The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: 'Black Empowerment' Will Not Help Kenya

editorial

TULLOW has found still more oil in Turkana. Hydrocarbons have been identified in Lamu. Titanium will soon be exported from Kwale. Gold exploration is promising in western Kenya.

Almost certainly Kenya will soon be a major mineral exporter. That will help cushion Kenya against possible sanctions in future.

But it is important that any oil and mineral bonanza is handled transparently. Neighbouring Uganda has serious political problems because MPs believe that decision-making on oil was hidden from them.

Last month Environment minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere proposed that Kenyans be given 35 per cent of foreign mining companies (although Prime Minister Raila Odinga rejected the idea).

Mwakwere's proposal certainly would not be transparent. It would be like 'black empowerment' in South Africa where a few individuals became obscenely rich.

One alternative is for government to impose royalties on mining companies so that we all profit from Kenya's riches underground.

Another option is for government to take up those 35 percent shares in the mining companies. Then all 40 million Kenyans would profit from mineral exports, rather than a handful of individuals.

The bottom line is to have the maximum transparency in allocating mining licences, and the maximum revenue flowing back to Kenya.

Quote of the day: "Everyone should take note of the way I live, what I do and what I don't do." - Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested in Kenya on February 15, 1999

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