African Development Forum VIII
23 October 2012 to 25 October 2012
Addis Ababa

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The African Development Forum (ADF), an Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) flagship biennial event created in 1999, is a multi-stakeholder platform for debating, discussing and initiating concrete strategies for Africa's development. It is convened in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), African Development Bank (AfDB) and other key partners to establish an African-driven development agenda that reflects consensus and leads to specific programmes for implementation. The aim of ADF is to present the key stakeholders in Africa’s development with the results of current research and opinions on key development issues in order to formulate shared goals, priorities and programmes, and define the environment that will enable African countries to implement these programmes.

The Forum brings together a large number of participants including Heads of State and Government, African member State policymakers, development partners, other United Nations agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (IGOs/NGOs), academia, practitioners, civil society organizations (CSOs), the private sector, eminent policy and opinion leaders and other concerned stakeholders. The Forum includes plenary and high-level parallel panel sessions as well as side-events featuring keynote/lead speakers and presenters, media representatives and other participants.

The theme of ADF-VIII is Governing and harnessing natural resources for Africa’s development”. This theme could not have been placed on the ADF agenda at a more appropriate time. It builds on the outcome of the Fifth Session of the Joint AUC-ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in March 2012 in Addis Ababa under the theme “Unleashing Africa’s potential as a pole of global growth”. The Conference endorsed the decision to focus the theme of ADF-VIII on “Governing and harnessing natural resources for Africa’s development”. The platform offers as much an opportunity to build partnerships as for the occasion to further deepen discussions on implementation of: the Africa Mining Vision (AMV); the AU Declaration on Land; the Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy in Africa (F&G); the Implementation Strategy for the Accelerated Industrialization Development for Africa (AIDA); Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests; and other frameworks for best practices in the management of mineral, land, fisheries and forest resources.

ADF-VIII will therefore underscore the importance of natural resources governance in the social and economic transformation processes in Africa to foster growth and poverty reduction. It will also emphasize the social, economic and environmental pillars associated with natural resources management, as well as institutional and policy frameworks within which natural resources can be effectively harnessed to meet development goals. Sharing best practices, innovative policies, operational frameworks, evidence-based knowledge and information and participatory arrangements for effective resource harnessing will be the focus of the Forum in 2012, along with showcasing appropriate institutional and governance frameworks for leveraging natural resources for Africa’s development.

Globally, the scramble for access to and development of natural resources has intensified, partly due to the rising demand for natural resources from emerging economies. This trend has reflected on commodity prices, which are at historic highs, and on the terms of trade, altered in favour of commodities. The continent is caught in what some have termed ‘the second scramble for Africa.’ However, a historic opportunity has also opened up for Africa to effectively utilize its natural resources to fuel economic development. This opportunity is enhanced by positive developments on the continent, including governance gains, greater policy space, increased interest in exploring better platforms for development and raised aspirations among the citizenry for a better future. This is therefore an opportune time to deliberate on the roles and strategic importance of natural resources in Africa’s transformation.

ADF-VIII will focus on mineral, land, forest and fishery resources, and the potential roles these resources play in the transformation of the continent. Despite their importance, water resources will not be an item on the ADF-VIII agenda for a number of reasons. First, water in itself is such a broad and major issue that sufficient discussion on it would require sessions equivalent to the ADF itself. Second, inclusion of water as a specific resource for discussion during ADF-VIII would overshadow in-depth discussion and debate on the other resources. As a result, the crucial issue of water is left to be explored in full in future ADFs. Notwithstanding, as a crosscutting issue for integrated natural resources management, discussions on water will permeate the entire Forum.

Mineral resources extraction and trade constitute major economic activities in many African States, supporting economic and social development. Recent global commodity price hikes and increased flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into mineral-rich States has caused the policy debate to resurface on how best to position the natural resources sector to enhance broad-based development. Moreover, the potential of marine mineral resources and urban mining are increasingly appearing on the development agenda and Africa’s constituencies will have to respond accordingly. Debating emerging strategies on sustainable mineral resources development (for greater contribution to overall development) and appropriate governance structures is therefore timely.

Land resources provide a multitude of socio-economic, cultural and environmental services that solidify broad-based development. Land is therefore a crucial resource in Africa, defining economic and social values, while providing opportunities for asserting rights and promoting sustainable livelihoods. Women and youth often remain at the margins in gaining access to, control and ownership of land. The surge in global food and energy prices and the increased pressure on food and energy security have partly led to the resurgence of demand for high-value and productive land by global and local land investors.

As a result, a significant amount of productive agricultural land in African States has been leased, or sold, to investors anticipating greater gains from land deals. This increases the vulnerability of communities and groups currently struggling to access, utilize and own land, including women and youth. The growing concern about land rights, human rights, food security, environmental impacts, social dislocation and other issues on one hand, and the potential gains in terms of attracting much needed investment capital, technology and human capital in the agricultural sector on the other have sharpened the debate about the costs, benefits and appropriateness of large-scale land transactions on the continent. Shedding more light on the economic, social, environmental, institutional and governance issues around land transactions has become timely.

Africa’s forest resources, the mainstay of energy supplies, have economic and socio-cultural significance. Forests provide vital services which underpin economic performance, people’s wellbeing and environmental sustainability. Forests also play a vital role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, thus making it critical to focus on supporting communities, in particular the interaction of women and men with forest resources. Alarming deforestation in Africa, the second largest loss in the world, is exacerbated by illegal logging, excessive reliance on fuel wood for energy use and uncontrollable bush fires on the one hand. On the other are the emerging opportunities for enhancement of forest carbon stocks in climate-change management and the debate raised about the policy, legal, institutional, technical and economic constraints that impact on wider application of sustainable forest management. Such deliberation on emerging strategies for sustainable management and development of forest resources in Africa and for enhancement of their contribution to overall development is also timely.

Inland water and oceanic/sea fishery resources offer tremendous potential and opportunities for development. Fishery resources contribute to nutrition and food security, create employment and income opportunities and generate export earnings. However, widespread unsustainable fishing practices and illegal fishing by predatory fishers have left capture fisheries with a shrinking resource base, undermining food security, economic wellbeing and ecological safety. Based on current knowledge, debate about resource management, institutional and governance arrangements and economic enhancement of the sectors for broader contribution to development is long overdue, calling urgently for a transparent platform for discussion.

ADF-VIII will therefore highlight key aspects of mineral, land, forestry and fishery resources management and development. The focus areas will enable a wider platform for various stakeholders to participate and will emphasize critical issues in each of these areas. Discussions will be organized around the following thematic focus areas:

  • Policy, legal and regulatory issues
  • Economic issues, including participation and ownership
  • Knowledge base, human and institutional capabilities
  • Environmental, material stewardship and climate change
  • Governance, human rights and social issues

Gender and youth empowerment will be taken into consideration as crosscutting issues in the discussion of all the above mentioned areas.