The on-going Second South-South High-Level Meeting on Oil and Gas Management taking place in Nairobi has raised one fundamental question among delegates present: Is oil a blessing or curse?
During the opening ceremony in Nairobi on Monday, two highly-placed participants at the symposium posed the question with discernible concern.
Director, UNDP Special Unit of South-South Cooperation Yiping Zhao and Kenya's Minister for Energy Kiraitu Murungi fronted the subject during their respective speeches.
"History suggests that petrodollars do not necessarily help developing countries reduce poverty. In many cases, the money has actually exacerbated poverty conditions and worsened income inequality," Zhao said.
Murungi on his part said, "There are those who see oil as evil. Oil extraction in Africa has been associated with dictatorship, tyranny, corruption, abuse of human rights and civil strife amongst other ills. Hence the question: 'Is oil a blessing or a curse in Africa?'"
The minister said stereotypes usually capture governments of oil-producing countries as corrupt, villains and enemies of the people while portraying NGOs as heroes and protectors of the impoverished and the exploited masses.
Discoveries of oil and other mineral deposits are often hailed as offering a way out of poverty. But hopes are dashed as corrupt officials pocket the money or squander it on grandiose projects.