How does Malawi fare in the Southern Africa Mineral Governance Barometer?

Eye on Malawi's Extractives Rachel Etter-Phoya

Eye on Malawi’s Extractives

How does Malawi fare in the Southern Africa Mineral Governance Barometer?

With Rachel Etter-Phoya

Despite enormous efforts and resources committed to ensuring that minerals benefit citizens, these initiatives have failed to have the any significant impact as we continue to attest to the signing of dubious mining contracts; illicit financial flows; corruption; environmental destruction, and human rights abuses

boldly writes Siphosami Malunga, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa, in the foreword to a research report that assesses progress made by ten countries in the Southern African Development Community on good mineral governance.

2017-04 OSISA Southern Africa Mineral Governance BarometerThe Mineral Governance Barometer, launched at the Alternative Mining Indaba in February 2017, is the first comprehensive, systematic, and comparative analysis of the sector in the region. It aims to generate learning on how countries manage the mining sector and provides an empirical baseline.

The two key characteristics of countries that pursue ‘socially-desirable patterns of mineral governance’ are state capacity and accountability. Capacity refers to the state’s ability to manage the sector effectively through developing, implementing, monitoring and enforcing regulations, while accountability refers to the mechanisms that allow non-state actors, like civil society and parliamentarians, to keep the government in check as it manages the sector. These were measured through investigating laws and regulations, publicly available information on detection and enforcement, and participatory institutional mechanisms for accountability. The research suggests it is accountability and not state capacity that has more impact on a country’s record in developing and implementing regulations.

Many features of the Africa Mining Vision appear to be missing from regulatory frameworks in countries across the region and implementation is weak. In particular, while there are more effective regulations for labour and the environment, there are less for improving economic linkages (upstream, downstream and fiscal linkages) and for community impact. The authors suggest an explanation for the difference: environment and labour regulations apply across industries, and regulations that relate to community impact and economic linkages are specific to the mineral sector. Another interpretation is that civil society may be better organised and equipped on labour and environmental issues, but

the affected constituencies in the other-issue areas are more geographically isolated (community impact) or sectorally fragmented (national linkages). (p.26)

Figure 1 shows the regulatory presence, which combines the existence of regulations with their implementation (the extent of state detection and punishment of non-compliance), across for issue-areas. Malawi performs best in managing the environment in relation to mining, but has significant work to do for community impact and linkages. I believe with the new legislation to be tabled at the next sitting of parliament that the introduction of community development agreements (and effective implementation) will improve this. The small size of the sector also perhaps explains ‘the lack of attention to community impact’ (p.35). The current development of a Malawi Country Mining Vision is the first step in improving upstream, downstream and fiscal linkages in the nascent sector.

2017-04 Mineral Governance Barometer Figure

Fig 1. Regulatory presence by country and issue-area (p.28)


Across the entire region, there is work to be done to improve mineral governance, and this comes as no surprise, of course. The Barometer confirms that mineral governance is ‘a set of linked obligations upon mining companies, the state, and ultimately citizens and civil society’ (p.37). An aggregate mineral governance score does not sufficiently capture the challenges and strengths of each country, but Malawi sits among the middle of countries with as score of 0.49 against an average of 0.52.

I interviewed a number of government officials and civil society representatives as part of the country research, and this is what I had to say about our score:

Malawi has few comprehensive rules about community impact and benefits or economic linkages. But mining governance is improving. The anticipated new Mines and Minerals Bill will hopefully usher in a new approach as the sector grows – ensuring that communities have a greater say about their future, and that mining is better integrated into the development of the national economy. (p.33)

The Barometer has been authored by Rod Alence, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Witswatersrand and by Robert Mattes Afrobarometer co-founder and Professor of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town, supported by a team of 10 in-country researchers. The Barometer is expected to be produced every two years following this pilot study.


This was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 48 (April 2017).

The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.

3 responses to “How does Malawi fare in the Southern Africa Mineral Governance Barometer?

  1. Would this cover oil too?

    And if so, what do you think of decision to open up to exploratory drilling? (didn’t I read about that recently?) D

  2. Pingback: Malawi’s Mining, Oil and Gas News #25: April 2017 | Mining in Malawi·

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