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‘Mining still important for growth’

INTERNATIONAL Finance Corporation (IFC) senior investment officer Sacha Backes says the mining industry is still important to Africa’s economic growth despite declines in commodity prices.
In an interview in Lusaka, Mr Backes said Africa should develop its infrastructure in order to get meaningful benefits from its mineral resources.
“Many projects cannot take off due to lack of infrastructure such as rail lines, roads and power. Despite these challenges, mining is still important to Africa’s economic growth. Of course, declining commodity prices are a factor but the industry has a long way to go and countries should ensure that infrastructure is well-developed to attract investors,” Mr Backes said.
Mr Backes said demand for minerals will continue to rise even when China reduces consumption.
He said public finance is not easily available to ensure infrastructure development.
“Hence governments must engage the private sector and other third-party financing models,” Mr Backes said.
He advised mining companies to involve communities and other stakeholders to avoid conflicts.
“The mining industry in Africa is usually characterised with political and social risks, as well as rewards. As IFC, we recommend that mining companies should mitigate risks by bringing everyone to the table, including perceived enemies.
“For example, a company can put up an expensive facility as part of its corporate social responsibility, but the community will insist on something else. So it is important to find influential people in the community who should be able to communicate what the company intends to do. These people will act as ambassadors and also treat your staff as key stakeholders because they ultimately belong to the community,” said Mr Backes.