Maximising profit is the regular business mantra. But getting something for nothing is the ultimate lure for prospectors. As in earlier times, those that get lucky realise vast fortunes; but today, they also become lightning rods for debates around ownership. This is no surprise, for a lot rests on the answer to the question: Whose resources?
A gold seam in Northern Nigeria could be the property of Nigeria; Northern Nigeria; the person on whose land it was discovered; the company that discovered it; the Minister in charge of negotiations. Or, indeed, all of the above. But the debates don’t end there. Some feel resources could belong to yet another country. Take Alaska as a case in point. Or that citizens across the world should have a right to exercise their opinion. Take the plight of Brazilian forests.
What is certain is that the erstwhile practice of ‘finders keepers’ is no longer tenable. This is due to an increased understanding of the potentially hazardous legacy of non-renewable resources, and an appreciation of the benefits of good stewardship – for the coffers of countries, avoiding war, protecting futures, and, indeed, protecting the planet.
This conversation [Resources debate on 6 June 2013] will focus on Africa, a continent rich in commodities and with a rapidly growing population. The first question is: Whose resources? The second is: What’s needed to ensure that Africa’s resources are harnessed to maximum equitable and sustained benefit? And finally: Does citizenship – national or global – have a part to play in finding solutions?
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