The EITI week in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, opens with a big bang, celebrities and strong messages.
The room was so crowded we had to organise extra chairs. Aside from the 60 participants from 14 Francophone African countries, the press and members of ministries and international institutions had made their way to the Novotel Hotel in central Abijdan.
This was a special opportunity: Not only did the EITI of Côte d'Ivoire host a large regional training. The EITI Chair, Fredrik Reinfeldt, had made his way to Ivory Coast’s largest city via Conakry, Guinea, to open a week of peer learning with a Conference on impact.
On the Ivorian side, the Minister of Finance, Mr Adama Koné, welcomed the participants and highlighted the progress made by Cote d’Ivoire in improving good governance of the oil, gas and mining sector. H.E. Koné pointed to the revision of the legal framework with the adoption of a new mining law in 2014. The government aims to increase the country's GDP issued from the mining sector from 1% as it currently stands to 5% in 2020.
The Secretary of the new Ivorian EITI supervisory body and chair of the MSG, N’Dri Koffi, also gave a warm welcome.
The debate that ensued after the opening ceremony was rich in examples of how the EITI is contributing in addressing governance challenges and changing the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability.
Breaking down walls, building trust and taking on new challenges
“Access to data is a human right” said Senator Innocent Nkongo Budina-Nzau from the DRC. Senator Budina gave a wide range of examples, where EITI is having an impact in the DRC: revenue traceability, local revenue management and the disclosure of beneficial ownership.
Clotilde Michèle Moukoko Mbonjo, the financial director of Cameroon’s state-owned oil company,SNH, said that “the EITI has broken down walls of incomprehension”. Today, everyone knows that companies file their payments and revenues. It is now discussed in the open.
“What about the sale of oil by the government?” a participant asked. Publishing the price at which oil is sold from the state-owned company, such as SNH, is now required under the Standard.
“I see no technical problems why this should not be disclosed” she responded matter-of-factly.
“The EITI – still young in Senegal – has helped to put the sector on the right track from the beginning” Cheikh Touré said. It has helped form the early stages of the growing sector, setting out an appropriate legal framework and setting standards in disclosure.
“We’ve come a long way to improve the legal framework here in Côte d’Ivoire” says Michel Yoboue of the civil-society organisation PWYP. However, more needs to be done to put good rules into action. How do these legal reforms play out in real life? When will contracts be published? When will we start to address environmental challenges?
Stephen Karangizi of the AfDB said “we can support your countries in strengthening your legal system”. He hopes that the EITI can be used to address topics such as transfer pricing.
During a meeting with EITI Chair, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and H.E. Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire, noted the importance of good governance to the country. Fredrik committed to support the country prepare for its upcoming Validation.
EITI – neither a catch-all, nor box ticking exercise
The afternoon training session was dedicated to “mainstreaming” – making automatic and verified publication of information the default in the government – instead of having a separate (EITI-) report or entity doing the work. Views strongly differed. “You are asking too much of us” one participant said. “It might work for Norway, but we have so many issues to address”. “You are underestimating your capabilities” others said. “Mainstreaming is already happening in your countries!”. The DRC national secretariat gave its example of having created an overview of all government databases available on the extractive industries. EITI in that context acts as signpost.
“The EITI cannot be a do-it-all” another participant said. “Some are trying to solve every problem with it, using it where it was not foreseen”.
“I’ve seen both extremes” said Bady Baldé, the Regional Director of Francophone Africa, leading the session. “The important thing to remember is: make it relevant for your country and its priorities.”
“It’s up to the multi-stakeholder group to decide how to use the EITI” another participant said. “If we want to cover forestry, we’ll cover forestry!”.
A dynamic crowd with energising stories
The Madagascar delegation had the opportunity to present the exciting – and at times controversial – work they had been doing on mining permits. “The 2015 report will be explosive!” one delegate said – with new controversial information coming into the open soon.
Find the programme and presentations on this page: Francophone training
We have also uploaded some pictures of the conference and the training here on flickr.