Pursuing An Economic Independence Through the Control of Mineral Resources
Today we celebrate Africa Day at a time we are grappling with the health pandemic of COVID19. COVID 19 could reduce by more than half African economies based on the projections being made on the continent’s key economic sector of mining. Mining provide between 40-90 percent of African countries revenues. The COVID 19 has exposed our enclave model in this key economic sector characterised by the dependence on external market for our minerals and lack of broad-based economic diversification. COVID19 has reminded us that the model of mineral extraction which is outward looking has not been beneficial to the continent. The continent has failed to capitalize on the building of inward economic linkages and diversification facilitated from its diverse mineral production. Fundamental questions still linger on why a critical introspection on this model of only exporting raw minerals has never been challenged in line with facets of our forefathers’ ideology on the futility of political independence without economic independence. It is imperative at this particular juncture exacerbated by the COVID-19 to ponder on how Africa will strategically reposition itself as a key player in the global affairs arena. This will be achieved primarily by the control of our economies through continental trade for industrialisation. Africa needs to re-examine its current resource trade model in which it is entangled in. The current minimalistic taxation approach does not generate enough revenue to fund key social services and economic sectors which include education, health, water, sanitation, agriculture, energy and infrastructure development. Africa needs to move from a purely mineral extraction economy to a hub of economic diversification for development. Africa needs a mining sector that directly impacts positively on the lives of its people. To achieve this, Africa needs to design a master plan for transformation hinged on value addition of its minerals and ensuring these products are consumed on the continent.
To maximise the benefits of its minerals, African countries must ensure the realisation of the seminal mineral linkages (downstream, upstream, side stream linkages). Africa needs to prioritise minerals for industrialisation. This will also mean the implementation at all costs towards local content and development policies at country, region and continent levels,
This is why the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) and the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) have become pivotal. The continent’s ability to achieve this is derived from the fact that Africa holds all the key strategic minerals key to modernization and technological advancement in the fight against climate change mitigation and adaptation. Africa is thus, in a strong comparative position that needs to be used for competitive leverage. However, Africa needs transformative leadership that will guide the Continent utilising the abundant mineral. Beyond the abundance of strategic minerals, the continent has a market and human resources (vibrant young and increasingly educated). While attracting foreign manufacturing companies, we must work to create our own through technology transfer. Africa must invest in STEM and harness the mobile abundant African skills.
The Southern Africa Resource Watch calls on African countries, through their economic communities, to quickly harmonise their mining legislations, regulation, policies and standards to push for this agenda. African countries must resist the race to the bottom, where they compete to attract foreign investment by providing tax relief, which do not help change the material conditions of African people.