Hopes are high that Malawi’s extractive sector is to get extra attention from policy makers having been earmarked as a key component for the country to attain advanced industrialization in Malawi’s Agenda 2063.
In Agenda 2063 which State President Lazarus Chakwera launched earlier this year, mining is earmarked as a key component of industrialization, and government is to enhance and support the local production and export of final products, moving away from exporting raw products.
The vision highlights that government will put in place the relevant governance and mining legal frameworks and develop the skills that can support high-value minerals. The minerals shall be linked to high-end local production that will be key for high-value export and import substitution like steel manufacturing.
Reads the blueprint “Industrialization of our economy shall be achieved by increasing investment to establish both traditional and non-traditional manufacturing firms, technological innovations, mining and other services.”
“We shall use mineral resources mapping to develop high value mines through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) arrangements. Value addition will increase the returns from the commodity while creating more jobs for our people, including the skilled and unemployed youth.”
However, industry captains have told Mining and Trade Review Publication that there is need for government to commit itself in dealing with rampant inefficiencies and irregularities crippling the sector instead of lip service.
The mining sector currently contributes only about 1% to national income, and it is characterized by very little value addition.
The local extractive industry is also characterized by rampant illegal mining with export of raw minerals.
MD for Chiwandama GeoConsultants John Nkhoma said government’s inability to engage local experts with vast knowledge of the industry in its projects and inadequate funding are some of the constraints that can choke realization of industrialization through the minerals sector.
Nkhoma explained that the country needs to conduct good mineral resources investigation to attract investors, and such operation can only be carried out with well-staffed Geological Survey Department and involvement of local experts with ample knowledge of the country’s geology.
¬He said: “Emphasis should be on having proper training and giving conducive incentives. The country lacks properly trained people to manage the sector. Note that agriculture has people trained to PHD levels and they are carrying out research in the fields of their expertise while there has been very little expert training on mineral resources
He, however, said there is a very huge potential if only the sector can be supported and promoted.
“In the past, there has been a lot of talk without action. There is also need to ensure that the various negativity that the CSOs portray about mining are counteracted otherwise they give very bad impression about mining.”
Nkhoma also pointed out the need for good will and dedication, proper monitoring and evaluation of the activities of the sector, and strategic curbing of corrupt practices.
CEO for Starch Construction and Mining Company Stalin Gondwe highlighted on the need to leverage value addition of local stones through establishment of gemstone processing centres in the four cities.
Gondwe said: “Government has to introduce more training centers as for now it is only SMEDI in Mponela that offers gemstone processing services and it should also introduce a proper curriculum for tertiary colleges, let us have mining and exploration as a subject in our academic system just as in other countries like South Africa so that we build knowledgeable human capacity.”
He also concurred with Nkhoma’s sentiments on recruiting more professionals to help in mapping out the country’s mineral resources saying most gaps existing in the sector are a result of unprofessional working practices.
CEO for Thanthwe Mining and Exploration Company Limited (TMECO) who is also a part-time Staff Associate at The Department of Mining Engineering at University of Malawi’s Polytechnic Innocent Malambo said to realize the Agenda 2063 dream, government should capacitate academic institutions to train more local miners in value addition saying after completing their training, these miners through their cooperatives and associations should be given machinery to start producing different products from raw minerals.
Malambo said; “Universities and Geological Survey Department should be empowered to do more research on how best to utilize our industrial mineral deposits (apatite, graphite, nepheline, silica, etc) in terms of fertilizer production, glass making and other industrial applications.”
“My appeal to government is to fully utilize local professionals in mining sector being trained at Polytechnic, Chancellor College and Malawi University of Science and Technology so that Malawi can achieve its vision with mining as key component of industrialization.”
Chamber of Mines and Energy National Coordinator Grain Malunga recommended that in order to achieve the vision, mining should be seen as a priority in both budgetary allocation and human resource development explaining that inadequate budgetary allocation to undertake basic services is among exacerbating factors chocking success of the industry.
He observed that mining is currently not a priority to Government, “if it is then it is in lip service as there is lack of energy to drive mining and mineral value addition, failure in implementation of Mining Policy and lack of a conducive legal framework and poor capacity building.”
Malunga said; “Lack of State Owned Enterprise to develop local mineral resources due to their strategic importance in assisting poverty alleviation and delays in granting of incentive packages, such as duty exemption are also a central problems.”
“Government should establish a parastatal to spearhead the development of strategic minerals.”
“Exploration and valuation of strategic industrial minerals – coal, iron ore, apatite, ceramic clay, and glass sand should be prioritized as well as automatic granting of incentive packages for new projects with a stability period. Export of scrap metal should be discouraged as it is already processed iron ore.”
Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima told parliament that Malawi has demarcated the 43-year vision into Blocks of 10 years for easy implementation and cross-checking of various agendas highlighted in the vision.
He said: “Malawi’s Vision 2020 was conceived to achieve poverty reduction in contrast, Malawi 2063 seeks to attain sustainable wealth creation and emphasises on transforming our country through industrialization mainly focusing on limited priority areas for noticeable impacts.”
“In the foundational years of implementing this Vision, we shall formalize and regulate artisanal and small-scale miners while linking them to appropriate technologies and anchor mining firms.”
The African Mining Vision (AMV) Action Plan 1 implores countries to optimize the share of mineral revenue and improve the use and management of mineral revenue.