Raw materials are high on the agenda as their sustainable supply can provide a key contribution in several areas, ranging from development to industrial competitiveness. Good governance, investment & infrastructure and geological knowledge & skills were the three main themes for discussions at a high-level conference about the Africa-EU partnership on raw materials.
The conference, was entitled 'Translating Mineral Resource Wealth into Real Development for Africa', and brought together around 250 participants from governments, civil society and industry. Representatives from 22 African countries attended.
The themes of the conference are set out in the joint Africa-EU Strategy Action Plan 2011-2013, which covers a broad swathe of issues; the subject of raw materials being one of its priority areas. "We should work toward a coherent vision on development, mining and raw materials, to support African capacity at the appropriate national, sub-regional or continental level and within the available cooperation instruments", is the main vision of the plan.
"As this is the first conference on development and mining to take place under the auspices of the EU's Raw Materials Initiative launched in 2008, this is an excellent opportunity for us to share our experiences and views on how mineral wealth can foster broad-based growth, especially in Africa where the availability of resources has not always led to inclusive growth for Africa's people," said Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, in his keynote speech.
"It is my view that resource wealth can and should act as an engine for inclusive growth and sustainable development, in turn creating 'win-win' situations where both developed and developing countries benefit from the sustainable supply of raw materials," he added.
In its conclusions, the conference recognised the potential for the contribution of mineral resource wealth to development and underlined the importance of transparency in improving governance.
Both with regard to payments and contracts, strengthening the administrative capacity of governments and parliaments in contract negotiations are crucial elements in improving governance. This process must necessarily involve the civil society and private sector.
As far as investment and infrastructure are concerned, delegates at the conference stressed that Europe can assist Africa in improving the investment potential of mining development corridors and enhance the policy and regulatory framework on issues such as the environmental impacts of mining.
The conference noted that, "as Europe also has considerable experience in corporate social responsibility, […] a good area of co-operation could include transferring of such approaches to state mining companies".
"SMEs and small scale mining companies could be used as avenues for increasing the local content and diversifying mining supply chains," the conference concluded. As for geological knowledge and skills, participants recognised that the EU and the African Union should facilitate the exploration of mineral resources in Africa by fostering co-operation between European and African geological surveys and improving the capacity of the Organisation of African Geological Surveys (OAGS).
The importance of continuous training in this area, and increasing the capacity of the African partners in providing this training, was highlighted in particular.
The conference was attended by representatives from the following African countries: Ethiopia, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Burundi, Guinea, Tunisia, Gabon, DRC, South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritania, Djibouti, Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Togo, Malawi and Uganda.
The Africa-EU partnership is linked to the European Union's Raw Materials Initiative, as one of the latter's areas of focus is to ensure fair access to supplies from outside Europe. The Raw Materials Initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2008 to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials for European businesses and industry.
Ensuring fair access to supplies from outside Europe is also part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union’s master plan for promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth over the coming decade through seven flagship initiatives.
Raw materials have an important role to play in two of these flagships, which group and link up mutually reinforcing policies with a view to achieving the key overall objectives: ‘An integrated industrial policy for the globalisation era’ and ‘A resource-efficient Europe’.
A workshop on mining taxation entitled 'Transforming Wealth into Sustainable Development' was held on 9-10 December 2011 in Addis Ababa. It was jointly organised by the European Commission and the African Union Commission in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The event brought together experts from both the public and private sector and generated a set of concrete proposals that were presented to senior experts at the second African Union Conference of Ministers responsible for Mineral Resources held on 12-16 December.
The workshop concluded that African countries had to adopt visions for their mining sectors that should be aligned with the African Union Mining Vision and that these visions should guide the establishment of effective taxation regimes.
The workshop also asserted that the right balance must be struck between augmenting domestic revenue collection and attracting and retaining investors. Participants agreed that African countries should observe the principles of transparency, exchange of information and fair tax competition, and focus on capacity building in relation to domestic resource mobilisation in the extractive industries - particularly in the domain of tax administration. Moreover, donor support should be coordinated to harmonise all capacity building efforts.
The activities set out in the action plan include:
On geological knowledge and skills:
'Metals, Minerals, Raw Materials' Unit
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry