Last week, during the President of Malawi’s visit to the United Kingdom, which coincided with the bicentenary celebrations of Dr David Livingstone’s birth, Joyce Banda gave a speech on “Good governance, growth and human rights: a vision for Malawi’s development” and engaged in a question and answer session with participants at an event held by Chatham House on 21 March 2013.
In her speech, Banda focussed on her efforts to improve the economy and business environment, as outlined in the Economic Recovery Plan, since she took over leadership of the country from the late president Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2013. Mining is one of the key areas in this plan. She asked “I have asked these questions that our people are asking, why are we still poor when we have so many resources” and in response she briefly mentioned her vision for Malawi’s mining sector, “a Malawi that has a developed mining industry where its citizens are primary beneficiaries of the resources”. She also noted the importance of working closely with the private sector for sustainable growth and the critical need for energy provision to enhance industry.
In the Question and Answer session (see summary below), Tearfund’s Head of East and Southern Africa Donald Mavunduse asked about corporate investment in the mining sector. He visited northern Malawi in December 2012 and said
I was in Malawi last December. The north of Malawi, beautiful lake there, and I saw in one of the mines a big 737 aircraft take off. And I spoke to a District Commissioner who said one of the challenges is that the mining investment is not helping local communities. So this particular mine there had been a discussion about local communities providing vegetables and food to the mine and the mine still insisted on purchasing foodstuffs from as far as South Africa and just one example of maybe missed development opportunities in the way foreign investment is handled.
Banda’s response to this question was as follows
The third question was about the mine in the north where you are told that the local people are not benefitting. My position is that Malawi needs to draw lessons from other countries that have been in the mining sector for many years and we are lucky that we are coming this late into the sector. So therefore we can draw lessons from the mistakes of other countries. So a month or two ago, I launched one geophysical mapping project funded by the World Bank, but we also have decided to have a mining code that will help regulate how much of our resources are taken out and what framework we shall have to ensure that we don’t deplete our natural resources without the Malawians themselves benefitting. 20 years from now they must look back and say “we had natural resources and this is how our country benefitted”. So I think what you are talking about are things that have happened because we didn’t have these structures in place. We didn’t have a mining code in place. I am pleased to report that one of the meetings that we’ve had during this trip was with speaking to Scotland, Dundee University, that are going to help us draw up that mining code.
As I reported earlier, in each of the five sectors, we are going to have three projects per sector. In the mining sector, one of the projects that we are going to have, that Malawians can hold us accountable at the end of my term, which is in 14 months, is the mobilisation, training and support to small-scale artisans. So to ensure that Malawians at local level are also benefitting from our natural resources.
I think what we’ve been trying to do in the last five minutes is to say when we got in all these laws and regulations didn’t exist. What we are doing under the policy is to ensure that the Malawian farmer or supplier is protected as well.
John Bande, Malawi’s Minister of Mining also commented,
Just also to add since Her Excellency took government she directed that we come up with a policy to guide us on just issues like the ones you have raised and these issues are just those problems that we didn’t have guidance on. These problems were listed and I’m happy to report to this house on 27th of this month we are going to launch this policy. It is going to be called “Mines and Minerals Policy”. And secondly, I should also mention that Her Excellency decided to remove the Mining Ministry from that of Energy. The idea was for us in the Mining Department to concentrate on the mining issues, including those you just raised that the locals are supposed to benefit to the maximum.
In discussing relations with other nations in the region, Banda caused laughter when she alluded to the dispute with Tanzania over Lake Malawi (known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania),
As far as Malawi is concerned, we are benefitting. We have a little thing going on between us and Tanzania, but we shall sort it out.
Banda’s speech (click to download audio) can be accessed online (transcript) along with the Question and Answer session (click to download audio). A summary of questions and participants in the Q&A session can be found below.
Summary of Question and Answer Session
- 0:40 – 4:55. Foreign investment in Malawi’s financial markets. Question: Stephen Bailey-Smith, Standard Bank Group’s Head of Africa Research. Answer: Clement Kumbemba CEO of the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre.
- 5:04 – 21:00. Age of marriage; corruption; corporate investment in mining sector and its benefits for local communities; incentive framework for investors. Question: Donald Mavunduse, Head of East and Southern Africa of Tearfund. Answer: Joyce Banda, Sosten Gwengwe Minister for Industry and Trade, Ephraim Chiume Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, John Bande Minister of Mining.
- 21:01 – 22:51. Status of the Election Unification Bill. Question: Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Answer: Joyce Banda.
- 22:55 – 27:21. Relationship between Malawi; SADC and countries in the region. Question: Owen Elliot, Head of Africa Research Group British Foreign Office. Answer: Joyce Banda.
- 27:26 – 40:15. Challenges to Malawi’s democracy (including Commission of Inquiry into death of Bingu wa Mutharika and political transition); form of best British support for Malawi’s vision of development. Question: Tony Dykes, Director of Action for Southern Africa. Answer: Joyce Banda, Ephraim Chiume, Sosten Gwengwe
- 40:35 – 44:48 Institutions in Malawi. Comment: Jarvis Matiya, Head of Justice and Legal Adviser (Legal and Constitutional Affairs) at Commonwealth Secretariat.
- 44:50 – 52:09. Policy for crop diversification; scaling up of community health project SAVE approach; national civic education for elections. Question: Christian Aid. Answer: Joyce Banda