God gave us natural resources to make our lives better, but he also gave us the ability to exercise wisdom in our use of these resources. The Bible warns us against misuse of these resources or exploiting them in the wrong or greedy way. How we use or misuse our natural resources affects us as well as other people. If we waste and misuse the earth’s resources today, we will be harming the generations to come. Jesus Christ teaches us in Mathews 7:1 the way to treat our earth and its resources as well as our ordinary relationships.
How we manage our natural resources is something we must take seriously in Africa. The paradox of natural resources has failed to lift the lives of people out of poverty. Our governments have taken themselves to be owners and not custodians in managing natural resources. Africa has become weaker and powerless to take steps to help the potential profits from natural resources to benefit millions of poor citizens who go without adequate health, education, nutrition, safe clean water etc.
As stated by the United Nations (UN) Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Africa in 2012 that Africa incurs immense losses yearly through lack of adequate strategy and focus on the management of its natural resource base.
In recent years, we have seen excitement in Malawi in regard to minerals explorations. The country has taken more interest in the mineral sector to balance an economy reliant on agriculture amid climate related challenges and global anti – smoking campaigns that have reduced demand for tobacco, which is Malawi’s main foreign currency earner. But the big question has been how organised are we?
I appreciate efforts being undertaken by government and other actors in making sure we benefit from natural resources. Recently, we have noted the oil exploration in the Northern Region, but who is going to benefit? Looking at how the country messed up with Paladin in mining uranium, I wonder if ever we will benefit from this oil venture as a nation if we do not put in strong measures. No one can dispute uranium mining was imposed on the people of Karonga against their wishes. Sadly, Karonga has become an expensive district to live in when compared to the time the mine was not there.
The people are poorer now in spite of being promised improvement of their livelihoods. I see this oil venture project, as someone said , being a quick get rich gamble project. Sure Banya Karonga would not want to experience the same game as played by Paladin that left them as losers. This time they will want to get the share of the cake.
But what must Africa do to manage is natural resources? Africa must use its natural resources productively, in a sustainable manner and to the benefit of its people and future generations. Africa must shift from being a “resource cursed to resource blessed continent”.
Managing our natural resources to turn into a blessing for development can be built around three basic principles;
Natural resources belong to the people. Profits and revenues should benefit the people not a company or a president or government officials.
Openness and transparency to ensure popular ownership and shared benefits.
Good and development oriented leadership. Good national leadership work to ensure that natural resources revenues fuel national development. Leadership must initiate a national dialogue on the benefits and pitfalls of natural resources with the support of key actors.
In summary, ownership by the people, full openness and good sound leadership is what it takes to run natural resources into a blessing for development. n