Riding Senegal’s reforming wave

The EITI profile of the month Cheikh Tidiane Touré says ensuring more transparency is siding with history.

Senegal’s extractive sector has grown remarkably in the past few years. Mining has attracted investment, and companies are now producing gold, phosphate and zircon. Exploration of off-shore oil assets has intensified, which has raised high expectations. In this situation, accessing information on the sector’s contribution to the state budget, as well as the economy as a whole, is a challenge for citizens.

Engaging citizens in economic governance

I have always considered the lack of transparency and accountability as undermining our development efforts in Africa. However, it has been difficult for civil society to engage into dialogue in the economic sphere and hold the state accountable. As seen in structural adjustment programmes, some economic issues have traditionally been reserved for dialogue between the state and international financial institutions. So when in the mid-2000s we saw the emergence of new instruments, such as the EITI, I understood this was a breakthrough and I chose to side with history.

For this reason I find taking part in the Senegalese EITI process very exciting. We are improving the management of extractive resources at a time when significant changes are taking place in the mining sector and oil exploration is well underway. I believe that revenue transparency will enable Senegal to optimise the use of resources from the sector.

Looking beyond the minimum

A remarkable reform process towards good governance is taking place in Senegal and in the region. My dream is that in a few years’ time the EITI multi-stakeholder group (MSG) will become a catalyst for reform, drawing its legitimacy from the law. I hope to see Senegal become an EITI Compliant country and regional forerunner, where citizens have access to reliable information on the extractive industries.  Of course, this requires capacity building and transparent management of licences and revenues, so that communities can benefit from balanced development.

In this respect, when I see how the government provides the resources for EITI implementation, how development partners show an interest in supporting the process and mining companies welcome the MSG for site visits and how MSG members express their commitment, I feel exhilarated about being part of the EITI’s success.

So far, there is good collaboration among different stakeholders but we want to go even further. Our goal is to stimulate and support their own efforts. We would be happy to see one day the Chamber of Mines organise an information session on transparency or the EITI and invite the MSG. Same goes for the government: the customs or tax authorities could someday invite the MSG to discuss the governance of the extractive industries. These are the things we want to see happen.

First things first

The biggest challenges are related to capacity: the MSG’s capacity to execute its mandate and civil society’s capacity to act as a watchdog. This is why capacity building has been our starting point. When actors have the needed capacity, data collection, the production of reports and communication become easier. As we move along, MSG members are realising the wide scope of questions to answer in order to procure a report that meets all of the EITI Requirements. There are many ways in which we can collaborate with the government to improve data collection and production about the extractive sector.

Learning from others

I have had the benefit of participating in regional workshops and learning from other EITI countries and  I have learned important lessons from our peers. First of all, civil society is a key actor in the EITI process and we must strive to increase our collaboration so that it can play its part. We always try to engage civil society, beyond the MSG, in all the phases of our work. Another important stakeholder group is parliamentarians. Collaboration with this group allows for the institutionalisation of the dialogue on transparency and we are planning a workshop for them in April.

I have also learned that data collection requires time, and the MSG needs to be well organised. The commitment of high-level authorities sends a strong signal to government agencies and companies that they must disclose information. After publishing the report, a good communication strategy is needed for the information to reach all parts of the country. The MSGs need to be innovative to reach their targets.

Where can it lead?

While trainings and support for coordination efforts are sufficient for civil society and companies, engaging the government is more complex. The EITI Standard includes requirements that could lead to beneficial reforms in implementing countries.

In Senegal, the EITI has potential to address many challenges. Targeted actions are needed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of different government actors and to give the technical services of the Ministry of Finance a better understanding of the extractive sector. Citizens’ oversight of the extractive industries could be strengthened, for example, by reviewing the licensing system so that monitoring becomes easier. These elements represent the practical impact the EITI can have in Senegal.

 

Senegal became an EITI Candidate country in October 2013. Read more on the country page