High-Level Conference on Transboundary Natural Resources Disputes in Africa
Policies, Institutions, and Management Experiences
Thursday, July 12, 2018 to Friday, July 13, 2018
Nairobi, Kenya

Africa is endowed with considerable natural resources both renewable and non-renewable, where only a fraction of these resources are put to use. Therefore, natural resources can potentially be major contributors to economic growth and poverty reduction. At a larger synthesis, natural resources can be a curse or a blessing depending on the governance and management arrangements adopted by the respective countries.

Intrastate conflicts over natural resources are well-documented and have dominated much of the academic and policy debate on the root causes of conflict in Africa. However, little attention has been given to current and potential inter-state conflicts over transboundary resources. It is worthwhile noting that competition over and scramble for natural resources between the industrialized and industrializing countries created an incentive for the control of these resources by national and international players. As African countries have embarked on the path of structural economic transformation and industrialization, their demand for natural resources including non-renewables will also increase. One of the consequences of increased demand for natural resources is that it can potentially lead to the re-emergence of old boundary disputes or the emergence of new conflicts over transboundary renewable and non-renewable resources.

The current ongoing dispute between Ghana and Ivory Coast over old maritime borders as Ghana began oil exploration and production in Jubilee Field in the Atlantic Ocean is a relevant example of these types of transboundary discords, related to natural resources. Similarly, Somalia took Kenya to the International Court of Justice over oil and gas-rich maritime borders. The conflict over the maritime border between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola began when the DRC government contested Angola's request to extend the length of its continental shelf by more than 200 miles at stake are billions of barrels of oil. The long-standing dispute between the Nile Basin countries, or Nigeria Niger perpetual flare of tensions over damming Niger River for hydroelectric power are cases in point. These are only a few examples of active transboundary disputes over natural resources, which are found in other parts of the continent, were border disputes will erupt once high-value natural resources are discovered. 

In achieving the objectives of its conflict and development research programmes,  ECA is organizing a High-level Policy Dialogue on Transboundary Natural Resources Disputes in Africa: Policies, Institutions, and Management Experiences, and launching the publication. It is hoped that this High-Level Policy Dialogue creates an opportunity for RECs and countries to contribute to the knowledge contained in the report and exchange experience pertaining to their own strategies and policy responses to the nexus between conflict and development.  The proposed High-Level Policy Dialogue aims to enable key stakeholders and member states to fully appreciate the findings of this study. More specifically, the objectives of the High level are to:

  • Enable Policy Makers to exchange country and cross-country policy experiences and lessons learned;
  • Map the magnitude and patterns of conflict-sensitive transboundary resources;
  • Analyze and explain the current policies and practices pertaining to the management of transboundary resources; and
  • Draw up conclusions and recommendations relevant to the prevention and management of conflicts over transboundary resources.

This Dialogue will be co-hosted by the Foreign Service Institute of Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  The participants at this event include representatives from member states, staff members of AU commission, Special envoys, members of the Peace and Security Council of the Africa Union, as well as select numbers of experts, academia, think tanks, research institutions, UN agencies and development partners. 


1.  Concept Note

2.  Executive Summary

For more information please contact:

Mr. Jalal Abdel-Latif
Head of the Governance and Human Security Cluster
Capacity Development Division,
Economic Commission for Africa
P.O. Box 3005
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: + 251-11- 544 3367
Email: jabdel-latif@uneca.org