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US-Africa Business Summit Ignores Human Rights Concerns

Three-Day Meeting Should Promote Civil Society’s Role in Investment Areas

Resident walks through the streets of Macomia on June 11, 2018 in Macomia, Northern Mozambique. Cabo Delgado, a northern province expected to become the center of a natural gas industry after several promising discoveries, has seen a string of assaults on security forces and civilians since October 2017. © 2018 Emidio Josine/AFP/Getty Images

This week, Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, received more than ten African heads of state and over a thousand US government representatives and entrepreneurs for the US-Africa Business Summit. The summit is a platform for exploring business opportunities and advocacy for US-Africa trade and investment policies. On Tuesday, just before the summit, the US energy firm Anadarko announced the construction of Mozambique’s first onshore gas project.

While the meeting is important for promoting investment in the country, its agenda included no discussions about the links between business, insecurity, and human rights in the areas being considered by investors. For example, the littoral of Cabo Delgado province, where Anadarko will explore one of the largest gas reserves in the world, has endured attacks from a suspected armed Islamist group since October 2017. Those attacks and the government’s response to them have led to massive human rights abuses including killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and burning of houses. The authorities have also barred the media from the region, heightening uncertainty about the situation.

Mozambican civil society groups play a crucial role in monitoring corporate social responsibilities, helping communities benefit from investments and reducing tensions between communities and businesses. The US-Africa Summit should be used as a platform to address those issues and focus on initiatives to ensure that human rights in areas of investment are protected.

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