Revenues from the extractive industries – minerals, oil and gas – are subject to emerging international norms of financial transparency and good governance that are said to make the renewed scramble for the natural resources of Africa different from the outright plunder of colonial times. Despite the rhetoric of international organisations like the World Bank and the national governments of the developed world, however, evidence of beneficiation in social and environmental senses is ambivalent.
Especially difficult to find is the effective linkage of mining revenues, when indeed captured by host governments and peoples, to policy outcomes critical for social development, including food security. Analysts such as Paul Collier have identified the importance of such linkages but their analyses are weakened by an acceptance of conventional notions of development that leave issues of energy, waste and ownership largely unchallenged.
Australian governments and companies are critically involved in the resolution of these issues, not least in Africa where Australian mining companies have a large and growing presence. A number of emerging partnerships between Australian and Chinese companies will test Australian claims, advanced by successive governments, that Australian norms of corporate practice are exemplary and provide pathways to sustainable development in the extractive industries.
Associate Professor Geoffrey Hawker is a member of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific.