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Lars Buur

Roskilde University

Lars Buur has been Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Business at Roskilde University, Denmark, since 2014. His research focuses on the political economy of extractive natural resource governance and post-conflict state formation in Southern and Eastern Africa. From 2015-2020, he was Programme Coordinator of the HIERARCHIES of Rights research programme on struggles related to large-scale investments into natural resources in Sub-Sahara Africa. In the past, Lars Buur has worked in several positions at the Danish Institute for International, the Nordic Africa Institute Uppsala, the Centre for Development Research, and Aarhus University.
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publication
When ‘Pockets of effectiveness’ matter politically: Extractive industry regulation and taxation in Uganda and Tanzania

It is a common view that states in the developing world with substantial extractive natural resource discoveries may not have the capacity to tax and regulate multinational companies in the sector. In this article, we show that ruling elites in recently resource-rich Tanzania, and in Uganda – expected to become resource-rich in the foreseeable future - have learned from the resource curse: they seek to construct ‘pockets of effectiveness’ (POEs) to regulate and tax natural resources. We explain the political incentives to create such pockets by combining insights from the POE and the Political Settlement literatures. We argue that POEs are likely to be established in emerging resource-rich countries with three characteristics: some degree of competitive elections; widespread voter expectations of future natural resource prosperity; and absence of powerful domestic firms in the sector who can resist taxation. The political benefits of such POEs are higher revenues that can boost government spending power and, hence, political legitimacy. These outweigh the political costs of establishing POEs, namely rents and patronage foregone. This insight is missed in much of the writings on the impact of natural resource wealth in African countries.

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publication
The presource curse in Africa: Economic and political effects of anticipating natural resource revenues

The notion of the ‘resource curse’ suggests that large inflows of extractive industry revenues cause many adverse macro-economic and political effects. The resource curse literature focuses on the impact of actual inflows of extractive resource revenues. However, anticipation of future resource revenues can also lead to negative macro-economic and political effects even before resource extraction takes place, which points to the role of behavioral aspects of the ‘resource curse’. Using empirical evidence from three African countries, this article investigates to what extent the anticipation of future extractive revenues led to ‘presource curse’ effects. It finds that all three countries experienced negative effects as a result of anticipation of future extractive revenues, including economic growth volatility, higher levels of national debt, eroded governance and societal conflicts. Given the phenomenal increase in oil, gas and metal ore exploration across Africa, it is likely that many countries experience the negative effects of a presource curse without natural resource extraction or long before natural resources are actually extracted.

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publication
The politics of natural resource investments and rights in Africa: A theoretical approach

Over the past decade and a half, large-scale investments in natural resources in African countries have increased dramatically. While investments in natural resources and agriculture have become more important for African economies, since they have stimulated economic growth and made regimes dependent on rents and revenues for their own survival, surprisingly many investments fail to be implemented or fall through during implementation. Furthermore, natural resource investments often end up violating the rights of local populations, which can lead to severe social protests and political instability, as well as limiting the ‘development’ impact. In this article, we develop a theoretical approach focusing on the three-way relationship between investors, local populations and ruling elites and the wider context in which these relations are embedded. We argue that investments are more likely to be implemented and the procedural rights of local populations respected when relationships are characterized by ‘reciprocal exchange deals’ between investors and local populations, ‘compatible interests’ between ruling elites and investors, and ‘mutual recognition’ between local populations and ruling elites. We use eight examples of investments drawn from Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda to explore the potential of this theoretical approach in explaining the circumstances in which the procedural rights of local populations are or are not respected and investments are or are not implemented.

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