Namibia has removed a requirement for mining companies to be one-fifth owned by black Namibians in order to apply for mining licences.

The government took the decision to remove the black ownership requirement last week, AFP reported citing Namibia mines minister Tom Alweendo.

Hit by a three-year recession, the government has eased the ownership restrictions in a bid to lure investment in the country’s mining industry. Uranium and diamonds are two of the country’s most important exports.

Alweendo was quoted by the news agency as saying: “Our objective is to grow the mining sector where it can continue to meaningfully contribute to our socio-economic development. This can only happen when more minerals are discovered and it is important that we make the progress of mineral discovery as effective as possible.”

The law, which was introduced in 2015, required companies seeking an exploration licence in the country to have at least 20% representation of historically disadvantaged people, or black Namibians, in the management structure.

“Our objective is to grow the mining sector where it can continue to meaningfully contribute.”

The policy also required companies to reserve at least 5% of their ownership for persons of Namibian origin or by a company wholly owned by Namibian nationals.

Based on data available with the Namibia Statistics Agency, the mining sector accounted for around 12% of Namibia’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, while providing employment to about 16,900 people.

Namibia was granted independence in 1990. The rules to boost black ownership were introduced to empower the country’s black population who suffered from apartheid-style rule that saw the white minority wielding majority control over the economy.