African governments urged to optimise natural resources to benefit citizenry

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ccra, Dec. 9, GNA – African governments have been urged to maximise their natural resources through the provision of the necessary policy and regulatory frameworks as well as the requisite capital to optimise opportunities in the mining and fisheries sectors.

The call was made by participants at a day’s policy dialogue on natural resources value chains in Accra organised by the African Natural Resources Centre in partnership with ECOWAS and funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) aimed at igniting discussions for appropriate policy solutions to respond to the challenges facing the management and use of Africa’s natural resources.

The participants at the event included policy analysts, geologists and economists, as well as government officials and representatives of civil society organisations drawn from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

They proposed various policy interventions including the need for African countries to build the necessary infrastructure-base for natural resource value addition, improving the quality of human resource, adherence to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods and services and capital investment in natural resources exploration and processing.

Mr Yero Baldeh, the Country Manager of the African Development Bank, in his welcome address, said although the African continent is endowed with rich-natural resources, those resources have not positively impacted on the standards of living of the people.

He said the continent produced about 21 per cent of the world’s total gold outputs, 52 per cent of diamond, 73 per cent of cobalt, 83 per cent of platinum and 58 per cent of manganese.

However, he said, those resources have failed to transform the economies of the 54 African countries and their people were still wallowing in abject poverty.

Mr Baldeh said the focus on natural resources value chains fell within the Bank’s five priority areas namely; feed Africa, light up and power Africa, industrialise Africa, integrate Africa and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

It is against this backdrop, he said, the Bank funded the dialogue so that stakeholders would dispassionately discuss policy solutions, which would enhance the processing of the continent’s natural resources value chains for socio-economic development.

Mr John Peter Amewu, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, in a speech read on his behalf, gave the assurance that, government would consciously maximise Ghana’s natural resources through the provision of the necessary policy and regulatory frameworks as well as the requisite capital to optimise opportunities in the sector.

He said Ghana had a diverse inventory of mineral resources including significant reserves of gold, bauxite, manganese and diamonds, and would collaborate with the private sector and other stakeholders to develop the value chain of the mining industry to promote inclusive growth.

“Government is committed to partner the private sector to exploit opportunities in the country’s mining value chain to accelerate national development,” he said.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources said Ghana’s gold production accounted for over 95 per cent of all mineral revenues produced in the country annually.

He said the sector employed about 25,000 in the large-scale sector and over one million in the small-scale mining sector and attracted significant investment amounting to US$17 billion over the past two and half decades and still the country’s leading export earner with 45.5 per cent in 2016 representing six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

To consolidate the gain of the mineral industry, Mr Amewu said, government was promoting linkages development of the sector and value addition to the minerals produced.

“Government plans to take advantage of the total value chain of mining from policy and regulatory framework through exploration, extraction and beneficiation to mine, closure and rehabilitation,” he said.

Mr Amewu said government was pursuing various policy interventions and strategies to enhance the value chain and linkages of the sector such as commodity-based industrialisation, the implementation of local content regulation, development of national supplier development programme and diversification of minerals produced in the country to expand the mineral base and enhance value addition.

He said although government was not into the ‘business of doing business’, it recognised the responsibility of providing the enabling environment and the necessary policy and regulatory framework to enhance private sector participation in the natural resources value chain.

Mr Jean-Louis Kromer, the Chief Natural Resources Management Officer of the African Natural Resources Centre, said natural resources are important drivers to national growth and development.

He said it commissioned a series of studies to provide policymakers in members countries of ECOWAS with the information needed to strike the right balance between maximising revenue from natural resources and integrating them into national economies to engender development.

He said the studies focused on gas, iron ore, diamonds and fisheries sector in view of their significant contributions to the economies of the African Continent.

The dialogue, he said, was intended to spark discussions and re-invigorate managers of the African economies to utilise the natural resources value chains to maximise profits and improve the standards of living of the African people.

The forum provided a platform for stakeholders in the mining and fisheries sectors to deliberate on sustainable policies on natural resources value chains in Africa.