By Michael Jarvis
Once a concession agreement or any large-scale public procurement contract is signed, who can ensure that the terms are met? How will commitments turn into development on the ground?
This is the puzzle that a mix of around 70 government, business and civil society leaders from West Africa began to solve this past week. Facing many common challenges around procurement and the rapid scale-up of extractive industries, it was encouraging to see the comfort with which different stakeholders interacted and often found themselves on the same page, even on sensitive topics such as corruption.
Though hot and sunny in Monrovia, the pool remained deserted. As one observer put it, "You could see the sweat on the walls" from all the hard work in developing and refining concrete plans for improved contract monitoring in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as well as two regional initiatives. These include engaging new players, better mechanisms to get relevant contract information to affected communities, and organizing a regional summit on transparency around extractives contracts.
Convened by the World Bank Institute and the World Bank's Africa Region, and hosted with the Liberian Government, the concluding message was the need to deliver on the commitments made. Seed funding will help, as should creation of a regional network to support this agenda. Plus there are existing efforts to build on.
For example, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative already has the mandate to publish all mining, petroleum, agriculture and forestry concession deals, so translating those out of legalese and finding the channels to get that to local communities (as already done for revenue data) is a logical next step.