President John Dramani Mahama has urged ECOWAS member states to adopt elements of good governance in leveraging their mineral and petroleum potential, to maximise their contribution to sustainable development.
He said because ECOWAS countries depend on minerals and hydrocarbons for their development, countries should consider such key elements as transparency, stakeholder involvement and accountability, among others, in managing their natural resources.
Speaking at the opening of the 1st ECOWAS Mining and Petroleum Forum and Exhibition in Accra, President Mahama, said the significant mineral resources that the African Continent is endowed with, should be the bedrock for propelling mineral producing countries into accelerated broad-based development, spanning the macro to micro levels.
President Mahama, whose speech was read on his behalf, explained that the extractive sector has the potential to markedly improve its sustainable contribution if properly managed within a framework by which it is more fully integrated with the rest of the economy.
The three-day forum being attended by representatives, including ministers of the various ECOWAS member states and key stakeholders in the sector, is aimed at developing efficient partnerships among all stakeholders to maximise the potential benefits of the extractive resources through regional cooperation.
The theme for the forum is: “Valorising West Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resources through Regional Cooperation,” and it is scheduled to be held every two years in selected member countries on rotational basis.
President Mahama said issues involving the oil and gas sector, good governance, linkages and local content as well as “how sovereign nations in West Africa can reconcile their local content policies in the mining and petroleum sectors and thereby pursue meaningful regional cooperation” should all be considered during the deliberations.
He said the government is fully aware that poor mining and processing practices could cause excessive environmental degradation and pollution, therefore, countries should ensure that their framework legislation and regulatory structures are aimed at curtailing any such potential negative impacts.
These must be done through protecting sensitive areas while demanding reclamation and rehabilitation of other impacted areas where mining activities are permitted.
“At the governmental level, I trust that the subject of the evolving global socio-environmental standards will engage the attention of participants in our bid to answer the question of how to reconcile these standards across the sub-region to protect posterity and thereby promote sustainable development even as we actively develop our extractives,” President Mahama said.
He urged companies in the extractive sector to fully comply with policies, laws, regulations and guidelines governing their operations since those rules could not be compromised.
President Mahama asked governments to have a long term objective, including, the development of skills and broad human resource capacity, technology transfer and growth of other industries necessary to catalyse broad-based growth and development on sustainable basis.
Mr Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission said the theme for the forum should set the tone for countries to be forward-looking as they reflect on the question of how well they wish the geo-extractives sector to further enhance countries’ collective well-being.
“We possess vast potentials in terms of our natural resources, which when properly harnessed, can enhance the well-being of our people. We should therefore, capitalise on this market-enabling image to optimise the potential benefit presented by the mining, petroleum and energy sectors.”
Mr Ouedraogo said the extractive sector in the ECOWAS countries should be develop in such a way that it lead to economic boom of the region and increased industrialisation while creating more jobs to alleviate poverty.
He asked participants to discuss how activities in the geo-extractive sector could be harnessed to benefit the average citizens in the region and the broader society.
Mrs Fatima Haram Acyl, Commissioner for Trade and Industry, African Union Commission said urged countries to work together to ensure that their legal and regulatory regimes are well positioned to regulate the natural resources sector to the benefit to countries and investors as well.
Mr Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Minister of Petroleum, asked the delegates to put their heads together to develop the extractive sector, particularly, the oil and gas, by adding value to the crude to earn the countries more revenue for national development.