"Economic Crisis has pointed to the need for Diversification"- says UNCTAD Secretary-General
The Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, has emphasised that the current economic crisis "is a stark reminder of the need to diversify away from reliance on one or two commodities in order to achieve economic stability". He said this at the recently organised 13th UNCTAD Africa Oil, Gas and Minerals, Trade & Finance Conference and Exhibition held in Bamako, Mali from 10th to 13th November 2009. The theme for the conference which was attended by over 500 delegates from 30 countries, including a dozen ministers, was "Natural resources development: Capturing value from information".
At the opening ceremony were the Presidents of Mali and Sao Tome and Principe, H.E Amadou Toumani Touré and H.E. Fradique de Menezes. While challenging the assembled experts to provide innovative solutions and identify best practices for dealing with the issue of price volatility, the Secretary-General called on resource-rich countries to maximise opportunities when prices rebound and revenues increase. He explained that as a think-tank for developing countries, UNCTAD is a laboratory for ideas and provides on-the ground assistance to help developing countries raise the living standards of their people through trade, investment, finance and technology. In line with the central theme of the Conference, the Secretary-General noted the important role played by information in the transformation of natural resource deposits into wealth, a factor which is often overlooked in developing countries.
An exhibition mounted by companies engaged in Africa's extractive industries was officially opened by the two Presidents and the Secretary General of UNCTAD. The exhibition attracted over 1000 visitors.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, H.E. Supachai Panitchpakdi, delivering his opening statement
During the four days of deliberations, several issues were discussed including the extreme vulnerability of mineral dependent countries to price volatility vis-à-vis the weakness of the local transformation of raw materials; the importance of energy security (access and energy mix) for economic development and regional integration; the need for appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks to stimulate inward investment; the access to finance by local entrepreneurs in this credit crunch era; and the need to sustainably manage the resources in a manner that safeguards and restores the environment.
The issue of risk management during the exploration process was seen to be crucial, underlying the importance of the central theme of the conference, the value of information. The ability to provide access to reliable exploration data to potential investors was deemed to be the first issue to be resolved. The role of the State in this was underlined.
The Conference adopted a resolution, calling on UNCTAD to launch a Natural Resource Information Exchange (NRIE) in Africa. This resolution is in tandem with the results of UNCTAD's survey on an appropriate scheme to improve the management of natural resources information, requested by African countries.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Kwabena Baah-Duodu, Senior Advisor to the Secretary General of UNCTAD/Officer-in-Charge of the Special Unit on Commodities reiterated the value of information in order to avert the risks encountered during exploration, exploitation and transformation processes. He welcomed the focus given to the required content of the data base which could best match the needs of policy-makers and of the public, as private investors, in order to harness development gains from natural resources.
The next (14th) UNCTAD Africa Oil, Gas and Minerals, Trade & Finance Conference and Exhibition will be held in Sao Tome and Principe in November 2010.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi with his Senior Advisor/Officer-in-Charge of the Special Unit on Commodities, Mr. Kwabena Baah-Duodu, greeting the Presidents of Sao Tome and Principe and Mali, H.E. Fradique de Menezes and H.E. Amadou Toumani Touré on the latter’s arrival at the conference center
Sao Tome President, H.E. Fradique de Menezes, cutting the ribbon to open the exhibition. In the picture are the President of Mali, H.E. Amadou Toumani Touré, to the left of the Sao Tomean President and UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi to his right.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, H.E. Supachai Panitchpakdi, with school children during a brief visit to the historical town of Djenné, Mali