Online Lab Event of the World Resources Forum 2023

Innovative Partnerships for Responsible Resource Use in Africa- A Summary 


This session, which took part at the World Resource Forum 2023, was a collaboration of the International Resource Panel (IRP) with the African Development Bank (AfDB). The African Development Bank has a renewed focus on natural resource management in terms of strengthening the pillars of good governance and investment facilitation to create a favourable business environment to attract both domestic and foreign investments in African countries. The International Resource Panel provides independent, coherent, and authoritative scientific assessments of policy relevance on the sustainable use of natural resources. The African Development Bank and IRP’s future cooperation could support projects to advance the Africa Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, SDGs and High 5s for Transforming Africa among other key initiatives for the African continent. 

Objective of the session: 

To contribute to discussions on responsible use and financing of Africa’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources. The AfDB and the IRP collaborated in this online event to inspire talks and a panel debate on the challenges, best practices, actions and roles of the international development partners and their cooperation towards increasing investment in natural resources management and responsible management and use of natural resources in Africa.


The session was moderated by Innocent Onah, Chief Natural Resources Officer at the AfDB. The discussion was opened by welcome remarks by Merlyn Van Voore, Head of the International Resource Panel Secretariat, who spoke briefly about the IRP’s scientific mandate and IRP’s upcoming flagship report, the Global Resources Outlook 2024 (GRO24). That report, to be presented to the United Nations Envinroment Assembly in 2024, addresses the challenges and possible solution pathways of responsible management of natural resources worldwide. The world’s performance in achieving the climate and development targets for sustainable consumption and production have so far been lacking, and hence the importance of recognising resources and their influence on the well-being of people and planet and the key role their management has to ramping up progress. As an example, Ms. Van Voore highlighted our reliance on the extractive industry, using the example of an every-day object like a cell phone, whose manufacture depends on the mining of metals and minerals. She addressed the importance of the correct financial incentives needed to make sure that the extractive industry progresses in a sustainable way, something that is explored in the upcoming GRO24 report. Merlyn Van Voore also reflected on the progresses made over the past twenty years. She laid out how the term ‘circular economy’ is now part of a common lexicon and how the nexus between the triple planetary crisis, natural resource use and human well-being is more and more acknowledged. Now is the time to act on this knowledge.

Keynote speaker, Vanessa UshieActing Director of the AfDB’s African Natural Resources Management and Investment Centre in her presentation on “Leveraging natural resources for sustainable and prosperous African futures” shared her insights on responsible use of natural resources for sustainable development. Under the framing of the ‘High 5’ priorities of the AfDB and considering Africa’s heavy dependence on its natural resources, the role of valuing nature and its transformation towards sustainable development was highlighted. In the context of a general decreasing trendline for Africa’s natural capital, Vanessa Ushie emphasized that African land is critical to resilience and the urgent need for sustainable management to move from nature reliance to nature resilience. She concluded her talk by urging everyone to think and act differently in how we use our resources and on a hopeful note of moving beyond natural resources to natural capital that could cause a shift in the understanding of value and materiality.

The next speaker, Dr. Hans Bruyninckxformer Executive Director of the European Environment Agency and IRP Panel member, addressed the question of sustainable management of natural resources as an investment priority. Since  the way we use our resources provides well-being and drives transgressions of planetary boundaries, sustainable resource management should not only be elevated in an African context, but rather be central to how we look at managing the economy. By referring to the IRP’s GRO24, Hans Bruyninckx focused on the justice and distributional issues in the African continent. He illustrated the imbalance in the relationship between the African continent with the global north, with Africa bearing the ecological and social costs of high-income country’s resource use. He called for systematic transitions that could transform natural resources and capital into social well-being.

Dr. Elias AyukDirector of Policy Advisory Services at CHAINT Afrique Academy and IRP Panel Member, shared insights and lessons learnt to catalyse science-based policy action to foster cooperation. By referring to the IRP report on “Mineral Resource Governance in the 21st century” published in 2020, he called for effective governance as the first step to overcome the challenges Africa is facing today with natural resources management. Among those challenges, he identified illicit financial flows, political instabilities, a lack of transparency and accountability, the absence of clear legal and policy frameworks for natural resources management, but also the asymmetry of power in the relationship between the global north and the global south. Based on these challenges, a framework which integrates human rights and responsive business practices is needed to ensure both the protection of the environment and symmetric relationships. Elias Ayuk advocated for the adoption of a quadruple bottom-line which includes environment, economy, politics, and social benefits. The “sustainable development license to operate” developed in the 2020 IRP report is an effective governance instrument allowing better outcomes for both the global north and the global south. Finally, he emphasized the potential of an IRP-AfDB collaboration to better understand the materials footprint of resources use in Africa and put into practice science-based recommendations. 

Finally, Dr. Balakrishna PisupatiHead of Environmental Policy Unit, UNEP, was asked to identify examples of best practices, key policies and actions required to increase investment in natural resources management in Africa. What needs to be done now is to translate the potential of natural resources in Africa into something concrete. He added that the valuation of these natural resources should not only be looked at from a global lens, but also from the perspective of local communities. Especially, innovative partnerships - including potential partnerships between the IRP and the AfDB - are important tools to empower local communities and ensure that they share in the benefits of resource use. Balakrishna Pisupati finally laid out critical levers to be activated. First, we should look beyond the private and public sector to move toward integrated finance and thus make available new resources. Second, an improved financial literacy to translate knowledge into action but also to foster synergies and cooperation between finance and other stakeholders of biodiversity cooperation. Last but not least, he advocated for local and national discussions along the ones at global scale to enable a responsible resource use for Africa. Balakrishna Pisupati gave a final statement on  how circular economy could help to leverage a just future oriented use of resources in Africa, advocating for a strong focus on consumption patterns.

 Africa is today at a critical juncture which represents an opportunity for countries to find a more sustainable development model. A deep transition is needed as economies cannot rely anymore on rent extraction. Vanessa Ushie stressed that the AfDB is engaged in driving this process, and open to explore different types of innovative partnerships to that end. As such the IRP-AfDB collaboration is a great opportunity to take action. A key outcome of this debate is to begin the conversation about the importantfuture opportunities for collaboration between the IRP and AfDB. This could include, for example, cooperation on improving the evidence base on regional resource relevant issues and enhancing the science-policy interaction at the regional level. 


If you want to learn more about this event, the recording of the session is available here, using the following password : S^#y3A$i