Global attention is returning to Africa as an investment destination in the wake of increasing discoveries of significant minerals and oil deposits. Uganda, Southern Sudan, Ghana and Kenya are all poised joining the hallowed ranks of oil producing countries. Significant deposits of gas and coal have also been recently discovered in Tanzania and Kenya, respectively. In Kenya, the recent discovery of oil in Turkana county as well as other minerals such as niobium, titanium and coal have moved the debate on the role of the oil and extractive sector in country’s socio-economic development to the front page. The government is keen to attract foreign direct investment in the mining sector by promoting oil and mining as engines of socio-economic growth towards the achievement of its long-term development programme – as captured in Vision 2030 as well as in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But serious concerns remain. Stakeholders are very worried about the likely impacts of oil and gas exploitation as well as mining generally on the livelihoods of local communities. This is mainly because of the legal, policy, institutional and governance challenges well known to Kenya and the rest of the continent. The oil and mineral finds that should bring excitement and pride to these countries also comes with considerable anxieties if not fear the of prospects of the proverbial “African resource curse”. Many are expressing concern that exploration and extraction oil and minerals may lead to further impoverishment of local communities, serious environmental degradation and resource-based conflicts.
It is against this backdrop that Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG), in partnership with The Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA), are working to establish the Open Governance in the Extractive Sector Initiative (OGISI). The Initiative is currently in its Development Phase. Initial spadework is seeking to develop a platform for dialogue and a framework for engagement. The idea is to build a constituency and consolidate ideas on how best to promote and influence open and transparent governance in the oil & extractive sector in Kenya and Africa. This Phase comprises a series of constructive dialogues among CSOs on understanding the salient issues germane to this vast challenge. Questions raised seek to underscore the range and scope policies, laws and procedures for land, environment and mining sectors, as well as ways and models of securing the socio-economic rights and livelihoods of rural communities in mineral rich localities. The main activities in this development phase include research and a series of expert, national, and regional convening.