A look inside the African Minerals Development Centre

9 January 2019 (Last Updated December 24th, 2018 11:48)

In September, Guinea was appointed as host of the headquarters of the African Minerals Development Centre by member states of the African Union, a body dedicated to harnessing the continent’s mineral wealth for the betterment of all African nations. What does the centre hope to achieve, and why was Guinea chosen for the location?

A look inside the African Minerals Development Centre
The AMDC announced in September that it has chosen Guinea as its headquarters. Credit: Courtesy of the Republic of Guinea, Ministry of Mines and Geology

In 2009, the member states of the African Union announced the African Mining Vision (AMV), a continental framework for the development of minerals. The AMV envisioned the “transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources [that could] underpin broad based sustainable growth and socio-economic development”.

In order to accelerate this vision, the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) was set up in 2018.

“In order to achieve the transformation envisaged in the AMV, Africa needs effective institutions and highly skilled people,” explained AMDC coordinator Kojo Busia. “There are significant skills gaps across Africa to be addressed, and much to do if African nations are to successfully transform existing institutions in order to meet present and future demands.

“AMDC’s human and institutional capacities workstream plays a vital role, working with member states to help them identify and plan for these changing needs, and helping to improve regional integration. AMDC’s capacity building work reaches a wide range of stakeholders, including mining-affected local communities and civil society.”

Africa has abundant natural resources, including the world’s largest reserves of platinum, gold, diamonds, chromite, manganese, phosphates and vanadium, and already employs millions of workers in more than 1,800 mining projects, as well as artisanal works. In the past however, it has struggled to fully benefit from this wealth.

The AMDC announced in September that it has chosen Guinea as its headquarters, from which it will help nations to navigate the mining sector, ensuring maximum social benefits from mining operation.

The AMDC: a project with a broad scope

The AMDC is creating a human and institutional capacities workstream to strengthen the African minerals skills base to make it stronger, more competitive and better aligned to AMV outcomes.

“For this workstream, this means a value chain approach, designing innovative systems to build the human and institutional capabilities needed to drive industrialisation,” the AMDC’s brochure explains. “It involves creating platforms for sectoral cluster development, and bringing together research, innovation, and skills to support and sustain greater local participation.”

The AMDC hopes that by addressing the skills gaps in Africa and helping to improve institutional capacities it will be able to increase high-value employment opportunities across the continent.

Much of this work is regional, taking into account the varied mining potentials and existing sectors to tailor its advice and educational schemes. This includes working with stakeholders to encourage skills transfer, mobility and vocational training. It aims to establish domestic resource mobilisation schemes to ensure sustainable funding of skills development programmes.

“We’re excited about our targeted and comprehensive engagements at country-level, to help domesticate the AMV in member states, building on their priorities and interests,” Busia explained in a recent interview with Global Africa Network.

The AMDC’s scope is broad, and includes environmental studies and programmes such as the Green Growth Initiative alongside its training focus. As part of this, it encourages the enhanced use of geological and geospatial information to help African nations make decisions on mining projects that takes into account the long-term effects. In doing so, those nations can ensure that sustainable mining operations are encouraged.

Its initiatives stretch to improving women’s participation in the industry, and building capacity for better, fairer contracts. The AMDC has already created a capacity building programme on contract negotiations in five African countries: Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi and Niger.

It has partnered with a number of organisations, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance (formerly IM4DC) and the International Senior Lawyers Project.

Guinea: a mining country on the up

Of the five countries that bid to host the AMDC headquarters – Zambia, Kenya, Mali and Sudan and Guinea – Guinea has emerged successful.

“There are encouraging signs of a growing mining industry in Guinea,” said the Royal Mint’s director of precious metals Chris Howard. “The impoverished country has huge potential to profit from its enormous mineral reserves, which have largely been left untapped and include large gold reserves. Currently, mining constitutes 15% of the country’s GDP.

“In July this year, Guinea was appointed as host of the headquarters of the African Minerals Development Centre by member states of the African Union. This signals not only Guinea’s growing reputation in the mining industry throughout Africa but also the country’s potential to profit from a booming mining industry.”

The mining industry is critical to Guinea, accounting for 97.84 % of exports and 25.11% of national revenues. Already, it has more than $7bn in investments, predominantly from bauxite and gold projects.

As a nation, Guinea possesses a host of natural resources. It has the largest known reserves of bauxite with an estimated 40 billion tonnes, and one of the largest untapped iron ore deposits. The country also has volumes of precious minerals, with over 700 tonnes of known gold reserves and 30 million carats of diamond reserves.

Guinea also has a diversity of base metals, but few are developed. These include nickel, copper and cobalt, all of which have seen demand grow in recent years thanks to a boom in batteries.

Despite its wide ranging mineral resources however, Guinea hasn’t previously been a large player in the mining sector. There have been a number of reasons behind this struggle, including the Ebola outbreak, falling commodity prices and a legacy of corruption and poor governance creating an unstable policy environment, which has deterred investors.

Things have been changing, however. In 2011, a new mining code was adopted and then revised in 2013, designed to optimise the benefits the minerals industry can provide for the Guinean people, as well as improve investor appeal. Moreover, after joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2007, the country became compliant with its standards in 2014, which promote the open and accountable management of extractive resources, according to the EITI’s website.

These recent efforts to improve the sector made it an attractive choice for the AMDC headquarters.