Civil Society Actors in Francophone Africa Take a Deeper Look at State-Owned Enterprises

Extractive industry governance and the role of state-owned enterprises across sub-Saharan Africa are squarely in the spotlight after three huge scandals.

In Nigeria, citizens have lost billions in public revenues due to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s poorly governed oil sales, according to a recent NRGI report.

In the Republic of Congo, details emerged on a state-owned refinery’s decision to award an enormously lucrative contact to a company with close ties to the president’s son.

And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, state copper company Gécamines has been criticized for selling its shares in a valuable copper-cobalt mine at a price vastly below market value to an individual with strong personal links to the president.

In spite of these scandals and the massive role that state-owned companies play in their countries’ extractive industries and broader economies, these enterprises have largely escaped public scrutiny. In the ongoing effort to bolster public oversight of nationally owned companies, NRGI and Publish What You Pay Côte d’Ivoire in July organized an Abidjan workshop attended by members of civil society organizations from eight Francophone African countries. The workshop’s aim was to strengthen the capacity of civil society actors and promote transparent and accountable management of resource players. Presentations and working groups gave participants the tools needed to identify governance problems and assess compliance with EITI requirements.

As a result of the workshop, civil society actors agreed on the necessity of conducting a series of activities to promote transparency in state-owned oil and mining enterprises. They developed two strategic plans. The first called for implementation of case studies assessing the governance of state-owned oil and mining enterprises of the DRC, Congo, and Chad. The second called for the publication of information on Guinea, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and DRC oil and mining state-owned enterprises in those countries’ next EITI reports.

The attendees and representatives of Total and Royal Dutch Shell discussed the importance of publishing contracts and promoting public debate on the final day.

Eric Bisil is NRGI’s Africa program officer. Patrick Heller is the head of legal and economic programming at NRGI.