Focusing on policies conducive to increasing the contribution of natural resources (oil, gas and minerals) to the economic development of African LDCs, the Government of Norway funded a Vi project aimed at strengthening the capacity of academics in these countries to produce policy-relevant research in this area.
Activities of the USD 200,000 project, covered the three stages of the capacity building process, and generated three econometric studies by researchers from Guinea, Mali and Togo.
In the first stage - provision of relevant information - the Vi developed, in cooperation with UNCTAD's Special Unit on Commodities, two teaching modules on "Mining and economic development" and on "Oil, gas and economic development."
The second stage consisted of a professional development workshop (Tanzania, July 2010) benefiting from the participation of the Norwegian Oil for Development Initiative andattended by 24 African academics from oil-, gas- and mineral-rich countries. During the workshop,participants strengthened their knowledge of the linkages between natural resources and economic growth and related policies, as well as their analytical skills in this area. In order to encourage them to undertake policy-oriented research, the workshop concluded with a round table on linking research with policymaking which discussed practical steps to facilitate cooperation with policymakers and increase the uptake of the research.
In the third stage, three researchers, from universities in Guinea, Mali and Togo, selected through a competitive process, got the opportunity to apply the knowledge from the workshop to the development of research projects of relevance to policymakers in their countries, with coaching support from an expert in the subject matter. In cooperation with their countries' policymakers, the three researchers wrote papers examining the impact of the extraction of minerals (bauxite in Guinea, gold in Mali and phosphates in Togo) on the economic development in their countries.
Despite the differences among these countries, some policy recommendations converged, in particular as it relates to the need of increasing value-added through a higher level of processing, strengthening linkages with other sectors in view of creating employment, reviewing mining legislation/contracts and participating in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, among others. More general recommendations included the use of revenues from mineral exports for poverty-reduction purposes, and a greater diversification of the countries' economies to reduce their dependence on minerals.
The project's impact can also be seen in the area of teaching, as participants from Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Togo used the Vi teaching materials to strengthen their courses and academic programmes on commodity production and trade, mineral resources management, economic development, and economics, respectively.
In the area of policy-oriented research, a participant from Zimbabwe, as the researchers from Guinea and Togo, wrote papers in cooperation with a policymaker in his country. An academic from Mozambique used the oil and gas materials from the workshop in his consultancy work for the African Union. The participant from Uganda was appointed to the team tasked with the monitoring and evaluation of his country's national oil and gas policy, while his colleague from Zambia briefed members of the parliament on the role of extractive industries in the economic development of the country. The academic from Togo, following the paper he wrote under this project, was asked to contribute to capacity building in his country in the framework of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.