Govt. needs to encourage local investment in mining
It is a welcome development that Malawians, who in the past were made to believe in the political tune that they have to work hard in agriculture because the country has no minerals, are now waking up from their slumber and are showing interest to invest in mining.
Looking at the mineral licensing cadastral portal developed by the Department of Mines, one would notice that there are a number of local firms that have acquired mineral tenements.
An example is Tushiya Gold Mining Company, which we have featured in our lead article. The company, which is owned by locals including Otis Bushiri who is a brother to renowned prophet, Shephard Bushiri, is laying the ground to kick-start gold prospecting in the South of Dwangwa River in a tenement which used to be owned by British firm, South East African Mining.
The government needs to encourage such local investments in the minerals sector by providing the investors with the necessary tools including updated geological data.
It also needs to encourage local banks to provide capital to local mining investors because lack of access to capital is a big hindrance for Malawians to invest in mining.
It is unfortunate that the government signed memorandums of understanding with several local commercial banks to support mining ventures but the banks have become quite and vividly there has never been any follow up by the government on the agreements.
Ironically, instead of encouraging local investment in mining, the government is busy organizing investment forums to attract foreign investors in mining, energy and other sectors.
However, what the government should understand is that no country was developed by foreigners.
They are citizens of the emerging economic powerhouses such as China and India who are developing the countries and not foreign investors.
Of course, it is important that foreign investors should come into the country with their capital and expertise but we should not solely depend on them to develop our minerals sector.
Malawians need to rush and acquire licences for strategic minerals so that when foreigners come in with their expertise and capital, they should join the locals in joint ventures.
There is also need for the government to scale up awareness on mining issues in Malawi to ensure that more Malawian investors are attracted into the sector.
This is because the country has no rich mining history and as we pointed out already, politicians in the past reigns used to encourage Malawians to only work hard in agriculture because the country has no minerals.
In this awareness drive, the government needs to provide enough data on mineral occurrences and mining activities taking place in the country.
We think enough data is not provided at the moment because questionable figures come from government on the mining sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP).
For example, we are told mining contributes less than 1% to GDP but the question is; does that include all the sand and quarry mining plus brick molding by the country’s masses? What about the gemstones that are being smuggled out of the country on daily basis?
Surely, the remedy to answer these questions and correct things in the mining sector is that the government must be serious and provide all the requirements for Malawians to establish sound investments in the sector from which the government can collect ample taxes.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 61 (May 2018).