The Open Government Partnership and socio-economic development: A perspective from African countries

Mukelani Dimba, Executive Director of the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC)

One of the enduring challenges faced by the African continent in lifting millions out of poverty is this: how do you ensure that Africa’s natural endowments are used to benefit Africans directly? It is the conundrum of all time that a continent so richly endowed with natural resources remains the poorest in the world. It is clear that, over the decades and centuries, Africa’s riches have been used not to benefit ordinary Africans but to enrich the few in governing classes, local elites and international commercial conglomerates. This has been a classic example of inefficient use of resources on a grand scale and with disastrous outcomes.

The United Nations Economic Council for Africa’s (UNECA) High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows reported in 2015 that Africa lost $50 billion per annum due to illegal financial transactions. The year before that, 2014, the non-governmental organization Health Poverty Action had reported that Africa loses $192 billion per annum to the rest of the world through costs of adjusting to climate change ($36.6 billion), loans to the other governments ($24 billion), debt repayments ($21 billion), profits made by multinational companies ($46 billion), illegal logging ($17 billion), and tax evasion ($35 billion), among other things. The net effect of this is that millions in sub-Saharan Africa remain below the poverty line. A report by the World Bank (“Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity”) puts this figure close to 350 million Africans who are living below the updated extreme poverty measure of $1.90 a day.

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