Unlocking the Potential of Mineral-rich Countries for Societal Development, Job Creation

The Africa Minerals Development Centre, a specialized agency of the African Union, was established in 2009 with the goal of implementing the Africa Mining Vision.

Despite Africa’s status as the second largest mineral industry in the world, boasting abundant mineral reserves and ranking first in terms of global reserves, the mineral-rich countries have not reaped the benefits of their resources.

For years, Africa has been exporting its minerals to industries outside the continent for processing, only to import the finished commodities back at a cost, despite being the owners of the raw materials. This cycle has prevented the mineral-rich countries from realizing the full value of their mines.

Beneath Africa’s vast surface, spanning 30.37 million km2, lies an immense wealth of valuable and extractable natural resources. Copper, cobalt, iron ore, gold, and coal are among the primary sources of revenue from mining in Africa.

The Africa Mining Vision aims to ensure that countries with abundant mineral reserves receive value addition for their minerals, leading to societal development and job creation in the vicinity of the mines.

According to Dr. Merit Kitaw, the Interim Director of the Africa Minerals Development Centre, her motivation to lead this agency stems from the realization that Africa produces minerals worth billions, yet the benefits of mining are enjoyed by other continents.

“I was compelled by the fact that billions worth of minerals mined in Africa benefits the outsiders  instead of adding value to our African countries and so the Africa Mining Vision drives towards adding value to Africans from their mines.” The Director said.

Out of 54 countries in the continent, Merit highlights that only 27 countries have reformed mineral policies towards their mineral reserves have acknowledged sustainable development from mining, and have expanded their growth and transformed their environment.

Africa Minerals Development Centre
Panel discussion on critical minerals in Africa

“About 34 countries in Africa depend on minerals which contribute to 10% of their GDP, only 27 of them have had reforms in their mineral policies and taken note of sustainable development.” Merit said.

The Africa Mining Vision oversees the implementation of mining policies made by African governments using three methods; Technical support where the agency determines what a country needs versus the regulatory policies put in place to protect the environment.

Secondly, they offer advisory services to countries that want to add value to their economies as miners.

Lastly, Africa Mining Vision does capacity building for countries giving them knowledge and skills on how to reap from their hard-earned minerals instead of exporting them.

In the quest to conquer the mining sector and value addition, Africa Mining Vision has stumbled upon challenges that continue to create obstacles against value addition in the mining industry.

Merit shares that the process of ratification of mineral-producing countries has been going at a snail speed. Over the decade, only 3 countries Guinea, Mali, and Zambia out of 15 countries that got the proposals have ratified their mineral industry.

“Despite countries buying the idea of ratification, governments have failed to fund their industry. Bills are passed in the parliaments but priority is not given to the industrial sector which slows down our efforts of value addition in the mining industry.” Merit lamented.

The Interim Director also confirmed that technically Africa is still behind, lack of skills and infrastructure are some of the main reasons why countries export raw materials outside the continent for processing.

“Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo produce many metric tonnes of minerals like cobalt, copper, and nickel which are used to make lithium batteries but there are no processing industries, because of this they transport it to countries like China and they end up buying the end product.” She said.

She sadly noted that despite Africa being rich, no development can be accounted for over the past few decades and that is why as the Africa Climate Week summit comes to a close the agency will launch the Africa Green Mineral Strategy.

The strategy with a clear vision will see to it that mineral-producing countries: develop equitably through methods like governance and infrastructure, Industrialization which will increase value addition, skills and technology where they will determine the necessary technology and skills and how to acquire them, and lastly environmental impact of the mines to African climate.

Merit is positive that in the coming years, all the mineral-dependent countries will adopt the reforms in the mining policies and more awareness will be made with regards to value addition in the mining industry.

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