Long-term strategy needed in East Africa’s mining industry

Posted on May 13, 2013 10:26 pm

Long considered the laggard of African continent, the eastern part of Africa is the new frontier for investors and multinationals. It is so obvious that there are too many inside dealing taking place in the mining industry across the region, with United Republic of Tanzania taking centre stage following discoveries of huge oil and gas deposits. Kenya has also recently joined the bandwagon that has long had Uganda and south Sudan. The East African government’s must put in place structures to ensure processing of raw minerals in their countries. There must be a set deadline for miners in the region to process raw materials domestically once full mining of minerals kicks off and I think it is possible if political and economic will prevails against selfish interests.  EAC Governments should not be ashamed to admit that corruption is the biggest towards realization of middle-income countries status for the five regional economic block member states. There is need to admit that some policies have not worked and lessons should be learned from the mistakes made and solutions sought put in place. The ministries responsible have a great opportunity to develop and implement a long-term strategic plan for the mining industry that has long been a preserve of their much wealthy southern neighbors like Angola and South Africa.

I do agree with Ugandan President, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in principle the goal of creating value-added industries in the mining sector is worthy. There is no doubt it would take Uganda as a country forward and help in realization of recently launched vision 2040. However, building smelters and other similar facilities requires billions of dollars of investments that the regional economies don’t have as well as supporting infrastructure. This is why member states should encourage foreign investors to step in. The governments of East African countries must therefore work hard to create the right environment to attract such investments and help build the right infrastructure. That requires long-term planning and commitment and most important the eradication of corruption and training of locals people. Apart from Mozambique and Tanzania, other countries have only a handful of minerals that are practical enough to be processed as value-added products. Governments in the region have a primary duty of education their population that not all mineral commodities are feasible to be processed domestically or regionally. The mining sector will be too critical to the economies of East Africa in the future hence the need for reforms, locals involvement in decision making and public education.

Contador Harrison