On January 17, 2013, three graduate students from the Williams College Center for Developmental Economics spoke about natural resources and politics in Malawi and Uganda. Chisomo Chakachadza and Mphatso Banda discussed natural resource extraction and the politics of Malawi. In 2007, a permit was granted to Paladin Africa to extract six billion dollars worth of uranium in Malawi. The government and the people of Malawi were hopeful about the financial benefits that the uranium would bring to the country. However, they explained that the extraction has not actually brought tax revenue to the country. When the former government allowed for the extraction, a uranium contract agreement was made that gave a 100 percent capital write off and no corporate taxes were paid. Corruption is rampant. The current government is trying to negotiate a new deal and is in the process signing the extractive transparency initiative.
Chakachadza also spoke about oil that was found in Lake Malawi and the complications the government has had with its neighboring country, Tanzania. According to the Treaty of 1890, Malawi is said to have the sole ownership of Lake Malawi. However, the 1982 Conventions on the Law of Sea states that the border between Malawi and Tanzania lies in the middle of Lake Malawi. Therefore, Tanzania halted the oil extraction due to the confusing politics of geography. At the same time, the government has not fully acknowledged the ecological importance of Lake Malawi. It is a tourist attraction for the country as well as a popular fishing area. Both Chakachadza and Banda argued that there should be more transparency in Malawi as well as an effective Environmental Impact Assessment that would be properly enforced so that the government and the environment can thrive.
Silver Namunane talked about Oil and how its discovery might have changed the politics of Uganda. He mainly presented the views of the media on the subject matter, stating that, in 1996 presidential term limits were set in Uganda. In 2005, the National Assembly/Parliament of Uganda passed an amendment to the Uganda’s constitution which overturned the term limits. Coincidentally, a year later Uganda declared the availability of the 4th largest reserves of crude oil in Sub-Saharan Africa. Namunane presented the controversial clause in the Oil Law as perceived by the media and the speculations of what this would mean for the country’s future. He further explained that the media reports that the Oil law had been left in the hands of chameleons which could encourage rent seeking activities among the elite of the community. Namunane concluded by saying that the political environment is relatively stable compared to the past regimes and hopefully it will be for the years to come.
By Helen Song ’14