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AMN - Mining can be a win-win, says Ramaphosa – comment by Yolanda Torrisi

Yol headshot May 2011

The African Mining Network is at the 25th Investing in African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town this week, catching up on the latest on investing in the continent’s developing mining industry.

During the packed opening ceremony, I heard South African president Cyril Ramaphosa deliver a much anticipated address, urging the mining industry to add value to Africa’s economy.

Ramaphosa set a pragmatic agenda for reform that all companies operating on the continent would do well to follow.

The African National Congress president and negotiator for South Africa’s transition to democracy 25 years ago believes companies should give back to the communities they operate in.

Also an investor and leading trade unionist of many years, Ramaphosa believes collaboration is the way forward for companies in Africa.

His strategies for mining companies include a proactive agenda to foster inclusive growth in communities while partnering with local governments to help build their capacity.

Ramaphosa argued companies should help improve their workers’ living conditions by building adequate homes to house them.

The 66-year-old who had worked to bring about a peaceful end to apartheid said proper housing was important because it helped put an end to the migrant labour system he believed was dehumanising and a relic of apartheid.

The former leading figure at the National Union of Mineworkers believed organisations should help upskill people in Africa by investing in education programs, allowing students to be exposed to both metallurgy and mining engineering.

Ramaphosa believed companies should provide work experience to students from institutions such as training colleges, recruit well-trained graduates and provide internships for young people.

Also among the president’s suggestions were that companies should focus on the beneficiation of their ore and locate their markets closer to where things are produced.

South Africa’s president believed health and safety should be a stronger focus at companies so workers were not exposed to harm.

He urged organisations to create opportunities for women and be brave enough to encourage workers to invest in their companies and join their boards of directors.

Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo also gave an address, backing Ramaphosa’s call for a collaborative approach.

He called for transparent negotiations and fair deals for both companies and communities as the minerals industry produced win-win situations for all parties.

Ramaphosa and Akufo-Addo’s suggestions are a pragmatic way forward for organisations in Africa as they build social credit and make a valuable contribution to local communities.

People are the cornerstone of every organisation and companies would do well to take the two presidents’ advice for the benefit of workers, investors and communities.

- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact:yolanda@yolandatorrisi.com