexual violence, literacy training, and maternal health. Very few companies bother.