Huffington Post

Marcelo Giugale, World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa

March 7th, 2012

Wouldn’t you want to know how much money your government gets from the companies that exploit your country‘s oil, gas or minerals? It doesn’t have to be exact, but a ball-park figure? And how about taking a peek at the contracts that your leaders sign on your behalf (remember, you and your fellow citizens are the real owners of your national wealth)? And aren’t you curious about where the money goes–or went? It is a bit of a puzzle that only 35 countries in the world have agreed to join the “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” (EITI), an invitation dating back to 2003 to publish who pays how much to whom in the business of exploiting natural resources. Of those 35, only one (Norway) can be considered “developed” and 25 are African–respect to them.

You would think that, by now, citizens and markets would have forced more countries and more companies to open their books. After all, commodity extraction is a five trillion dollar a year industry that is projected to grow even bigger, as China and other newly-developed countries compete for access to wells and mines. And that’s only for the portion of the resources that we know about. To give you an idea, it is estimated that only a tenth of Africa’s natural riches have been found (it would take a billion dollars to produce a full geo-data map of the continent). So, with prices bound to stay high and plenty of potential for new discoveries, you would expect breathing-down-their-necks public scrutiny of the whole thing. Nope. It hasn’t happened. Why? Read more.