Can the Africa Union save Africa’s mineral resources?

By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – As a way of trying to minimise the exploitation of Africa’s mineral resources the African Union adopted the African Mining Vision (AMV) in 2009, problem is, the AU did not include those blamed for the exploitation – the private sector. 

The AU has however finally started making inroads into its bid to control the exploitation of African mineral resources.  At a symposium held in Windhoek, Namibia, last week, the department of trade and industry under the African Union provided a platform for public and private sector dialogue guided by the principles of the Africa Mining Vision.

The symposium contained delegates from Chambers of Mines and Mining Associations in Africa and was held under the theme “Leveraging the role of Chambers of Mines and Mining Associations in Africa.” The symposium provided a platform for the establishment of continental mining body called the Association of Chamber of Mines in Africa (ACMA). ACMA is earmarked to supervise and coordinate mining activities in Africa.

An interim committee comprising of five members was established to make ACMA a reality. The Southern Times understands that the committee has been given a year to come up with guidelines and a constitution to be presented at the 2019 African Union heads of state and government summit. It will also be responsible to monitor the transfer of African mineral resources from the continent and most importantly to bridge the existing gaps between the mining communities, private sector and governments.  

ACMA will also be tasked with implementing the African Mining Vision Private Sector Compact, that aims mining in Africa mutually beneficial for all stakeholders. Some of the principles with mutual obligations and mutual benefits as contained in the Compact cover areas such as; payment of mineral rent and royalties; transparency of agreements and legal frameworks; commitment on both sides to address bribery and corruption as well as environmental sustainability amongst others.

This Compact primarily targets extractive companies including oil and gas, Chambers of Mines and other mining associations.  Implementation of the Compact should contribute to strengthening companies’ social licence to operate, legitimising their projects and reducing the costs of addressing the social tensions that arise from externally imposed projects.  The AMV Compact is being introduced at a time when the extractive industry is under extreme pressure from depressed commodity prices, on account of the volatility in the world economy and the persistent slowdown of China’s economy.

With such demands it remains to be seen if the private sector especially foreign owned companies are going to agree to it. Speaking to The Southern Times, the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, Veston Malango said the engagement between the AU and the private sector should been seen as a positive.  “AU has realised that in the Africa Mining Vision that private sector was not included. The AU mining vision required the private sector to come on board hence this symposium. The AU is envisaging a continental mining body but that can only happen if all the regions have mining associations,” said Malango.

SADC is definitely heads and shoulders above everyone when it comes to regional mining associations with its Mining Industry Association of Southern Africa (MIASA). Malango said MIASA has about nine members with room for three more. He added that the AU now wants other regions to benchmark on MIASA. This is why the east and west African regions came up with a similar body last year.

“It’s only the north and central African region who do not have that body. The regional mining bodies are the building blocks of the continental mining body hence the need to rope in the private sector. The AU has now given us one year to finalise so that they can present the document to Summit,” Malango said.

AU’s commissioner for trade and industry, Albert Muchanga speaking at the opening ceremony of the symposium, said Africa Mining Vision provides the bold vision to empower countries in ways that harness the transformative potentials of their mineral endowments. Some of the delegates from various chamber of mines across Africa confirmed to The Southern Times that the relationship between them and the governments they operate is non-existent.

Muchanga said there is a need for a strong public-private dialogue to remove the current mistrust between governments and private sector that in some cases creates unnecessary conflicts in Africa.

“If there is any issue in the AMV Private Sector Compact, please bring them out. Go through the draft Compact line by line as the key element at the end should be inclusiveness. Please take ownership of the Africa Mining Vision Compact and ensure its domestication by African Union member states and private sector,” he said.

Also speaking at the same symposium, Namibia’s Mines and Energy Minister, Obeth Kandjoze said the private sector should be a key partner in order to underline and maintain its sustainability.

“Namibia subscribed to the Africa Mining Vision and there is a need for Namibia to domesticate the AMV. Namibia is currently reviewing its mining policy in order to align with the Africa Mining Vision.”

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