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21-06-2012 20:13:00

Natural Resource Mismanagement Limits Poverty Gains In Africa -Bank President

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--Africa's natural resource wealth could have quickened pace of poverty reduction

--Progress being made as countries learn from past mistakes, African Development Bank president says

--Global economic uncertainties, national elections undermine talks at U.N.'s Rio+20 conference

By Diana Kinch and Jeff Fick

RIO DE JANEIRO--Africa has trailed the rest of the world in reducing poverty because of poor management of the continent's natural resources, the president of the African Development Bank said Thursday.

U.N. initiatives to reduce global poverty by half as part of millennium development goals established in 2000 "have already happened," Donald Kaberuka told reporters at an event on the sidelines of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.

"The reduction of poverty would have been bigger in Africa if countries rich in oil, [natural] gas and minerals had been properly managed," Mr. Kaberuka said.

African countries such as Angola and Mozambique have learned from the troubles elsewhere, making "pleasing" progress in their development of petroleum and mineral reserves, Mr. Kaberuka said. But the continent still needs to avoid making the same mistakes of the past to ensure that development of natural resources spurs African nations toward a green and sustainable economy.

"The green economy is something that we have to do because our people depend on nature," Mr. Kaberuka said.

While prospects for the Rio+20 conference have been dimmed because leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron declined to attend, Mr. Kaberuka said that progress had been made in implementing goals for sustainable development and to protect the world's oceans. But Mr. Kaberuka said that the current global scenario had made concrete commitments difficult.

"The global economy is a complication. The national political calendars are a complication," Mr. Kaberuka said. Rio+20 also faced similar challenges to previous U.N. conferences aimed at sustainability and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the form of a lack of financing and technology transfers from rich to poor countries, he added.

"We have a long way to go, but no one can deny that since 2000 we have come a long way," Mr. Kaberuka said.

While Mr. Kaberuka declined to comment on press reports this week that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had banned new permits for foreign mining companies in that country, efforts were under way to ensure that future development benefits the African people, governments and much-needed investors.

"What I think is good for Africa is scrupulous respect for property rights," Mr. Kaberuka said, noting increased competition among developing nations for investment funds. "We have competition for investment."

While Africa may have in the past been thought of as not having a large enough resource base to attract investors, Mr. Kaberuka said that is no longer the case. "We have huge resources, what we need is investors to turn these resources into wealth," Mr. Kaberuka said.

Some foreign companies have jumped on the opportunities available in Africa, especially Brazilian companies such as mining giant Vale SA (VALE, VALE5.BR) and oil company Petroleo Brasileiro (PBR, PETR4.BR), or Petrobras, that share a language with other former Portuguese colonies such as Angola and Mozambique. Vale is developing the Moatize coal reserve in Mozambique, while Petrobras is studying investments Mozambique biofuel projects and is exploring and producing oil in Angola and six other African nations.

"The subsoil is something we inherited from God," Mr. Kaberuka said. "The secret is getting this inheritance into health, education and agriculture."

-Write to Diana Kinch at diana.kinch@dowjones.com and Jeff Fick at jeff.fick@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 21, 2012 14:13 ET (18:13 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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