Thursday, March 4, 2021

CKGR dispute could be barrier to petroleum investment

The longer the dispute over the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) drags on, the lower Botswana’s rankings in the Global Petroleum Survey may go.

The survey measures negative sentiment regarding barriers to investment in oil and gas exploration and production facilities in various jurisdictions around the globe. Respondents are asked to indicate how each of 16 factors influence their decisions to invest in various jurisdictions. One of those factors is “disputed land claims” that considers “the uncertainty of unresolved claims made by aboriginals, other groups, or individuals.” In the latter category would be the Khwe (or Bushmen) who have been fighting with the government to secure their rights to live and hunt in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).

Jurisdictions in the survey are assigned scores for questions pertaining to each of the said factors, which have been known to affect investment decisions. The scores are based on the proportion of negative responses a jurisdiction receives with regard to each question. The greater the proportion of negative responses for a jurisdiction, the greater are its perceived investment barriers, and, therefore, the lower its ranking. This ranking is used to generate a Policy Perception Index. Petroleum companies use the findings to corroborate their own assessments and to identify jurisdictions where business conditions and the regulatory environment are most attractive for investment.

Although Botswana didn’t participate in the most recent survey, there is an arrangement through which it does so. In the previous survey, the country emerged as the best in Africa but the CKGR dispute threatens to negatively affect its score. The long-running dispute is over the residency of Khwe communities that have lived in the reserve for centuries. The government wants them to relocate outside to join hundreds who have been resettled in New Xade and Kaudwane. Those who remain put have been denied hunting rights and don’t get any government services.

The dispute has prompted Survival International (SI), a London-based pressure group, to join the fray on the side of the First People of the Kalahari, a Khwe lobby group. With its level of First World sophistication, SI has successfully lobbied European royalty and Hollywood stars and tarnished the names of companies that exploit the resources of the CKGR, namely diamonds and natural gas. What two months ago seemed to be some rapprochement between the government and FPK, has turned out to be a mirage because no peace deal has yet been reached.

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