By Andualem Sisay
The sixth Tana High-level Forum on Security in Africa opened today in the Bahir Dar city of Ethiopia, where the management of the continent’s natural resources tops the agenda.
“The Forum has become a platform to nurture open dialogue on the continent’s peace. Unless we manage our natural resources properly, they will become a source of contention,” said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
He added: “If natural resources have to contribute to human development, they ought to be used productively. Natural resources need to be transformed to manufactured capital and human capital. Specific policies are needed for that to happen.”
A 2016 African Development Bank report notes that over the past 60 years, 40 to 60 per cent of internal armed conflicts on the continent are related to natural resources.
The chairperson of the forum, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that in 2016, Ethiopia, South Africa and Tunisia were among African countries that witnessed protests related to natural resources management.
The deputy chairperson of the African Union Commission, Thomas Kwesi Quartey said that Africa needs to focus on educating its youth in order to solve its major development challenges including natural resources governance.
Reports show that Africa is rich in natural resources, including 12 per cent of global oil reserves, 40 per cent of gold deposit and hundreds of precious minerals.
The continent also possesses 60 per cent of the world’s arable but uncultivated land.
The forum will reflect on what is hampering the continent from better managing its natural resources and come up with recommendations on the way forward.
The two-day forum will also address issues related to the management of agricultural land, inland water, sea water, forests and biodiversity of Africa.
Also on the agenda is the growing demand by some African countries for the renegotiation of concessions with multinational companies, responsible revenue management and resource sovereignty
Among the attendees of the forum are President Yoweri Meseveni of Uganda and former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki.
Named after Ethiopia’s biggest lake and the origin of Blue Nile (Lake Tana), the forum was started in 2012 by the Addis Ababa University’s Institute for Peace and Security Studies following the August 2009 African Union Tripoli Declaration on the need for centred solutions for the continent’s challenges.