Former President of Bostwana Mr. Festus Gbontebanye Mogae spoke at this year’s African Leadership lectures organised by the University for Development Studies (UDS), where he offered some useful advice to the nation.
Festus Mogae cautioned the fact that a country is blessed with natural resources such as oil does not necessarily translate into good fortune.
Obviously, this fact is not lost on many people since there is a coinage “resource-curse” that has been dominating public discourse on resource-rich nations which are unable to bring equitable development to their people.
In fact, former President Mogae advised that it is not prudent to raise the hopes and expectations of the citizenry simply because of the discovery of oil — especially before its extraction, because when eventually the expectations of the people are not met it could lead to a loss of confidence in the government with resultant hostilities among people, government and investors.
Oil reserves are found in abundance on the African continent, and major producers like Nigeria and Angola may bear testimony to the argument that Festus Mogae is advancing. Various factors account for this state of affairs, even though that is not the crux of the matter for now.
When oil was first discovered in the country, hopes were raised so high that some believed the fortunes of the country would turn around overnight!
It is to be recalled that some traditional authorities were pushing hard for a percentage to be ceded to their communities simply on the strength that the resource is located in that region. This itself is not a bad proposition, but it equally has the tendency to build hopes high; and when, due to expediency, it doesn’t materialise, then ill-feeling is generated.
What is important, as the former President stressed, is the need to ensure adequate engagement with the people, particularly communities where the resources are discovered, to understand the dynamics involved.
He offered another word of advice that is undeniable, and that is revenue accrued from such resources should be equitably distributed to mitigate the sufferings of the people as well as to accelerate development.
Mr. Mogae was President of Botswana from 1998-2008, and is a proud winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for achievement in Africa Leadership.
His advice is invaluable and stems from practical observation. Ghana can take a cue from the Botswana elder statesman and avoid the resource-curse syndrome by offering hope and prosperity to its people through judiciously applying the revenue accrued to better their lives!
Source: B & FT Online
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