Oil, corruption and conflict in West Africa: The failure of governance and corporate social responsibility

Oil, corruption and conflict in West Africa: The failure of governance and corporate social responsibility

Natural resources are a noted cause of intra-state conflict and deserve recognition as such by ECOWAS. Oil, in particular, is linked to frequent civil strife and conflicts induced by slow rates of economic growth, weak and undemocratic governments, rampant corruption and heavy militarization. Many African countries have already suffered the negative consequences of an oil-dependency, including Angola, which endured a brutal civil war that lasted for more than a quarter-century. Recent new discoveries of oil in West Africa have made the region a high priority for investment by International Oil Companies (IOC’s), especially since governments such as the United States have begun to regard West African oil production as an alternative to reliance on oil exports from Middle East.  Unless a concerted effort is made to change the nature of the industry, the hope that the abundance of oil in West Africa will foster significant poverty reduction will come to knot.

The aim of this monograph is to examine the correlation between corporate behavior and an increased potential for conflict in oil-producing countries. The study asserts that IOCs can and must change their way of doing business, and that by working cooperatively with the international and advocacy communities, that change will reduce or even eliminate conflicts and other maladies of resource-rich West African countries. The scope of this study includes oil producers in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly West Africa, but also includes Angola and newcomer Equatorial Guinea.

In conclusion, the author suggests that relevant elements of the Conflict Prevention Mechanism, including the Executive Secretariat, should strive to achieve a balance between the aims and interests of NGO’s, the international community, governments, indigenous communities, the IOC’s and private sector contractors. This is admittedly easier said than done, but for West Africans to benefit economically from extractive activities on their soil there must be a collective responsibility for that outcome, to be addressed as a regional priority, if future conflicts are to be avoided.

[adapted from author]

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