Malawi’s government set up a taskforce in 2010 to pave the way for Malawi to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). It is also one of the guidelines in Malawi’s National Export Strategy, launched December 2012.
Last week, The Nation published an interview with the Executive Director of Citizens For Justice (CFJ), one of the main Non-Governmental Organisations involved in lobbying for the country to sign up to the EITI.
Reinford Mwangonde, the Executive Director for CFJ, explained that the future looks bright for Malawi’s mining sector, but that the EITI is an important component of ensuring transparency in the sector. Part of the interview between Mwangonde and Edwin Nyirongo, a journalist with The Nation, is replicated below. For the full interview, see “Malawi’s Mining Future Looks Bright“.
Why do you think it is necessary for Malawi to be a compliant country?
Malawi is now home to a number of local and multinational corporations with interest in extractive industries. Like many countries in Africa, Malawi is optimistic that mining ventures will translate into socio-economic development of the country. This, however, can only be possible if the country does not fall into the trap of the resource curse driven by poor governance. Secondly, the Government of Malawi has listed mineral development among its top five goals under the Malawi Growth Development Strategy II. Furthermore, mining is listed under the Economic Recovery Plan-(ERP) as one of the pillars to strengthen the country’s economy. It is, therefore, imperative that the country ought to establish mechanisms that will foster proper management and governance of natural resources wealth.
Are there other benefits?
EITI will improve Malawi’s transparency index at the international level, and that has a number of benefits for this country, which is at the bottom of the governance index. Up and above, the transparent collection, usage and auditing of resource revenues will increase Malawi’s economic growth, which may in turn help reduce poverty in a country dependent on agriculture.
Why do you think some countries still resist joining EITI?
There is a myth about EITI and some countries such as South Africa have not shown much interest in it. EITI is seen as another donor imposition, but that is not true because membership to this organisation is voluntary; any country can choose to join or not. Secondly, EITI is seen as a double standard tool against poor African countries, but this is illogical because the initiative has shown to benefit more African countries where resource curses have been rampart than in western countries.
What is Malawi Government’s response to the matter?
The Government of Malawi has been exploring whether it can adopt EITI as a tool to enhance its collection, tracking and governance of revenue from extractive industries. The first national workshop on EITI took place in 2010 and a task-force comprising of government departments, civil society organisations and private companies was established to drive the exploratory processes. In essence, we have made strides as a country to show ample interest in EITI and there seems to be strong indicators from the President that she is serious about transparency.
Are you satisfied with the way the mining sector in run in Malawi?
The country has a number of challenges at institutional level, policy/ legal frameworks and human capacity. The three factors combined have a huge factor in whether Malawi will benefit from its minerals. Government departments that govern the industry are under-funded and under-staffed. The policy and legal framework regulating the sector needs to be updated and officials in the Ministry of Mines need further capacity building.