Today, Thursday, February 7th, sees the attention of a nation focused on Cape Town for the second annual State of the Nation Address by President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa. The South African president is expected to focus on corruption and maladministration in government, and on unemployment and education.
President Ramaphosa is on record as saying that corruption is the root cause of the country's ailing economy, which has led to unemployment reaching almost 53% among South Africans aged between 25 and 34. In addition to active measures against corruption, President Ramaphosa recognises that the employment problem can't be resolved without investment in the economy, and is working to remove the political uncertainty that has seen inward investment dry up.
On Tuesday, February 5th, President Ramaphosa had become the country's first sitting president to address the annual Mining Indaba conference, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The first fully democratic elections in South Africa occurred in April 1994, and the president remarked that the conference and the 'new' South Africa had a shared history.
The president was on stage for 90 minutes, and reminded the audience of his role in launching the country's National Union of Mineworkers in 1982. Unspoken was the crucial role he played in the negotiations that brought a peaceful end to apartheid (and was subsequently Nelson Mandela's choice for his successor as president).
Most importantly, however, President Ramaphosa mapped out a future path for mining on the continent of Africa. In an impressive presentation, the president managed to be modest ("singular honour to be invited"), entertaining (especially in his description of needing to "polish" the minister of mines, former mineworker Gwede Mantashe) and forceful (in setting ten "challenges" for the mining industry).
President Ramaphosa asked miners to "be brave", and listed ten principles for a better working relationship. He told delegates that mining companies should:
- Encourage growth in shared value;
- Partner with, and help educate, local government;
- Invest in the living conditions of workers;
- Educate, and re-skill, local communities;
- Partner with training colleges and academia;
- Embrace beatification to add value locally;
- Pay increased attention to the health and safety of workers;
- Provide internships and job opportunities for the young;
- Be proactive in providing opportunities for women; and
- Have the courage to include workers as shareholders, and unions onto boards.
President Ramaphosa described investors as "partners in a journey of development", and emphasised that he saw mining in Africa as a sunrise industry, not a sunset one (as it has been widely characterised in South Africa). The president described a new era of co-operation, and emphasised that he no-longer wanted to meet miners in court.
President Ramaphosa told delegates "you have our full attention", and stressed "we will listen to any concerns that you still have" (after last September's Mining Charter). He thanked the local industry for being tough in these negotiations, saying that this "helps build better solutions".
After discussing the need to improve South Africa's infrastructure, President Ramaphosa ended by saying "we will make our country better … I promise you that". The same can he hoped for the continent as a whole.
Looking for more insights into Mining in Africa? The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) will be holding an Africa Day at their 2019 event, taking place in Melbourne 28-31 October.