LibLink: Vince Cable – Where is Africa’s share of the spoils?

In the Independent, Vince Cable complains that Africa sees little of the vast profits from its natural resources:

Each year, international oil, gas, forestry and mining companies make large payments to the governments of resource-rich developing countries, though their citizens see very little of it. Charities have estimated that in Africa this income is six times greater than the aid the continent receives. Where does all this money go?

Too much of it is siphoned away from those who need it most and lodged into foreign bank accounts and offshore tax havens. These vast sums of money that disappear into the coffers of bent politicians and bureaucrats are part of a culture of corruption that is fuelled by a lack of transparency. Instead of being used to fight poverty, boost economic growth and improve social conditions, this money often funds wars and personal vanity projects.

You can read the full article here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is part of the Liberal Democrat Voice team and blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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6 Comments

  • Richard Dean 26th Nov '12 - 4:10pm

    Yes, corruption is a big big problem in many parts of Africa, and ignorance – Mugabe not understanding that printing money destroys his country’s currency – and brutality – gang rapes in DR Congo, gays banned in Uganda, rampant crime in South Africa. But Africa has major post-colonial issues, and not all of Africa is bad. Ghana is one place that looks very promising to me. Nigeria too, if they can resolve the corruption that comes with oil and the ethnic tensions which always seem to erupt when fundamentalists are around.

    Then again, why is VC spending time on this? Hasn’t he got an actual job to do here in the UK?

  • robert sayer 26th Nov '12 - 8:30pm

    Vince spends time on these matters because he is a Lib DEm and sees that development in Africa is in the long term benefit of the UK

  • John Carlisle 27th Nov '12 - 11:29am

    I think that Richard asks a valid question as to why Vince Cable is doing this. It really is not BIS business. However, he has an attachment to Africa, having worked in Kenya as Treasury Finance Officer in the 1960’s. Also, his first wife was from East Africa. So, he could legitimately lend weight to the Davey et al initiative.
    HOWEVER, if you work with the activists in East Africa and Zimbabwe (as I do) you will see that much of their concerns are around the mining and oil companies, in particular, not paying corporate tax, not consulting with the local communities who they often try to buy off with “beads and mirrors”, and not using best practice in the entire system, i.e. the employers’ responsibility does not stop at the factory gate – it continues into the transport that gets them to work, the dwellings they occupy and the municipal services.
    Vince Cable, as Secretary of BIS, can demand best business practice of these companies as the context to the easier, more bureaucratic, role the LibDem ministers have chosen. Doing what one knows best is not always the best thing to do!

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '12 - 2:52pm

    We probably need to work through the corrupt systems, rather than against them. Many countruies including our own have a history in which wealth is first accumulated in a very small number of hands – kings and barons and tribal chiefs – and then distributed over time, partly through popular pressure and partly through the collapse of discipline and morale within that small number. It’s a way of enriching a people, even if it might not be to our modern, liberal and democratic tastes.

    I was told of an inteesting pactice in one central African country, I don’t know how true it is. The government passed a law requiring all foreign investors to take on local partners. Sounds good? Every foreign oil company wanting to exploit that country’s reserves had to find a local partner, who inevitably turned out to be a member of the ruling party or their family. The partner provided local contractors who also paid a fee, and suppressed local objectors. It was effectively impossible for any oil company to operate there without being part of the corruption of what appeared to be a free and democratic system.

  • Richard Dean 27th Nov '12 - 3:45pm

    I don’t think Vince is motivated by care or fairness for Africa at all. He wants to exploit the place.

    Our Northern European economy is is trouble because we don’t have enough consumption. Africa is a huge potential market, and so could provide a temporary solution to what is effectively a Euopean savings paradox. That may certainly benefit Africa, and probably that’s a wonderful thing, but Africa beware the forked European tongue! – it’s not the main motive, and in the long run it’s not a sustainable solution to the European problem. It just kicks the problem down the line, into the long grass, to re-appear sometime in the future, when all the available markets will have been exploited and there won’t be any new ones to use in this way.

    The sustainable solution is going to involve some kind of relative austerity for us, and that’s not something our populations can accept or our short-termist politiians can feeling happy pushing for.

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