|The Courier N° 150 - March - April 1995 - Dossier: Refugees - Country Reports: The Bahamas, Guyana (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)|
In the September 1994 issue of The Courier, the European mining industry was challenged to regain some of the ground lost in Southern Africa to investors from other regions. The call seems to have been heard loud and clear, judging by the spectacular turn out at the first SADC-European Union Mining Forum held in Lusaka from 7 to 9 December. With almost 300 SADC and European mining operators and investors (50% above target) and over 20 major institutions present, the organisers were justly proud of their success
The Forum was funded by EDF regional funds and placed under the dual sponsorship of the EU and SADC. Preparatory work, which began in 1992, involved various fact-finding missions and consultations in both the SADC region and Europe No fewer than 21 consultants (14 from SADC), were involved in these activities which were coordinated by the EC Commission (DG VIII) and the SADC Mining coordination Unit (MCU). They included identifying 185 mining projects at different stages of development. elaborating detailed and updated country files (covering mining policy, the environment and mineral potential) and promotional work.
Care was taken to choose applicants meeting strict selection criteria: they had to be bona fide investors with the necessary financial and technical capacity, and motivation Since South Africa only joined SADC in August 1994 and because of its more advanced stage of industrial development, it was invited as an 'investor' country, on the same basis as the EU Member States. On the European side, invitations Lo participate were also made to mining investors from three countries which have since joined the Union (Austria, Finland and Sweden) as well as from Norway. A limited number of participants from third countries, selected by the World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, were also invited.
The Forum was threatened when, just a week before it was due to open, Zambia Airways collapsed. Disaster was averted by some last-minute flight rescheduling and the organisation of three special charters for SADC participants. A number of those attending made private arrangements with some driving several hundred miles to be present in Lusaka.
Participation alone is a major factor in the success of such an event and on this basis, there is cause for satisfaction, in both quantity and quality terms. 153 SADC mining promoters and licence holders, 1 10 European investors and financial institutions (including some of the largest 'players' in the mining world), 15 South African enterprises and 8 investors from third countries were present There were also participants from leading development banks and finance corporations, as well as more than 100 public officials (mainly from SADC) and six ministers with mining portfolios.
After inaugural speeches by senior SADC and EC representatives, the Forum was formally opened by the Zambian Vice-President. The remainder of the first day was devoted to SADC country presentations. The core feature of the Forum, the individual promoter-investor meetings, were highly successful with 1500 taking place during the following day and a half Throughout, there was a great deal of activity around the SADC country booths where promotional material, geological maps, background data and video presentations were available The ACP-EU Centre for the Development of Industry (CDI) demonstrated the manufacture and uses of compressed earth bricks and also played an active role in promoting the ornamental stone sector while the MCU arranged a gemstone exhibition and sale.
In parallel with the individual meetings, three workshops were held on mining finance. mining legislation (with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat) and dimension stones (organised by CDI) Discussions in each work shop were led by a pre-arranged panel of high level professionals and institutions. Attendance and interest was high and the groups attracted a total of about 300 participants.
On the spot evaluation of the Forum confirmed the general impression that the formula was the right one, designed for the right people and held at the right time. The recent rise in mineral prices and the positive changes in south Africa played their part in the unexpectedly high turnout Some 95% of participants found the Forum to have been worthwhile and more than 90% indicated they would attend another event of a similar kind. Interestingly, European participants were generally more satisfied than those from SADC, many of whom were primarily seeking concessionary funding for their projects This augurs well for future investments in Southern Africa but points to the need for finer tuning of promoter identification.
By the closing day. at least ten promoters were reporting that their projects had attracted serious attention from one or several investors and that further developments had been planned One project alone was being considered by 21 European companies. The CDI announced that of 45 projects presented at the Forum, 22 were the subject of specific business proposals. But this is just a beginning A full-scale follow-up, including specific monitoring and evaluation activities, has already been planned. Since mining projects need time to mature, it will only be by the end of 1995 that it will be possible to assess the Forum's results in terms of actual mining investment and joint-venture agreements.
So much has been said about the unfavourable investment climate in Africa that the Forum's success should not be underestimated. Two immediate conclusions can be drawn from the experience First, the African mining sector has growth potential and second. future ACP-EU fore could usefully refer to the formula used in terms of specialisation and approach. Above all, the event shows that Africa still has a future as a place for foreign investment.