Nigeria the Giant of Africa, recently hosted 7 West African Countries to the first General Assembly Meeting of the ECOWAS Federation of Chamber of Mines (EFEDCOM) in Abuja, Ruth Tene Natsa writes
The 7 countries represented at the meeting, which was hosted by Nigeria, included Ghana, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
Speaking in his address, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi stressed the need for West African countries to collaborate on data sharing as a means to developing the regions mining and minerals sector.
The Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry, Alhaji Mohammed Abbas, said “The Minister made it important for me to represent him here noting that as West African Countries, we have common challenges as miners being that the region has common geological and geographical setting.
He recalled that stakeholders at the recently concluded African Mining Week had recognized the fact that West African as a region should gather, collaborate in terms of Geological survey and geological data noting that minerals do not respect political boundary.
He said “The Geological setting of West Africa is identical, so it will be desirable if West African countries will collaborate with their Geological survey such that any person that any data taken from one country and interpreted could be relevant across the region, that would solve a lot of problems”
“Recognizing the fact that you have identical problems underscores the need through your association/confederation to draw the authorities of West African countries to collaborate together” he said
Alhaji Abbas expressed the belief that the forum which is in its nascent stage could be a catalyst of meetings of West African leaders
Also speaking Executive Director of the ECOWAS Federation of Chambers of Mines, , Sulemanu Koney said the ceremony would herald the first general assembly after the incorporation of our federation as we put together the final cogs in its establishment as an enviable mining association on the continent.
Mr Koney who noted that the question of how the mining industry can be leveraged to contribute more deeply and broadly to sustainable development has been at the fore of conversations both globally and nationally said “ whilst the industry has been seen as a source of rent, it is now being challenged to create the necessary linkages with other sectors of the economy to identify avenues for collaboration to support broad based economic growth besides the payment of Corporate tax, Royalties, dividends etc.
He maintained that as clearly stipulated in the ECOWAS minerals development Policy and the African Mining Vision, deliberate strategies must be adopted by host countries to integrate the mining sector more deeply into the host economy.
“Research has shown that to optimize the benefit of the mining industry, host countries need to collaborate with players to increase local content which generally falls within the broad categories of local procurement, local employment, local project financing, local equity financing and local value addition” he said
The Executive Director asserted that “Sustaining the growth of the mining industry in the sub region, in a manner that ensures broad based socio economics development, requires the commitment of governments of member states to implement policies that will ensure progress on each of the elements of local content afore cited”
“We cannot underestimate the importance of our collaborative efforts in reinforcing West Africa as the hub of mining in Africa, now more than ever. West Africa is attracting significant investments into its mining industry, which is indicative of the prospectivity of the sub region” he said
Koney quoted that statistics on global production indicates that gold output from Africa rose by 2 per cent from 575 to 587 tonnes in 2016, adding that Asia continued to be the largest producer of gold with a share of 28 per cent followed closely by Africa with 18per cent.
The Confederation leader stressed that the growth in Africa’s gold output emanated mainly from expansion in production in Sudan and Burkina Faso which are not traditional mining countries
He said “It is interesting to note that of the top gold mining countries in Africa by production, five are from West Africa.
“To leverage the heightened interest and exploitation of West Africa’s minerals resources for its economic transformation, African countries need to create the enabling environment through cost effective infrastructure including rails, road and sea transport as well as energy in the form of power and diesel” he said
He encouraged that while host governments should lead the way, the private sector also has a critical role to play, “The least of which is to leverage its aggregate demand for inputs to justify local production and service provision”
“The recommendation is to consider regional markets which is in line with ECOWAS protocols especially on free movement of goods, service and capital, adding that they can establish relationships between mining and the following in West Africa through Stock Exchanges in our respective countries and sub region, raising project finance through local financial institutions, training , synergistic relationship between manufacturing and services and adding value to mineral resources
Stating that the World Bank had in a 2016 Report on the minerals sector stated that in the recent past, West African Countries have demonstrated enormous potential to strengthen competitiveness and increase trade flows, he said “there is therefore the need for a deliberate approach to make the sub region the focal point of gold mining”
Earlier, the Vice President of EFEDCOM and President, Nigeria Miners Association, Alhaji Shehu Sani said the collaboration can be achieved by coming up with a mechanism for the articulation of the concerns, challenges, observations and solutions coming out from member nations and channeling same to higher authorities for consideration.
The Chairman of the Solid Minerals Development Fund, Uba Saidu Malami who described the confederation as a privileged platform noted that mining and mining activities have been with us right from our forefathers, we started by mud houses, stones and so on, so we have been miners all our lives.
“As a geologist I find that the West African Sub region is the most endowed, noting that every mineral has a local occurrence in Nigeria and this is how endowed the African Sub region is”
He said “This privileged opportunity further enhances the fact that mineral occurrence is no respecter of our geographical boundaries as geological activities happen across board. He said “If we do understand this, we would realise that we do have a common wealth among ourselves and coming together is for the best interest of all”
The Chairman of the SMDF asserted that Nigeria had in the last few years been very fierce in developing its mineral sector, noting that the Roadmap put by the Ministry had shown the commitment of the country in not just putting up the Roadmap but walking the talk.
He assured that “For every bit of milestone that is stated in the Roadmap very active achievement have been recorded. He assured that they were open to ideas while assuring that with fund the they would have effective engagements”
Also speaking the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Mr Waziri Adio said the Initiative is not just about asking companies what they pay to government or what government has received but also about ensuring that countries maximise the opportunities in the extractive sectors of which mining is important.
While noting that Nigeria used to be a front line major mining country which had fallen off, he stated that West Africa is also highly endowed but we are also not in the same league with Central parts of Africa and other parts of the world.
“We need to do much more for the overall developments of our countries not just because we want to maximise the opportunities but to do it in such a way that it translates to jobs, roads and development for our nations. This should be done not just by focusing on exploring and exploiting but by adding value and making appropriate linkage across the economy so that mining sector can play a catalytic growth in the nation” he said
He emphasized that with the region having common problems and they should also have common solutions. We also believe that government and private sector should come together. He added that while government is needed to formulate policies, private sectors by organising themselves can set agenda.
Giving the vote of thanks, the Director General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Chijioke Okechukwu expressed gratitude to the Leadership of ECOWAS for the process which began since 2010. Stating their commitment to the federation, he noted that while many West African countries had yet to sign on, it was important the federation includes them in their decision.
Okechukwu also urged the African Union (AU) to seriously ensure the Federation has a general body in Africa. ”ECOWAS, can actually can take charge of what is going on to embrace the whole of Africa” he said
Appreciating the pledges and commitments made by members at the inaugural meeting in Ghana (2016) the Abuja Chamber of Commerce were also pledging the sum of $5000.