Chad-Cameroon: oil and poverty reduction don’t mix
Comment||28 May 2003|update 34|
The Chad-Cameroon petroleum project was approved by the World Bank in June 2000 after more than three years of intense discussions between oil multinationals, the Bank, Bank member governments and NGOs from the South and the North. In response to the grievances received, the World Bank proposed a framework to impose social and environmental rules on the multinationals, and build the capacity of Cameroonian and Chadian governments to enable them to manage project-related opportunities and risks.
It may be too early to take stock of the overall petroleum project now that the construction phase has ended. Yet, a few weeks before the first oil flows, it seems possible to draw preliminary lessons of this unique experience in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Many observers had questioned the Bank's involvement in the project, arguing that the institution's poverty alleviation objectives seemed incompatible with an investment of this nature. The NGOs cited past experiences of oil exploitation in Africa, namely in Angola, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, none of which ushered in development.
It is therefore not surprising to note that almost nothing occurred according to World Bank predictions. This failure can be illustrated by the following four points:
The failure to respect promises in the construction phase is a cause for concern for the project's future. There are already talks of expanding the oil exploitation zone to the east of Chad, north of the Central African Republic and north of Cameroon. As the World Bank will have no means to exert pressure on the consortium it is hard to think that the operations will respect people and nature more than in the past three years. The major merit of the project is to have confirmed that under authoritarian regimes there is a fundamental incompatibility between poverty alleviation objectives and oil exploitation activities.
Comment by Samuel Nguiffo, Centre for Environment and Development, Cameroon
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Published: 28 May 2003 , last edited: 27 May 2010
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