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SarWatch Writer
Concept Note for Dialogue on the SADC Regional Mining Vision

30-31 March 2022-Johannesburg

Introduction

The Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Africa) and the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) are organizing a two-day dialogue on the SADC Regional Mining Vision (SADC-RMV) for a range of stakeholders on the 30-31 March 2022 in Johannesburg South Africa. The dialogue is one of several events TWN-Africa and partners are organising in different regions of Africa as part of efforts to reinforce the continuing importance of the policy agenda of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) for Africa’s progress towards structural economic transformation and sustainable development.

Background

SADC is the largest mining region in Africa with minerals as an important element of the economies of a number of its countries. Some of these countries, notably South Africa, Botswana, D.R. Congo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, are world leaders in terms of their endowments of particular minerals and these resources have been key factors in the shaping of their political economies since colonial times. This history has left many SADC countries with many of the negative economic, social-political and environmental features and legacies induced by raw mineral export dependence. On the other hand, the economies of South Africa and Zimbabwe exhibit a variety of linkages between the mineral and other sectors of their economies beyond the fiscal and employment linkages dominant across the African continent.

Mineral exporting countries in SADC, like in the rest of Africa, experienced the contradictory effects of the decade long commodity boom at the start of the 21st century. Even as the boom increased mineral revenues it also accentuated the negative impacts and underlined the developmental limitations of the raw mineral commodity export dependence in which almost mineral exporting, including SADC member, countries are trapped. The most visible of these was the huge disparities between the high revenues that accrued to mining TNCs and the returns to host African countries, increased vulnerability to demand and price volatilities price and the growing in-country socio-economic inequalities.

Africa’s experience of the mining boom fuelled the adoption of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) by Africa’s heads of state in 2009. The AMV’s goal of the development of “mining sector that catalyses and contributes to broad-based growth and development” represents a paradigm shift away from the liberal FDI dependent and resource rent centred strategy which has governed African mining since the 1990s. Since 2009 the policy agenda of the AMV has been elaborated in a number of continental policy documents such as the AMV Action Plan (2011), Country Mining Vision Guidebook (2014) and the African mineral Governance Framework (2018). These frameworks have in turn informed regional and national level frameworks and policies.

For example, a number of countries, including in SADC, have developed national mining visions or elaborated policies informed by pillars of the AMV Action Plan. South Africa has developed a Natural Resources Charter, Zimbabwe has proclaimed priority for value addition, Botswana is adding value to its diamonds and more recently the D.R. Congo has initiated value addition activities in respect of its cobalt. The AMV compliant ECOWAS Mineral Development Policy (EMDP), validated by ECOWAS ministers in June 2011, shares important features with the AMV and its Action Plan. It was preceded by the 2009 ECOWAS Mining Directive which has since been gazetted by a number of countries.

Despite these steps, the overall development and implementation of AMV compliant plans and policies by African countries and regions has been disappointing. The greatest attention has been devoted to reforms of mining fiscal regimes and some interest shown in building backward linkages. In most cases the policy making process exhibited the perennial deficiencies of limited and poor-quality involvement of non-state actors. The expectation of an institutionalised continental level strategic leadership of the AMV agenda has foundered thanks to the failure of Africa’s governments to establish the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) beyond its donor supported phase. This was the context for the drafting of the SADC Regional Mining Vision in 2017/18 and the adoption of its Action Plan by SADC Ministers of Industry in 2021.

The SADC RMV and its Action Plan build on past regional initiatives. The defeat of apartheid ended the perverse pattern of integration between South Africa’s mining sector and the rest of southern Africa based on the exploitation of cheap labour from neighbouring countries. In place of this inequitable regime the region, centred around SADC, has been seeking a new type of economic cooperation and integration, including on industrialisation, infrastructure, and mining. The steps towards the harmonisation of mining policies include the SADC Protocol on Mining (2000) and Mining Strategic Plan (2001).

The SADC Regional Mining Vision builds on and unifies elements in some of these regional initiatives. The SADC RMV is “anchored on the tenets of the AMV” and aims at “optimizing the sustainable development impact of mineral resource extraction across the [SADC] region whilst being cognizant of the different maturity of the mineral sector” in member countries. The building of mineral-based linkages is central to the SADC RMV and its Action Plan. This ambition is summarized thus in the RMV document: “The SADC region strives to attain a transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of regional mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable regional growth, socio-economic development and inter-generational equity, through the realization of all of the mineral linkages, in line with the SADC Regional Development Agenda and other continental and international aspirations.”

The SADC RMV and Action Plan are pioneering steps at a regional approach to mineral-based industrialisation and structural transformation. The development of the SADC RMV and Action Plan expresses the long-recognized importance of regional integration and cooperation for the economies of scale required for the realization of Africa’s structural transformation ambitions. There are still a number of important steps to be taken at the intergovernmental level as well as towards building a constituency and ownership in SADC society for the RMV agenda. In that regard, the pioneering SADC initiative offers a learning opportunity for what can and needs to be done in the other regions of the continent for a mineral-based multisectoral regional development plan and policies. The issues and lessons range from the substance of policy, the policymaking process (including the role of non-state actors), inter-sectoral coherence, institutional coordination at regional and among SADC members.

Nature and objectives of the conference

The conference will be a two-day multistakeholder event of forty persons who will be drawn mainly from SADC member countries. They include activists from CSOs (including the trade unions), the private sector, officials from relevant public institutions in SADC countries and related regional and continental bodies. It will be a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event conducted primarily in plenary around presentations from resource persons and lead discussants.

The main aim of the dialogue is to deepen state-society engagements around the SADC RMV and explore the prospects and challenges for the use of the RMV as a pillar in advancing structural economic transformation and sustainable development in the SADC region.   The meeting will be an opportunity for a multistakeholder exploration of the RMV and its Action Plan around their prospects and challenges as a pillar in advancing structural economic transformation and sustainable development in the SADC region.

Specifically, the conference has the following objectives:

  • Evaluate the status and prospects of the SADC RMV and its Action Plan.
  • Contribute to a more vigorous public engagement with the RMV agenda by raising the visibility of the SADC RMV and its Action Plan
  • Put the issues of mineral based linkages on the agenda of policy makers and activists in the SADC region and beyond
  • Re-invigorate the engagement of African CSOs with the AMV agenda in the context of the role of minerals in Africa development.
  • Agree broadly on an agenda of work going forward.

Zoom Registration link for virtual attendance here.

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