• Natural resources can have significant, transformative change in fragile states in Africa, but if they are not well managed, these resources can have a detrimental effect on the people in the region.

    The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Washington-based Environmental Law Institute (ELI), have released a report that describes how African countries in fragile situations can work towards addressing the causes and drivers of fragility by better managing natural resources across sectors.

    The report which is named, From Fragility to Resilience: Managing Natural Resources in Fragile Situations in Africa, looks into cross-cutting issues such as climate change, governance, the private sector, regional integration, and conflict sensitivity. It also provides options for the design and implementation of natural resource-related programs geared toward building the resilience of African countries.

    “The report posits that fragility is a continuum, and many states that are not fragile experience tensions, localized conflict, and other pockets of fragility,” said Janvier Litse, the AfDB Vice-President for Country and Regional Programs.

    “Fragility spans a broad spectrum that is varied in geographic scope and frequency of conflict, ranging from declared hostilities between warring parties to established states that experience sporadic violence,” explained Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Bank’s Transition Support Department.

    With the growing internal and external demand for African products, AfDB envisions that the next decade will be an opportunity for Africa to become the world’s next emerging market. The Bank said that change was possible “if Africa can seize its potential in water, agriculture, renewable energy, and other sectors, especially oil, gas, and minerals.”

    Harnessing transformative change in the region

    Natural resources including both extractive resources (gas, oil, and minerals) and renewable resources (forests, fisheries, water, livestock, and arable land). These resources provide food security, employment, export revenues and foundation for private-sector development.

    On the flipside, fragile states are disproportionately likely to be affected by conflicts. According to the report, almost 80% (15 out of 19) of fragile states in Africa have experienced armed conflict in the last 20 years, with 11 countries experiencing armed conflicts in the last 10 years.

    In addition to increasing state and regional fragility, conflict leads to the slowdown of the gross domestic product (GDP). With approximately one-third of real GDP growth coming from natural resource extraction, there is a need to protect this sector.

    To better manage the resources, the region needs to embark on strategies that will delink the connection between natural resources and the financing of conflict. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, familiar conflict resources, diamonds and timber, have been used to finance conflicts, the report indicated.

    “To break the conflict cycle and build resilience, fragile states must address the causes and drivers of conflict when designing and implementing strategies for state-building,” the report argued. “For these reasons, the focus areas for development in fragile states are building resilience, peace, and state-building. Natural resources can take a central role in implementing state-building strategies because they often provide a foundation for the socioeconomic development of a country,” it added.

    How States can manage initiatives that support peaceful co-existence

    (i) Community-level incentives for generating livelihoods legally

    States should design incentives for local people who engage in managing the natural resources. This encourages communities to take part in legal alternatives that use natural resources without fueling conflict.

    (ii) Systems for tracking the legal trade of natural resources

    Tracking and certification systems are also key to managing natural resources. The certification process can either be voluntary or mandatory aimed at tracking the legal trade of natural resources. This creates trust between state and the community.

    (iii) Government capacity to regulate natural resources

    To develop and maintain a functional system for controlling the illicit trade in natural resources, fragile state leaders must prioritize governance politically and find ways for the country to invest significant financial resources in natural resource governance. This is true whether fragile state governments seek to administer certification schemes, stop illegal poaching in game parks, or keep contraband from being smuggled across borders.

    (iv) Harmonization of taxes, fees, and regulations across neighboring countries in a region

    Where taxes and fees create incentives for smuggling across borders, regional efforts are needed to ensure that taxes and fees are comparable in size and enforcement. For example, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region has been working with its Member States to harmonize regulations related to conflict minerals in Central Africa.

    (v) Sanctions

    As a tool of last resort, where the trade in a natural resource is sufficiently tied to conflict, international institutions, and foreign governments may choose to impose sanctions to prevent the export of the illegally traded resource. For example, in 2003, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on timber from Liberia to keep it from financing the civil war and associated human rights violations; after systems were in place to effectively regulate the timber industry, the United Nations Security Council lifted the sanctions in 2006.

    There is a need to manage resources especially in fragile countries where there are frequent resource-related conflicts. This, the report says is important due to the fact that relapse of fights in countries where there were resource-related conflicts is more likely- twice as quickly as countries recovering from other types of conflict.

    “These trends demonstrate that fragile states must be sensitive to the causes and drivers of conflict, and must manage natural resources effectively to seize opportunities for transformative growth. Each fragile state must ultimately choose its own path out of fragility.”

    AfDB notes that the report is part of a series of initiatives carried out by the Bank within the context of its Strategy for Addressing Fragility and Building Resilience in Africa for the period 2014-2019. This strategy aims to place the Bank at the center of Africa’s efforts to address fragility and pave the way for a more resilient and inclusive development trajectory. It is based on an understanding of fragility as a condition of elevated risk of institutional breakdown, societal collapse or violent conflict.

    The findings of this report will help the Bank to enhance its engagement with African countries in fragile situations, and reinforce its interventions in bridging the gap between natural resource management and development on the continent.

    In supporting countries to improve their natural resource management for resilience, the publication will contribute to accelerating Africa’s sustainable development and meeting the critical needs of Africans through the implementation of the Bank’s top development priorities – the High 5s. They are Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa.