Elections provide an opportunity for political parties to enter into a social contract with the voters. One critical area that needs to be part of the election campaign in Africa is how the different political parties intend to manage natural resources to ensure that citizens benefit.
The absence of a vigorous debate among political parties on resource management in Africa is a serious setback to efforts to promote good governance. Natural resources offer Africa an opportunity to fund real progress and development.
Common sense suggests that valuable resources should attract the attention of political parties during election periods so that they can give the voters their view on this critical issue but unfortunately this is not the case. Political parties in Africa do not explain how they intend to transform the management of natural resources if they are given the chance to run the country.
In Africa, extractive industries and politics are closely linked. Most contracts receive political support before they are signed. Companies always want to maintain close and good relations with the political elite by providing financial support when requested. During elections, these companies contribute to funding the political parties’ elections campaign.
However, most of the funds are given to the ruling party. While private firms’ funding of political activities is not illegal in many African countries, it has a negative impact on the governance of the mining and oil sectors, and provides space for corrupt business practices to set in. Therefore, it is important for all political parties to discuss how they intend to transform the extractive sector to ensure that it is transparent and accountable and that it genuinely benefits the people – and that it is not just at the service of the ruling party.