Energy, Democracy and Development: the case of Africa

International seminar hosted by FRIDE
12 March 2009, 9.30 a.m. - 5.00 p.m., Madrid / Spain

This seminar, convened by FRIDE, aims to examine the links between European polices on development co-operation, energy security and the promotion of good governance. It draws on the expertise of practitioners, policy experts and academics including Antonio Garcia Fragio (EC DG Development, Belgium) and Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi (Centre for Democratic Development, Ghana). A special emphasis is put on two case studies, namely Nigeria and Angola, which will be discussed with Humphrey Assisi Asobie (Board of EITI, Nigeria) and Alex Vines (Chatham House, UK). In a last session policy implications for a European energy policy will be debated by Jean Pierre Favennec (French Oil Institute, UK), Nicholas Shaxon (Chatham House, UK), Vanessa Pouget (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, France) and Kojo Pumpuni Asante (Centre for Democratic Development, Ghana).

This seminar, held under Chatham House rules, is aimed at policy-makers, development specialists and students of the region.  If you would like to attend please contact Edward Burke at or +34-654186359.

Final agenda.

Report on the seminar

Conference proceedings began with participants outlining the vast extent of Africa’s energy wealth, its emergence of a major oil and gas producer in recent years.  The advent of emerging donors has precipitated a shift in EU and member state policies towards Africa with a tendency to return to ‘energy realism’.  The debate over exerting influence to promote governance reform versus energy security has not been resolved but many participants concluded that it is often futile for the EU to try and impose governance standards on unwilling governments in Africa. The EU needs to develop bi-lateral partnerships rather than opting for the old unilateral ‘carrot and stick’ approach of tying aid to governance reform.

The misuse of energy resources in Africa is evident from the disparity that exists between an exponential increase in energy exports and the lack of progress in providing access to energy domestically.  This is even more frustrating given the current wastage of energy resources due to gas flaring and other industry malpractices. Access to energy can only be secured in the long-term by the adoption of improved standards of governance and accountability not by hand-outs. Thankfully this is becoming more appreciated by traditional donor countries but is still not reflected in overall levels of assistance. Nevertheless, the Paris declaration is a major step in improving donor harmonisation of assistance to Africa.

Participants praised the development of European Partnership Agreements, regarding them as a potential stepping stone to eventual free trade agreements with African countries. This is an important catalyst for economic diversification although major energy exporting countries have not yet signed up to EPAs. It will take far-sighted African leadership prompted by a robust civil society for these countries do so. There is currently a grave deficit in African research into the energy sector which makes it difficult for civil society to combat corruption. The EU should play a deeper role in promoting such home-grown research. 

While the EU has an ostensibly common approach to governance in energy producing states, at the member state level this is simply not the case. This was obvious in the case of Angola where some member states have highly contrasting bi-lateral relations.

The financial crisis will have a profound effect upon European policies towards Africa. Development assistance is being cut and more reductions should be expected in the future. A fall in energy prices and a global economic downturn will also further impoverish Africa. Participants concluded that Europe should consider the destabilising impact to global markets arising from an economic crisis in Africa – especially with regard to vital energy imports - and reverse the current trend of cutting development assistance.

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