The winners and losers from the European Investment Bank’s loans in Africa were sharply distinguished today at the Belgian Senate by civil society representatives from Chad, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), currently on an advocacy mission in Paris and Brussels. The three speakers described in detail the economic, environmental and social hardship that has been heaped on communities by extractive industry projects supported by the largest public – yet largely unaccountable – bank in the world.
As the European Union struggled today at the UN Conference on Financing for Development to convince the US to make a stronger pledge to link development aid with action against climate change and tax evasion, Prince Kumwamba, one of the speakers in the Belgian Senate from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), explained how the EIB, the EU’s house bank, is not ensuring that the money it disburses in Africa on development grounds does not end up in tax havens.
The Chad-Cameroon pipeline, financed by the EIB in 2000, was one of the projects presented in the senate. A project that was supposed to be a new model for reducing poverty by financing oil development in high risk areas, it has proved to be a major failure as the revenues from the project have fuelled armed conflicts.
Joining Prince Kumwamba were Thérèse Mékombe, President of the Association of Female Lawyers in Chad, and Osayande Omokaro of Friends of the Earth Nigeria. They provided further testimony on the consequences of two other projects supported by the EIB: the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, and the West African gas pipeline in Nigeria.
These projects that have received EIB support are the cause of grave violations of human rights, of the displacement of communities and of the pollution of land, water and air. They have also often contributed to conflicts and to cases of corruption.
Osayande Omokaro stated: “Under the pretext of ‘energy security’, public funders are currently attempting to justify the next heavy investments into huge oil pipelines to bring oil and gas to Europe. When conflicts in Chad, Darfur and in the Niger delta are all linked to the exploitation of fossil fuels, how can we talk about ‘security’?”
Prince Kumwamba appealed to the Belgian senate: “Public funds must no longer feed this scandalous kind of investment and business. The war in DRC can be clearly linked with illegal profiteering from the appropriation of mineral resources.”
Anne-Sophie Simpere, from Friends of the Earth France and the Counter Balance coalition, explained: “The EIB is barely known by the public at large, but it provides enormous funds to developing countries and is the leading public financier to the extractive industries. Apart from their disastrous impacts in Africa, these investments grossly contradict EU efforts to fight climate change as well as to reduce poverty and conflicts.
“We believe that national parliaments around Europe, as representatives of the shareholders of the EIB, need to play a stronger role in supervising the bank’s operations including better scrutiny of member state decisions within the bank’s Executive Board.”