Geneva, 3 November 2008 - Africa has large reserves for petroleum and gas, as well as minerals, and recent high demand for these raw materials provides opportunities for Africa to capitalize on these resources to boost their economic growth, poverty reduction, and development.
UNCTAD´s 12th African Oil, Gas & Minerals Trade and Finance Conference will centre on the theme of "natural resources for development." The conference will take place from 4-7 November in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, and will attract government officials, investors, and executives from small and large petroleum and mining firms. An anticipated 600 participants will attend this event. The opening session will be addressed by Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea; Fradique de Menezes, President of Sao Tome & Principe; Jean Ping, President of the Africa Union; David Ekoume, Executive Secretary of the African Petroleum Producers Association (APPA); and UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi.
The session will discuss how a natural resource sector that has long had narrow economic benefits for source countries -- and has exported much of its profits to foreign conglomerates -- can be harnessed to provide more widespread progress.
Although much of the continent has not been properly surveyed, Africa (according to the British Petroleum Energy Survey) has 9.49% of the world´s proven oil reserves and 8.22% of global natural gas reserves. Mineral resources, also not thoroughly catalogued, include significant deposits of bauxite (42% of global reserves), uranium (38%), gold (42%), platinum (73%), diamonds (88%), and non-ferrous metals such as chromite, manganese, and cobalt.
Among the challenges of harvesting these resources effectively is finding ways to link extraction and profits to other economic sectors so that jobs are created and industrial growth is stimulated. Also, for non-oil-producing countries in Africa, climbing petroleum prices have threatened to erase recent economic progress. Stable economies such as those of South Africa, Senegal, and Ghana, have seen a recent jump in the cost of oil equivalent to 3% of their gross domestic products (GDPs).
Other challenges for Africa include achieving greater transparency in how natural resource profits are channelled; eliminating corruption; and maintaining economic stability in the face of wide swings in energy prices.
The conference will feature roundtable discussions with panellists from national oil companies (NOCs) and government energy and mining ministers.
UNCTAD´s African Oil, Gas & Minerals Trade and Finance Conference provides an annual forum for discussion of trends and topical issues affecting the continent´s petroleum and minerals sectors. This year´s gathering is the first major international conference to be held in Equatorial Guinea.