Africa, and in particular the Great Lakes region, is richly endowed with minerals, but the continent and the region are not yet benefitting adequately from the sustainable mining and beneficiation of those minerals.
This has given rise to the illicit extraction and smuggling of these minerals, which exacerbate conflicts and instability in the region and beyond.
Unfortunately, the illicit trade in these minerals has not diminished in intensity during the Covid-19 health crisis and transnational criminal networks and armed groups continue to benefit from it, thus contributing significantly to instability in the region, Special Envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region Ambassador Huang Xia lamented on November 19.
This is why the UN supports regional efforts and regional initiatives against the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Its main tool is the regional mineral certification mechanism, he explained during his opening address of the virtual African Mining Forum’s Ministerial forum.
In line with this, Xia said support for the implementation of other complementary international initiatives continued, as these work towards the resolution of the scourge of natural resource exploitation and encourage the formalisation of artisanal mining activities.
Similarly, a high-level workshop on natural resources will be held on March 21, in Sudan, to collect information on the initiatives of all stakeholders, including development partners, to ensure natural resources contribute to strengthening regional economic integration, wealth creation and shared prosperity for the region.
“The current crisis gives us the opportunity to reflect on the strategic reforms to be carried out to make the mining industry more resilient, competitive and to generate decent jobs for African populations,” Xia commented.
Therefore, he said that by following the example of the African Union Agenda 2063, the process of industrialisation of the mining sector should be accelerated in order to create added value in the region, particularly in the gold sector, “a mineral which is coveted by transnational criminal networks and armed groups”.
Xia added that the establishment of refineries in the region should also be encouraged.
“Indeed, the local processing of gold makes it possible to create value and decent jobs, but above all, to reduce the smuggling of this mineral, consequently cutting off the financing of criminal networks and armed groups.”
Moreover, the availability of refined gold also enables producing countries in the region, in particular the Democratic Republic of Congo, to replenish the foreign exchange reserves of their banks, thus contributing to improving their macroeconomic indicators.
In addition to the promotion of local content through the establishment of regional value chains, the UN intends to encourage and, where possible, support other complementary initiatives in the region such as trade reform and the harmonisation of taxes on certain strategic minerals, like gold and cobalt.
Xia said the UN supports the organisation of the second iteration of the Great Lakes Regional investment conference in 2021, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, with the objective of attracting private sector investment in strategic sectors such as mining and creating win-win partnerships that are essential to exploit the vast natural resources for the benefit of the countries and the people of the region.
“The Kigali conference will also provide a platform for high-level private dialogue on investment, improve the business climate and promote networking opportunities to the more than 700 participants expected from all around the world,” he said.
Xia also underlined the strong support of the UN for all countries in the region to ensure that at the national and regional levels, reforms aimed at strengthening the regional economic integration remain a priority, while ensuring the participation of women and youth “at all levels of mining production throughout the value chain, as well as the equal access to decision-making and adequate financing”.