Managing mineral wealth in a digital future
SADC’s mineral wealth and its various multi-national countries that exist are often accused of illicit tax flows and irresponsible environmental damage assisted by a lack of political will and highly institutionalised levels of corruption.
My attendance at the 3rd Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) Journalism Summer School in Lusaka Zambia, placed the journalist in the forefront in simplifying the cloak and dagger language of the business reporting with a particular focus on extractive industries.
The role of the media as the fourth estate of government is to check up on how our governments manage this resource.
This takes a level of investigative skills in being able to follow the money. Sounds like a simple enough journalistic concept that once coupled with investigative skills that don’t inherently involve false pretence but open disclosure on intent to get the facts. This has revealed mining companies tendencies of deliberately changing ownership right after government tax free periods.
The value addition and backward integration talks by mining multinational are window dressing attempts that at times may be genuine in outcomes as they mirror the capitalist notion of the profit within the confines of the law.
This relates to the lack of access to information that goes with investigating key extractive industries for the 25 journalists across SADC that attended the two week meeting.
It has become a no brainer that the current digital age involves the access to information, with the current attitude towards wanting information that is supposed to be publicly available, the movement towards the inevitable digital economy will hopefully allow a more informed public on what the tangible results of mining activities and holding government accountable.
This combined with other natural resources ought to lead to tangible results in the local communities whose resources are put to use in improving the life and livelihood of some other communities way out of their immediate economic reach.
The mobile phone, said to be the device of choice for Africa to access the internet has lead to a plethora of internet applications in solving simple and complex every day functions. The effect of technological innovations that steam from these real-life applications have a significant effect on rural populations in decentralizing government institutions and access to information which relates education. Even with the challenge of literacy.
The continent is abound with rare earth minerals found in every digital device. Imagine the possibilities for the sub-continent in having this valuable resource which without every digital device in your sight needs to function.
Will we be faced with the past Structural Adjustment Programmes for African countries facing economic crisis in the late 1960’s by conditional loans from the IMF and World Bank that mimic the current craze for African mineral wealth? Or will Namibia like other SADC governments continue dilly-dallying in portraying an image of confident in declaring what they want from bi-lateral agreements with major investors like China that is investing billions in infrastructure projects in exchange for the raw non-value added products that it needs for its thriving economy.
The clichéd notion that the world is becoming a global village holds true to the hamlet of SADC because of the geographic location of SADC in relation to the rising Asian economies and access to the wider Africa and world.
Are journalists helping their audience understand how our governments go about managing our resource. How does government address literacy and other essential steps in creating a knowledge based economy. The kind that is showing itself to us by disruptive business models that leverage the power of internet based solutions and a consumer who is not shying away at spending less time at getting the end product/service when it can be brought to them.