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Africa/Global: Talking Points on Common Issues

AfricaFocus Bulletin
July 31, 2014 (140731)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

As African leaders and corporate CEOs gather to meet with President Obama and U.S. government officials, a wide variety of civil society activists will also be meeting in Washington, some in officially recognized side events, others in alternative venues. Many more will be issuing statements and communicating their views, some appropriating the twitter hashtag #AfricaSummit used by U.S. government officials, thus inserting their views as well into that hashtag stream.

[Note: For the twitter search for #AfricaSummit, go to]

AfricaFocus Bulletin is a co-sponsor of one alternative event in Washington, DC, initiated by the US-Africa Network ( The US-Africa Network has also released a social media guide ( selected sample tweets and links to other social media initiatives by civil society.

In this context AfricaFocus has prepared a set of talking points on selected critical issues, with particular emphasis on those where both the United States and African countries are falling short in addressing common global problems, such as climate change, illicit financial flows, and flawed frameworks for addressing conflict and economic progress.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains an open letter to President Obama from the Publish What You Pay Africa Steering Committee, and then excerpts from the AfricaFocus talking points ( Additional material related to the US-Africa Leaders Summit appeared in AfricaFocus Bulletin on July 29 (

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Open Letter to President Obama from African Civil Society

Publish What You Pay Africa Steering Committee

31 Jul 2014 / direct URL:

Dear Mr. President,

We, the African civil society leaders of Publish What You Pay - a global coalition campaigning for an open and accountable gas, oil and mining sector - are addressing you on the eve of the US - Africa Leaders' Summit.

We are addressing you as concerned citizens, forced to see their countries cheated out of revenues as illicit financial flows drain Africa of its resources. Because of trade mispricing, opacity and secrecy jurisdictions our continent has lost out on more than $1 trillion over the last 30 years. Africa is generating revenues, but many of these flow to the pockets of rich corporations and individuals rather than back to citizens. It shouldn't be this way.

We are addressing you as worried parents, who fear that by the time our grandchildren grow up our country's natural resources will have been depleted and we will have little to show for it. Our natural resources are an opportunity for us to create better lives for our future generations, but if good governance does not prevail that chance will be squandered. And with oil, gas and mining, the one chance is all you get.

We are addressing you as committed Africans and credible civil society actors that engage in good governance. Despite the difficulties there is a growing movement for good governance across our continent. Countries are joining, and successfully implementing, standards such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. They are taking ownership of natural resource management, incorporating the Africa Mining Vision and providing the continent with its own framework. We are building up expectations that the government has a role to manage natural resources in an accountable and transparent manner. But we, as civil society, need a guaranteed space and platform so that we can operate.

You once said that "Africa's future is up to Africans" and that is all we ask.

We are fighting every day to change our future. We risk arrest and intimidation to bring the issue of natural resources into the open. Where once silence reigned people now debate in the streets how their revenues should be managed. But the extractive sector has many players and there is only so much civil society can do within the current confines of the game. The US and other developed countries, as well as international extractive companies, profit hugely from the sector and the rules play to their advantage. They have their role to play too.

We are not asking for your charity - we are asking for a level playing field. We see the US-Africa Leaders' Summit as a crucial opportunity for all parties to make concrete commitments to enhancing extractive governance. We are calling on our governments to commit to an open and transparent bidding process for the allocation of extractive contracts and licenses, including the publication of contracts. We are calling on our governments to commit to creating open budgeting processes, so that we can ensure extractive revenues are responsibly spent. We also ask them to include beneficial ownership declaration forms in procurement and contracts.

We have called on our governments. Today Mr. President, we respectfully call on you.

It has been more than four years since you signed the Dodd-Frank Act, section 1504 of which obliges all US listed extractive companies to publish the payments they make. This law will yield crucial data that can help us hold our governments to account, but it has yet to come into effect. We ask you to urge the SEC for a swift publication of the rules governing section 1504 to ensure that they are in line with recent EU legislation and the emerging global standard for extractive transparency.

The US once led on the issue of extractive transparency, we ask you to reclaim that mantle and commit to working with other G7/G20 countries to adopt and implement measures similar to Dodd-Frank 1504 and the EU Transparency & Accounting Directives.

We call on you to commit to strengthening multilateral rules on taxation to clamp down on trade mispricing and abusive transfer pricing, to help ensure that African countries at least have a fighting chance to profit from their resources.

Finally, we ask you to commit to creating a public registry of corporate beneficial ownership information. Countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia are implementing this as part of the EITI standard and the UK committed to doing so as part of the G7 Tax Trade and Transparency agenda. We are looking at US leadership to follow suit.

Africa has the necessary resources to forge its own destiny. However we need to change the global system that stacks the odds against us. The revolution for open government and transparency has begun, we call on you to help us complete it.

Yours Respectfully,

The Africa Publish What You Pay Steering Committee and members of the Global Steering Committee

Representatives of the Africa PWYP Steering Committee

Taran Diallo, Guinea
Ali Idrissa, Niger
Bubelwa Kaiza, Tanzania
Jean-Claude Katende, DR Congo
Gilbert Maoundonodji, Chad
Steve Manteaw, Ghana
Faith Nwadishi, Nigeria

African representatives on the Global PWYP Steering Committe

Cecilia Mattia, Sierra Leone
Marc Ona, Gabon

Talking Points - AfricaFocus Bulletin

AfricaFocus Bulletin pays special attention to issues which are both Africa-wide and global. Today's global issues take different forms in different countries and on different continents. But the most critical issues transcend geographical boundaries and demand common action.

A few examples (below) are included in this set of pages prepared in July 2014 ( Other issues covered regularly by AfricaFocus, but not yet included here, include Global Health and HIV/AIDS (, Migration ( and Information and Communication Technology (

Climate Change and the Environment

Talking Points

  • Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

  • When industries make decisions based on short-term profits, encouraged by goverment subsidies to established industries, they systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and more extreme weather will be even more devastating.

  • Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance. Fossilfuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably, clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

Recent Bulletins

June 30, 2014 Africa: Clean Energy Most Cost-Effective

"From off-grid LED lighting to 'Skinny Grids,' we can now provide energy access with a fraction of the amount of power we used to need. More importantly, we can unlock affordable initial interventions -- like lighting, mobile phone charging, fans, and TVs plus a small amount of agro processing -- to help people get onto the energy ladder today rather than forcing them to wait decades for a grid extension that may never come. ... It's important to understand that we aren't just imagining this clean energy market growth -- it's already happening." -- Justin Guay, Sierra Club

February 26, 2014 Africa: Tracking Toxic Pollution

The damages produced by modern economies, termed "externalities" by economists, most often do not figure in the market signals shaping corporate profits and therefore corporate decision-making. The result, both in advanced economies or around the world, includes not only the massive threat to our common future through global warming, but also extraordinary levels of toxic pollution disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. Of the top ten toxic threats around the world identified in a new report, three are in Africa: the Agbogbloshie Dumpsite for e-waste in Ghana, the entire Niger Delta region in Nigeria, and the now-closed but still deadly lead mining site in Kabwe, Zambia.

January 21, 2014 South Africa: Renewables Rising, Coal Still King

"South Africa [is] the world's sixth-largest coal exporter, seventhlargest coal producer, and thirteenth-largest CO2 emitter, with percapita emissions twice the global average. Ninety-four percent of the country's electricity comes from coal ... The country's abundant solar and wind resources offer a promising renewable energy alternative. But entrenched political interests connected to the ruling party are fighting to expand coal's role in the national economy." - Adam Welz, "The Future of Coal"

November 18, 2013 Africa: Time to Pay for Climate "Loss and Damage"

"The U.S. delegation negotiating at the U.N. international climate change conference in Poland is pushing an agenda of minimising the role of "Loss and Damage" in the UNFCCC framework, prioritising private finance in the Green Climate Fund, and delaying the deadline for post-2020 emission reduction commitments, according to a State Department negotiating strategy which IPS has seen." Inter Press Service

Illicit Financial Flows and Tax Evasion

Talking Points

  • Inequality and tax evasion are growing both within and between countries, while the rich on all continents funnel their wealth into secret bank accounts scattered around the world. This erodes the public sector, starves countries of funds needed for development, and drives up deficits.

  • The trend is worldwide as multinational companies shuttle money and subsidiaries between countries to minimize taxes, while the ultrarich and organized crime hide their assets in untraceable shell accounts. But the toll in Africa is enormous, with losses estimated at $50 billion to $80 billion a year due to illicit capital flight.

  • One recent study, for example, estimated at least US$60.8 billion in losses due to transfer pricing in or out of 5 African Countries (Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda), from 2002-2011.

  • The good news is that governments and multilateral agencies around the world are waking up to this issue, and the pressure for transparency in financial reporting is growing. The same technical mechanisms that have been used to track funds of drug traffickers and terrorist networks can now be used, if there is political will, to track monies lost to illicit financial flows and tax evasion.

Recent Bulletins

June 1, 2014 South Africa: Disappearing Diamond Revenue

"In 2011, South Africa produced diamonds whose uncut, or rough, value was $1.73 billion, or 12 percent of global production, according to the most recent government data available. Yet from 2010 to 2011, diamond-producing companies paid South Africa's government just $11 million in mining royalties, according to the latest Tax Statistics report, produced by the South African Treasury and the South African Revenue Service." - Khadija Sharife

May 26, 2014 Africa: Fraudulent Trade & Tax Evasion

"The fraudulent misinvoicing of trade is hampering economic growth and potentially resulting in billions of U.S. dollars in lost tax revenue in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda, according to a new report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington DCbased research and advocacy organization. The study -- funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark -- finds that the over- and under-invoicing of trade transactions facilitated at least US$60.8 billion in illicit financial flows into or out of the five African countries between 2002 and 2011."

May 12, 2014 Africa: Report Highlights Resource Plunder

"Take the profit out of plunder: Africa's resources should be sustainably managed for the benefit of Africa's peoples. National and regional action alone will not be enough. The international community must develop multilateral systems that prevent the plunder of Africa's resources [of fisheries and forests]." - Africa Progress Panel, 2014

April 30, 2014 Africa: Taxation Key to Fighting Inequality

'In many countries, it is the poor who end up paying more tax as a proportion of their income and this is just not right. When the rich are able to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, a government must rely on the rest of its citizens to fill its coffers. While tax dodging goes unchecked, governments are severely hampered from putting in place progressive tax systems - so fairer domestic tax systems depend on global transparency measures' - Alvin Mosioma, Director, Tax Justice Network - Africa

Peace and Security

Talking Points

  • Despite the image of a conflict-ridden continent, most African countries are at peace. They are afflicted not by war and warlords but by the less-visible kinds of "everyday" structural violence that prevail around the world: violence against women or migrants, for example, as well as abuses in police and prison systems, street crime that disproportionately affects the poor, or, more generally, systematic inequalities in access to basic social rights.

  • African civil conflicts, where they are occurring, are most often interpreted in terms of simplistic narratives applied to the entire continent. But each country is distinct. When there is open war, as in Somalia, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, or the Central African Republic, the causes are complex. Using explanations such as "age-old hostilities" or "tribalism" is wrong. But so is seeing external powers such as the United States or France as the primary contributors to violence, although colonial and Cold War histories, as well as current arms sales, have decisively influenced the context of today's conflicts.

  • Leaders in Africa and around the world give lip service to addressing root causes of terrorism, violent internal conflicts, common crime, and other threats. In practice, they most often rely on militarized responses that are ineffective and abusive of human rights. In those countries where violent Islamic extremism is present, standard global counter-terrorism strategies are almost certain to further inflame the situation.

  • Security forces, both of African governments and of multilateral organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations, are needed to protect civilians from violence carried out by non-state actors. But peacekeeping actions are often underfunded, misdirected, or both. The responsibility for funding and accountable management of such missions should be global as well as regional and national.

  • There are no simple or "one-size-fits-all" solutions to violence and terrorism. Greater efforts are needed to address long-term causes and exercise preventive diplomacy. But people affected by conflict also need immediate help, both humanitarian assistance and accountable, adequately funded protection from violence.

Recent Bulletins

July 14, 2014 Africa: Understanding Organized Crime

"We have concluded that drug use must be regarded primarily as a public health problem. Drug users need help, not punishment. We believe that the consumption and possession for personal use of drugs should not be criminalised. Experience shows that criminalisation of drug use worsens health and social problems, puts huge pressures on the criminal justice system and incites corruption. ... We caution that West Africa must not become a new front line in the failed "war on drugs," which has neither reduced drug consumption nor put traffickers out of business." - West Africa Commission on Drugs

June 23, 2014 Central African Republic: Still A Forgotten Crisis

"The crisis that has plagued the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012, particularly predation by both authorities and armed groups, has led to the collapse of the state. ... Ending this cycle of predatory rule and moving peacefully to a state that functions and can protect its citizens requires CAR's international partners to prioritise, alongside security, economic revival and the fight against corruption and illegal trafficking. Only a close partnership between the government, UN and other international actors, with foreign advisers working alongside civil servants in key ministries, can address these challenges." - International Crisis Group

June 9, 2014 Nigeria: Beyond the Hashtag Debates

"As is often the case in situations of widespread insecurity and violence, the displacement caused by Boko Haram and the [Nigerian] army's operations against it has reduced people's ability to feed themselves both directly and indirectly. Not only have IDPs exhausted their own supplies, making them dependent on their hosts' resources, but over 60 per cent of the region's farmers have been displaced just before the start of the planting season, making food crops scarcer and setting the scene for protracted shortages." - Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

May 19, 2014 Kenya: Refugee Crackdown "Counter-productive"

"Harassment and forced repatriation [of Somali refugees in Kenya] is likely to incite acute hatred against Kenya and entice more youth to join the Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group. This strategy is counterproductive. The government's decision to take this route has provoked anger. Somalis, whether from Kenya or from Somalia, and the Muslim community have suffered brutal police actions. This suits AlShabaab propaganda and alienates a community that can help fight terrorism," Nuur Sheikh, expert on conflict in Horn of Africa, in interview with Inter Press Service.

Food and Agriculture

Talking Points

  • International agencies agree that small farmers are key to addressing poverty and food insecurity in Africa. But commercial monopolization of seeds and land grabs by both foreign and domestic investors make a mockery of international pledges.

  • Studies have found that attention to small farmers can be the most effective strategy for increasing food production and providing income to the rural population. But there are few effective controls on the rush of investment into land by speculators and commercial enterprises. Farmers who lose their land wait in vain for promised replacement jobs. In South Africa and Namibia, the issue of land distribution remains unresolved.

  • At the same time, multinational companies such as Monsanto, which monopolize the supply of commercial seeds and fertilizer, erode the independence of small farmers by pressuring governments to outlaw traditional practices of seed saving and sharing. The companies' monopolistic strategies are supported by public and private international donors, such as USAID and the Gates Foundation.

Recent Bulletins

March 17, 2014 Africa/Global: The Right to Food

"The right to food is the right of every individual, alone or in community with others, to have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, adequate and culturally acceptable food that is produced and consumed sustainably, preserving access to food for future generations. ... Because of the various channels though which access to food can be achieved, the creation of decent jobs in the industry and services sectors plays an essential role in securing the right to food, as does the provision of social protection."- Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Final Report

November 9, 2013 Africa: Monopolizing Maize

According to a new report from the African Centre for Biosafety, in South Africa, "Monsanto's Bt maize, MON810, has failed hopelessly in South Africa as a result of massive insect resistance, after only 15 years of its introduction into commercial agriculture." Yet the same variety is being promoted in other African countries by projects supported by Monsanto. And South Africa's supply of maize, a staple food, is dominated by a few large companies and consists almost entirely of GM crop varieties.

June 12, 2013 Africa: Underdeveloping African Agriculture

"These interventions from AGRA [Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa] and the G8 are, first and foremost, about opening markets and creating space for multinational corporations such as Yara, Monsanto and Cargill, to secure profits. ... As world leaders speak in philanthropic terms about 'ending hunger', behind the scenes Africa's seed and trade laws are being 'harmonised' to the whim of agribusiness giants. The efforts of Africa's farmers over millennia stand to be privatised and expropriated, while traditional and vital practices such as seed saving and sharing stand to be criminalised." -- Francis Ngang, Secretary General of Inades-Formation (

June 12, 2013 Mozambique: Agriculture Project Challenged

"We, the rural populations, families from the communities of the Nacala Corridor, religious organisations and Mozambican civil society, recognising the importance and urgency of combating poverty and promoting sustainable and sovereign development, believe it is timely and crucial to voice our concerns and proposals in relation to the ProSavana Programme. ... After several discussions at community level in the districts covered by this programme, with Mozambican Government authorities [and with representatives of Brazil and Japan], we find that there are many discrepancies and contradictions [confirming] defects in the programme design; irregularities in the alleged process of public consultation and participation; serious and imminent threat of usurpation of rural populations' lands and forced removal of communities from areas that they currently occupy." - Open letter to leaders of Mozambique, Brazil, and Japan, May 28, 2013

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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