Former South African president Thabo Mbeki pointed to an elephant in the room at the Investing in Mining Indaba on Wednesday when he said the Africa Mining Vision was great, but asked why more progress had not been made.
Mbeki had been asked to comment after attending a session on the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), the policy framework adopted by all 54 member countries of the African Union in 2009.
The session had been focusing on how to leverage the AMV Private Sector Compact, which was launched in 2016, to reach consensus on what shared value and shared benefits in the mining sector meant.
Mbeki told the session firmly but elegantly that he was left wondering what had happened since the AMV was adopted in 2009.
“One of the panelists made an important observation that the African Mining Vision was adopted in 2009,” he said. “It is now 2017. What has happened in these years?”
The elder statesman added that he had not heard even one of the big mining companies refer to the AMV in their presentations at the indaba.
“Yesterday and the day before yesterday, I sat in the main hall trying to listen to what the corporate sector says, and none of the companies that spoke there referred to the African Mining Vision … none!”
He said the vision was very good, excellent even, in describing how the private and public sector should cooperate to help to produce a “New Africa”, but asked if it was working.
He repeated that not one of the major mining companies that he had heard speak in the preceding days about mining in Africa had referred to the Africa Mining Vision.
“There must be something wrong with that,” Mbeki said. “Is it wrong with us as the public sector; is it wrong with them; is it wrong with both?”
Then, addressing Fatima Haram Acyl, the commissioner of Trade and Industry of the African Union Commission, who was sitting beside him, he said he thought the question should be asked.
“In the eight years since 2009, why have we not moved forward?”
“The vision is very good, it is very important for the future of the continent, but we are failing to move towards the realisation, and that is a serious problem,” Mbeki concluded.
It was not surprising that he was asked to share his thoughts after the session. Each one of the speakers – senior officials from government or the private sector in various African countries countries – had started their address to the session by offering personal thanks to Mbeki for attending.
Commissioner Haram Acyl had even thanked him for “elevating” the session, while most of the others had told a personal story about why Mbeki was important to them.