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SEC Upholds Cardin-Lugar Extractives Transparency Amendment


By Mo Ibrahim

A Guest Columnist

on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune

It is not often we see political leadership act courageously to uphold principles of good corporate governance, which makes the events of the past few days worth stopping to savor.

This week, the Securities Exchange Commissioners of the United States voted 2-1 to uphold the Cardin-Lugar Extractives Transparency Amendment with no exemptions for any companies or operations in any countries.

What this means is that from the 2014 financial year all US-listed extractive companies, numbering roughly 1,100, will have to declare their payments of over $100,000 to foreign governments. With no exceptions. 

The importance of this legislation is best articulated by Najwa al-Bshti, former Head of Contracts at the National Oil Company of Libya. In her New York Times article this week she states “We need to ensure that bidding is fair and open, the deals are transparent and revenues are used properly. Public disclosures and legislative oversight of contracts and payments are crucial”. She adds that exemptions - if a foreign government objects - are a tyrant's veto. If anybody knows where the bodies are buried, she does.


The real challenge now is to work to ensure that similar legislation is enacted in Europe and beyond. We cannot and should not allow this legislation to stand alone and effectively disadvantage US exchanges and listed companies.


European leaders love to lecture Africans on corruption and accountability. It is time for them to practice what they preach.


Emerging powers should also come on board. China, in particular, has always maintained that it is a great friend and partner of Africa. It is time to demonstrate its friendship and to clarify whether it is a friendship with African people or a handful of corrupt dictators.


More to the point, we need to ensure that we in Africa are enacting similarly transparent legislation. If we are to ensure that good governance (covering all aspects of transparency, corporate and social responsibility) becomes the norm in Africa for all foreign investors and African governments, it can only be achieved through domestic legislation.


This SEC ruling, and the hard work of Senators Dodd, Frank, Cardin and Lugar that underpinned it, has shown the way. Which of our leaders will now have the courage to follow suit?





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