Nyasa Times (Leeds) – By Watipaso Mzungu
The newly appointed Minister of Mining Albert Mbawala has disclosed that his ministry taking necessary steps in addressing challenges affecting the mining to ensure the country maximizes profits and income from the sector.
The Government of Malawi identified mining as a key component of industrialization and we will enhance and support the local production and export of final products, thus moving away from exporting raw products.
However, the sector contributes only about one percent to national income, and it is characterized by very y little value addition (beneficiation) largely due to similar challenges facing the industrialization drive in general.
A recent baseline survey by Perekezi ASM Consultants established a number of gaps in policy and legal frameworks that are hindering progress in the mining sector.
The firm conducted the survey with financial support from the American Embassy in Malawi through the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund, which is funding a one-year project on enhancing social accountability (civic engagement) for the realization of fiscal transparency (duty bearer’s responsiveness) in the mining Sector in Malawi.
The project’s overall goal is to improve the oversight role among key stakeholders in the mining sector in Malawi, which includes civil society leaders, government officials, legislature, and media by mobilizing and empowering CSOs, media and other state actors to engage duty-bearers for just resource governance in mining sector.
At a training workshop organized for media and leaders of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Lilongwe, one of the partners at Perekezi ASM Consultants, Chikomeni Manda, observed that the absence stringent policy and legal framework is fuelling illegal mining, which is coupled with export of raw minerals.
Manda cited unorganized gold mining that is slowly booming in the area of Traditional Authority Mazengere in the outskirts of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
Apparently, the miners in this area sell their raw gold products to Mozambicans who visit them everyday.
Manda recommended that there is a need to strengthen the oversight functions of the policy makers and other key stakeholders in the mining sector in Malawi the following recommendations should be addressed.
“There is need to build capacity on social accountability in the mining sector across the various players particularly Members of Parliament, CSO, media and communities so that there is increased participation and greater benefits. The capacity building will enable various players to adequately fulfill their roles for the benefit of the nation. This will in the process enhance the realization of increased social accountability and fiscal transparency in the mining sector,” he said.
Manda further emphasized the need for increased access to information to various players in the mining sector so that informed decisions are made in the process of carrying out of oversight functions.
He urged the government and mining companies to be providing information to the public so that duty bearers effectively provide checks and balances in their oversight functions from an informed point.
“The government and mining companies need to appreciate the roles played by various CSOs and media in empowering the communities to actively participate in the mining sector and realize full benefits from mining activities taking place in their community.
“There is need to institute mechanisms to ensure meaningful consultation among all stakeholders on all significant local, social and environmental issues, mining procedures, fiscal issues and other policy affecting the mining sector. This will help in having stakeholders who are well versed in the mining sector that they will be able to provide reliable oversight functions.
“Parliament should help in encouraging stringent oversight mechanisms in the mining sector by helping in providing conducive environment for mining stakeholders through formulation of different legislations,” stressed Manda.
In his reaction, Mbawala said he is aware of the gaps and that his his ministry is working out various programmes and initiatives to achieve sanity, transparency and accountability in the sector.
The minister reiterated that mining has tremendous potential to develop and support the inclusive wealth creation agenda as espoused in the Malawi 2063.
“I can assure you that my ministry is working out mechanisms and programmes aimed at promoting value addition to increase the returns from the commodity while creating more jobs for young people, including the skilled and unemployed youth. But for this to be achieved, we need every Malawian to fully participate in the programmes, which we will be embarking on in our quest to increase income from the sector,” said Mbawala.