African youth locked out of Africa mining sector

Extractives are a very critical part of mineral-rich economies across Africa and contribute directly to GDP. Africa alone is home to about 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, 10 percent of the world’s oil, and eight percent of the world’s natural gas.

Approximately 43 percent of the population in Africa lives in extreme poverty, according to a World Bank report.

The continent’s mineral wealth is so vast that in an ideal world, most or all mineral rich countries in Africa would be self-sustainable and tremendously improve the per capita income.

Some facts: Kenya that is regarded the newbie in mining has the third largest Soda Ash deposits in the world and in February of 2017 announced one of the biggest gold discoveries in its history.

Kenya’s number one export out of the port of Mombasa is now mineral sands by Base Titanium.

Botswana is home to 35 percent of Africa’s diamonds, most of which are gem quality, and is the world’s leading producer of diamonds by value.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is estimated to have more than US$24 trillion worth of untapped raw mineral ore deposits, but even so it remains one of the greatest producers of diamonds (34 percent) and copper (13 percent) in Africa.

South Africa, the continent’s richest country, values its mineral endowment at more than US$2.5 trillion in mineral reserves; it is the world’s largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium, and vermiculite, and the second-largest producer of limonite, palladium, rutile, and zirconium.

Tanzania is the fourth-largest gold producer in Africa, though earns just under three percent of its gross domestic product from the mining industry.

Namibia mines 46 percent of Africa’s uranium. Mozambique produces 32 percent of Africa’s aluminum, with 32 percent of Africa’s supply.

Zambia is holds between 65-77 percent of Africa’s copper supply. Guinea is responsible for more than 95 percent of Africa’s bauxite production.

Africa is estimated to hold 120 billion barrels of oil reserves, no less than half of Saudi Arabia. The African Development Bank (AfDB) reports that the continent’s natural resources will contribute more than US$30 billion per annum in government revenues over the next 20 years.

However, even with this enormous mineral wealth, Africa’s unemployment levels are among the highest around the globe especially among the youth; it is home to the youngest population in the world.

Going by the Trends for Youth report by The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook (2016), the global number of unemployed youth is set to reach 71 million by the year 2020. Kenya, like Uganda, has a high unemployment rate of up to 40 percent.

In South Africa, more than half of all active youth were unemployed in 2016.

Again, the youth of our times have been brought up to be more of job seekers and less of job creators.

Why are the continent’s youth minutely involved in the mining and extractives industry? Could it be because the sectors are unattractive to the young people? Are the young people misinformed about the returns on investment from these sectors? Do they lack the skills and knowledge on the extractives value chain? Do we need a phase of self-colonisation to have a mind shift and change in perception to awaken the excitement of the value and potential of our mineral endowment and wealth?

Some bad news: Africa is said to be losing more than US$60 billion — an amount that can finance Kenya’s national budget for a few years — a year in illegal outflows and price manipulation in the extraction of minerals, with most of the proceeds going offshore.

Most of our mineral wealth is exported in raw form rather than processed. This because we lack the technical expertise and industries to process our minerals.

That explains the increased hiring of expatriates to take on top positions in prospecting, exploration and mining not only in Kenya but also across the continent.

It would be of greater benefit if aside from drawing up best practices from our policies, Africa visualized a future of going from being the exporter of raw minerals and create an enabling environment for mineral processing.

That processed precious stones make their way back to the continent is a testament that after over 50 years of independence, Africa’s mineral-rich countries have not advanced much in terms of scaling up mineral productivity.

We hold the keys to unlocking the diversification potential and driving industrialisation boom. South Korea did it, China did it, India is doing it and so can Kenya and the rest of Africa.

In the last two years, Kenya has initiated and hosted a few annual mineral promotion events such as the Kenya International Gem and Jewellery Trade Fair and the Kenya Mining Forum among others yet the majority of delegates participating and attending are mostly middle aged.

The youth are often just a handful and from the questions asked by them, barely even know the background of these events they’re attending.

Mining Indaba arguably the biggest mining and extractives event in Africa attracts hundreds of mining companies from around the world.

This year, Canada revealed that there are over 270 Canadian mining companies in Africa with exploration expenditures of about US$306m. Where are the Kenyan, African companies investing in Mining and Extractives?

With all the technological advancement we have today thanks to globalization, Kenya and indeed Africa cannot afford to be left behind. Half a century after attaining independence, Kenya is a more exposed country and so is the continent.

Investing in having more young Kenyans and Africans at large taking up Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses is one way of growing interest from the lower education levels.

Having higher education learning focus on specialized mining and extractives related fields could help a great deal in transforming our nations for the better.

For it is partly through this investment in addition to encouraging the setup of processing plants and driving industrialization that Kenya and Africa will be able to create jobs for its youthful population and increase employment of our people in this seemingly deserted mining, oil and gas extractives industry.

By Business Daily Africa

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