Next Monday sees two pilgrimages of faith; in southern South Africa and in northern India. The first is a gathering of optimistic miners in Cape Town for the annual Indaba conference, and the other is the largest gathering in the world.
The four-day Indaba conference commences on Monday, February 4. The same day sees the official start of Kumbha Mela, which is considered to be the world's largest congregation of religious pilgrims — last year's Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia drew only about 2.5 million people.
Kumbha Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. The fair (mela) rotates between four sites, which are where Lord Vishnu spilled drops of Amrita (the drink of immortality) while transporting it in a kumbha (pot). This Kumbha Mela is in Prayagraj (formally Allahabad), at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.
A Maha (great) Kumbh Mela is held at Prayagraj every 12 years, and was last held in 2013 when a total of some 120 million people visited over a two-month period. Next week's fair is an Ardha (half) Kumbh Mela, which is held midway between the Maha fairs.
Bathing at the sacred sites is thought to cleanse a person of all their sins, and up to 30 million visitors are expected on Monday, which is the most auspicious bathing day. The festival started in mid-January and ends on March 4.
Next week's Mining Indaba in Cape Town is the 25th, and is considered the largest annual mining-investment event in Africa. The organiser, ITE Group, recently announced that South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be speaking.
As a highly-regarded businessman, and former leader of the mineworkers union, President Ramaphosa brings more relevant expertise than most politicians. His attendance is timely as the mining industry in South Africa has been suffering from job losses and falling production. The president spoke last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and can be expected to repeat his plans for driving growth and investment in South Africa's mining sector.
Other noteworthy speakers include the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, and 35 mining ministers. The corporate contingent is headed by the CEOs of Barrick Gold and Anglo American, Mark Bristow and Mark Cutifani, respectively. All can be expected to address Indaba's central theme of 'Championing Africa's Sustainable Economic Development'. Topics at the event are centred around resource nationalism, innovations in technology, battery metals, diversity in mining and sustainable development.
Perhaps 7,000 mining delegates are expected to gather at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Impressive but spare a thought for the organisers of the Kumbh Mela. To accommodate this year's pilgrims, a vast tent city has been built on the mudflats of the river delta, a new airport has been built, roads have been widened and hundreds of extra trains have been laid on.