First African forum on mining: A civil society perspective


TrustAfrica, an African foundation, mobilised experts in the mining field to contribute to the debates on Illicit Financial Flows in the mining sector at the First African Mining Forum organised by the African Union.

The African Union (AU), and its Specialised Agency, the Africa Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) [[i]], organised the first “African Forum on Mining” in Accra, Ghana, on 13-15 November 2019. The Conference, themed “Africa Mining Vision at 10: Looking Back, Moving Forward”, was celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the adoption of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) [[ii]] by African heads of states. TrustAfrica [[iii]] was invited to discuss the issue of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in the mining sector. The foundation brought a civil society perspective by giving the floor to experts in the field.

Curbing illicit financial flows from the mining sector

African countries are suffering huge capital losses due to IFFs. These illicit flows deprive African nations of vital tax revenues that could be spent on social programmes including healthcare, education and basic infrastructure. The vast majority of these IFFs are a result of aggressive tax planning and profit shifting by corporates in the mining sector.

In a framing presentation made during the event, Briggs Bomba, Programmes Director of TrustAfrica, highlighted the importance to understand IFFs beyond the limited definition of “money that is illegally earned, transferred or used” [[iv]] given by the High-Level Panel on IFFs. In the African context, the phenomenon of IFFs must be understood to encompass the multiple ways in which wealth that is generated on the continent and should be invested in Africa’s human development and economic transformation is unjustly shifted, resulting in a net transfer of wealth out of Africa. From this perspective, all the nine programme clusters of the AMV [[v]] have relevance to the conversation around IFFs in as far as they seek to ensure better optimised minerals rents and money that is retained on the continent.

His statement was followed by that of Mercy Adhiambo Orengo [[vi]] from the Kenyan newspaper The Standard. She shared a story published the year before about a young 28-year-old gold miner [[vii]], who is handling more gold than the richest billionaire of Kenya, yet his children are dying of malnutrition. She reminded the participants that IFFs are universal and affect also women and children, yet this is not clearly portrayed.  

Indeed, IFFs are often considered as impacting governments, but seldom the people. While explaining the work undertaken by  Wacam [[viii]] in Ghana, Kwaku Afari clearly showed how central communities are to the issue of IFFs. When dealing with IFFs, costs that subsidise the already rich companies that exploit natural resources on the continent are not being taken into consideration. When a mining activity is about to begin, the first concern is about ascertaining whether or not the community has a say on the mining activities. Most communities don’t know how the mining process works, and they are not aware of the obligation of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), [[ix]] therefore they do not exercise it and for those who do, their rights to FPIC are mostly not respected by the companies.

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