Pan African MPs want common law on mining

By ABCafrica reporter

African legislators, academics and civil society organizations want a common law that addresses issues of transparency and accountability by the governments and mining companies in Africa. The resolution was made in a meeting of a continental four-day conference recently in Yaounde, Cameroon. The legislators noted that the continent is well-endowed with minerals; yet this is not leading to the desired levels of prosperity, development and industrialization. Themed: “The issue of political and socioeconomic integration of the African continent: The role of the Pan African Parliament,” the lawmakers in the meeting sought to adopt and ratify a model law on a new development approach to natural resource governance on the continent. One of the panelists, Dr Paul Jourdan, in a statement, said: “The model mining law would give pointers that would, for example, strengthen the negotiating capacity of parliaments; ensure meaningful collaboration between key players and provide support for the required social dialogue.” Jourdan elaborated that the African Mining Vision (AMV), adopted by African heads of state; during their July meeting in 2009 in Kigali, is seen as a solution to the poor governance, lack of strong institutions and weak policies in African states.

He explained that the AMV framework is currently being used in several countries such as Mozambique, Ethiopia, Lesotho and Tanzania and it provides for a transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of mineral resources. To Jourdan, AMV is also supporting countries to develop world-class geological survey systems so that they can negotiate with investors from an informed point of view. He said they hope to work with the Pan African Parliament to train parliamentarians on contract negotiations.  Bernadette Lahai, who comes from a diamond-rich area in Sierra Leone, said exploitation and child labour are rampant in mining areas and legislators often have no information on agreements between the mining companies and the state.

“Children as young as six years work in the mines. We don’t want mining to affect education,” she said, adding that; mining agreements are conducted between government and the mining companies, leaving MPs and the local population in the dark. According to the African Development Bank, minerals account for an average of 70 per cent of total African exports and about 28 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The bank notes that earnings from the recent oil, gas and mineral discoveries in Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania could lead to an increase in government revenues of between nine per cent and 31 per cent in the first 10 years of production. Legislators noted that; because of the structure of Africa’s extractive industries, most countries remain exporters of unprocessed commodities. They proposed that Africa needs to add value to her exports so as to unlock the full economic potential of its natural resources.

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