Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister of oil-rich Nigeria, has cautioned Ghana to employ greater transparency and accountability in managing its fledgling oil industry in order to avoid the challenges associated with harnessing the natural resource.
“My sisterly advice is that you should be uncompromising on issues of transparency and accountability in the sector,” she stressed.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who is also the Nigerian Coordinating Minister of the Economy, made the recommendation during a lecture on, “What Africa should do to claim the 21st Century,” at the 2nd John A. Kufuor Global Development Series 2013 in Accra on Friday.
She said that before her country discovered oil, its economy was well diversified, with agriculture contributing about 64 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while the manufacturing sector accounted for about five per cent.
However, “once oil came on stream, the non-oil sectors contracted, the psychology and mentality of the people changed, and a lot of entrepreneurial energy was now directed at rent-seeking activities like chasing after government contracts rather than productive investments”, she said.
By 2010, agriculture had shrunk to about 40 per cent of GDP while manufacturing had slipped to about four per cent.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Ghana’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act has been widely praised because the legislation specifies how petroleum revenue should be collected and allocated.
However, she warned that temptation could set in at some level and therefore recommended that policymakers and leaders to be more transparent in the negotiations of contracts.
They should also do their homework thoroughly before beginning contract negotiations with foreign oil firms and investing the oil income in public infrastructure, she recommended.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank Group, called on African leaders to pay close attention job creation, addressing widening inequalities, building resilience against climate shocks, financing development and deepening regional integration.
She noted that Africans could do better if they work harder at regional and sub-regional integration, stressing, “Nigeria and Ghana can be a collective powerhouse of Africa and West Africa if we can look closely at economic ties we need to build to bind us…together.”
“Infrastructure is certainly key, like making the West Africa Gas Pipeline work better. But trade is also important and we need to facilitate commerce in our sub-region, making it easier for the private sector to manufacture and sell goods in our countries.”
Dr Okonjo-Iweala observed that the necessary building blocks for development are finally falling into place: good economic policies, good governance, and investments in infrastructure and skills. “With these building blocks in place, we can create a platform for the private sector to grow,” she said.
Former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor noted that human and natural resources abound in Africa but that due to poorly groomed and nurtured leadership, the people live in abject poverty.
He said leadership is the most important and decisive factor in all human activity, which is why his Foundation is seeking to establish good leaders by creating a Centre of Distinction that would train budding world leaders in all facets of human endeavour.
The Foundation would fashion measures to promote good governance on the continent through electoral monitoring, the strengthening of electoral systems, conflict mediation and resolution, promoting accountability and transparency and deepening democratic structures.
The Foundation would also focus on economic and social development, applying the expertise of international leaders to areas such as economic diversification, debt relief, public-private partnerships and the strengthening of social safety nets. Together, the Foundation hopes, these efforts will foster the critical tools to ensure the sustainable development of countries and businesses across Africa.
The John A. Kufuor Foundation focuses on three inter-related pillars, leadership, governance and development, and will collaborate with state institutions, civil society organisations, the private sector, the media and development partners in order to achieve its vision of effective leadership, democratic governance and sustainable development in Africa.