The question of whether the mining industry should be considered a secondary industry or the way forward can be controversial. Nigeria is one nation where key figures have argued it should be a major industry.
Nigeria has a massive population of more than 200.8 million people, or 2.6% of the world’s population, which makes finding jobs and viable industries in the economy an important concern as the population grows by about 2.6% a year.
Nigerian Mines and Steel Development Acting Minister and Permanent Secretary Dr Abdulkadir Mu’azu has flagged the country has built up its mining capacity in the past four years. The mines minister, who is delivering a keynote address at an African mining conference in London this week, has noted the nation had also introduced more innovation in the industry.
Speaking at a farewell dinner, the immediate past minister for mines and steel development Abubakar Bawa Bwari told the audience the country should maintain its momentum with its ‘head high’.
Bwari said two weeks ago, “We came to a ministry that was somehow lifeless and was in a coma. But we developed a road map to where we are today.”
Roadmaps are important in Nigeria as the nation makes positive moves toward a goal to earn US$20 billion from the industry in the next seven years after pledging US$42 million two years ago to facilitate mining investment. Traditionally the country has earned just 0.3% of its gross domestic product from mining, compared to 9% from oil, which also makes up two-thirds of state revenue.
Nigeria is the seventh largest country in the world but its economy is ranked 27th. Its population has a median age of just 17.9 years, so ensuring the nation’s people can thrive is an important concern. The mining industry can certainly help out with jobs and wealth but only if its efforts continue to be supported by the nation’s leaders.
Earlier this month Bwari shared his views with a national newspaper in Nigeria, saying the mining industry was key to the country’s development. Bwari noted the country’s natural resources had attracted the attention of foreign and domestic investors, arguing oil and gas exploration wasn’t the only way to move forward Nigeria.
If the country pays attention, the ex-mines minister believes Nigeria will have a “glaring future” in mining. It’s a powerful argument for mining as a centre of economic development.
Countries need viable products or industries to generate wealth. Nigeria’s plentiful resources could certainly provide this product. But only if it continues to prioritise exploration and skills development and not lose too much momentum to fighting its illegal mining sector.
- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact: email@example.com