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Africa must invest in geomapping, energy, transport, education to exploit new mining boom

South African Council for Geoscience CEO Moses Mabuza has called for greater investment in geomapping in Africa. He was participating in a panel discussion at the Investing in African Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, on Monday.

It was important, he said, that there be discussions and cooperation concerning the mapping of the continent’s geological resources. This would give African countries the knowledge of “what they had” and so allow them to negotiate more effectively with potential international partners.

Investment in the geosciences was essential for Africa. That way, African governments could understand the quantity and quality of their national resources. They could characterise them. And that data could allow the development of integrated value chains.

What he called the “mining-energy complex” presented, he affirmed, opportunities to position Africa collectively as the next economic powerhouse. However, this did depend on decisions made by individual African governments.

If international actors wished to help Africa, they should invest in geomapping. The world had what Africa needed, and Africa had what the world needed.

The importance of geological surveys was also noted by World Bank senior mining specialist Martin Lokanc, during the same panel discussion. He made the point that the world was now in a new metals supercycle, but that this would be a long-term one, driven by the global transition to low- and zero-carbon energy sources. This increased demand for a range of metals and minerals would not go away soon.

He reported that World Bank analysts had developed a five-point agenda that would help Africa seize the opportunities presented by this development.

First, Africa’s supply response had to be increased. This in turn, had three elements. The first he mentioned was the need for African countries to undertake geological surveys of their territories and make the data freely available. Second on his list of subpoints was the need to ensure the potential profitability of mining investments: government fiscal policies and security of tenure were very important in this regard. And third, the development of energy and transport infrastructures, to allow mines to function and to move out their product.

The second point on the agenda was that African countries needed to cooperate, regionally. No country could “do it all on their own”, anywhere in the world. Each country’s unique capabilities had to be leveraged. The development of the African Continental Free Trade Area was opportune, in this regard.

Third, African countries had to invest in the education of their people. This had to start now, and had to take place at primary and secondary, as well as tertiary, level, with a focus on maths and science, and include girls and women. If it took 15 years to build a mine, it also took 15 years to develop an engineer.

The fourth point was the need for massive and coordinated regional (as well as the aforementioned national) investment in energy and transport infrastructure. And the transport infrastructure had to be multi-use.

Finally, there had to be investment in value chains. Because of the major upheavals of the past few years, there was global interest in having more diversified value chains. That was an opportunity for Africa. (Mining Weekly)

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