BRUSSELS | MAPUTO, Mozambique (ACP-IDN) – Once neglected minerals and materials may hold the key to millions of jobs across Southern Africa at a time when oil and metal exporting countries are grappling with low commodity prices.
Mega infrastructure projects agreed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State are projected to draw in 986 billion dollars in investments over the next ten years, ramping up the demand for construction materials exponentially. Estimates from the African Development Bank indicate that for each billion invested in African infrastructure, between 3-7 million jobs are created.
“The need for infrastructure investment in southern Africa is immense and local construction materials will play a huge role,” said Viwanou Gnassounou, Assistant Secretary General of the ACP Group. “It’s clear that the mining, processing and use of materials like sand and gravel can be an engine for domestic economic growth and employment, especially for youth and women. We need to make sure this sector is up to the task. We need it to be productive, inclusive, responsible and capable of creating sustainable jobs.”
However, the national and local enterprises that mine, process and supply minerals and materials used in construction are in need of an overhaul. While nurturing home-grown jobs and boosting local enterprise development, the small-scale and mid-size operators that dominate the sector in Southern Africa lack know-how to access markets and better technologies and have a poor environmental, health and safety record.
“Building sand and gravel are very high value for Africa. We need to unlock the potential in this sector to create jobs, fuel local enterprise development and accelerate achievement of Africa’s industrialization agenda,” said Frank D. Mugyenyi, senior industry advisor at the African Union Commission.Construction materials are part of the ‘Development Minerals’ sector, which comprises the range of minerals and materials mined, processed, manufactured and used locally in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
Endorsed by the African Union as a priority sector for the achievement of Africa’s Blueprint for Development: Agenda 2063, ‘Development Minerals’ are increasingly recognised for their potential to spur domestic economic development.
The ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme is investing 13.1 million euros (13.9 million dollars) in training and developing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), governments, civil society and other stakeholders in 40 countries across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to equip this essential sector to meet the growing domestic demand for Development Minerals. In the first eighteen months of the programme, more than 1500 people participated in 28 training and knowledge sharing workshops. It is an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, financed by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and implemented by UNDP.
“The potential of the Development Minerals sector lies largely untapped and building the capacity of governments, civil society and operators, which are mostly small and medium scale, will help underpin strong local economies. We are proud to support this capacity-building programme in partnership with the ACP group and the UNDP,” said Geert Anckaert, interim head of cooperation in the Delegation of the European Union to Mozambique.
“This programme is about the materials that are used to build roads, hospitals and schools. We are working with the ACP Group of States and the European Union to revive the domestic minerals sector in Southern Africa. This sector generates employment, income, and livelihoods for the very poor, bringing us closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Marcia de Castro, UNDP Resident Representative in Mozambique.