The African continent is a place of “unlimited potential” with strong fundamentals for Australian investors, delegates at the Paydirt 2019 Africa Downunder mining conference in Western Australia heard last week. Running with a recurring theme of the value in investing in Africa, speakers such as high-profile Resolute Mining managing director John Welborn flagged Chinese investment as a sign of inherent value on the continent.
Welborn urged investors not to miss out on understanding opportunities in the growing region of Africa. The Resolute leader stated, “Australia understands current economic stimulus initiatives in the US, China, South East Asia and Europe. However, we often do not recognise just how big Africa is, therefore have failed to recognise the growth and partnership opportunities there – opportunities now being snapped up by China.
“The fundamentals tell the forward picture. The population demographics in Africa will be the largest in any area in the world between now and 2050.”
Welborn made observations about Australian understandings of markets beyond its shores, saying “During the first 20 years of my life, Australia, both government and business, missed what was going in Asia – and faces making the same mistake with Africa currently.”
The corporate leader ran with a theme I have been highlighting in recent months — changes in Africa present new opportunities.
Welborn made some keen observations then issued a warning, saying, “The … continent has seen enormous change in recent years. Since 2000, half of the countries in the world with the highest annual growth rates have been in Africa. [Australia is] potentially missing what is happening around us.”
Australia Africa Minerals and Energy Group (AAMEG) chief executive Williams Witham called out critics of the continent during the annual event, arguing he believed a number of activists and journalists were trying to feed perceptions that Africa was a place of difficulty and malpractice. This ties in with my views, that vested interests can cause trouble for project developers in any part of the globe.
AAMEG’s chief told conference delegates, “If Australia is not thinking about Africa, it is not thinking about Australia’s future let alone Africa’s future. We should not miss the ‘African opportunity’ but we need to be on notice that other international interests are already in there and well ahead of Australia in taking up the current and emerging investment windows.”
Witham said Africa was a place for opportunity and good practice and the case for increased Australian investment in Africa’s mining sector continued to be compelling.
He said, “The reality is that many companies and countries are operating successfully across Africa and there is almost unlimited potential there. Even those spots where there is some volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, create their own environment for opportunity.”
Resolute’s Welborn pointed to Africa’s strong growth as a core fundamental for investment.
Mining industry surveys such as Fraser Institute’s annual assessment go a long way to measuring how we as community view investment attractiveness on the continent. But another way to judge opportunity is to judge who has skin in the game. China’s presence is a sign there are core fundamentals in projects.
If other countries such as Australia and other resource sector markets like Canada pool their funds and become more involved, it will only strengthen our efforts to move things forward.
As I’ve said previously, investments in infrastructure and projects are a cornerstone to economic and community development and the success of our mining sectors.
- 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