WINDHOEK - International media from Reuters to CNBC was abuzz this weekend with news that Namibia has scrapped the requirement for partial black ownership and management of companies seeking mining exploration licenses. The Chamber of Mines said on Friday the requirements had been set aside by Mines and Energy Minister, Tom Alweendo, in a letter to the group.
Nampa/AFP reports Alweendo as saying: “Our objective is to grow the mining sector where it can continue to meaningfully contribute to our socio-economic development. This can only happen when more minerals are discovered and it is important that we make the progress of mineral discovery as effective as possible.”
While proponents of the Namibianisation of the mining industry might be quick to condemn the move, Chief Executive Officer of the chamber, Veston Malango, welcomed the reversal of a policy introduced in 2015 that he says was basically forcing Namibians to buy into debt. Critics of the policy also said it threatened the ability to attract investment into the lucrative mining industry. Commenting telephonically yesterday, Malango explained that local empowerment rules have not been scrapped, but that instead Alweendo has only removed the additional conditions attached to the granting of exploration licenses.
“We don’t want to empower Namibians with debt, because until you make a discovery, debt is all an exploration license is. We want to empower Namibians with the real thing. We have been discussing this matter with the minister for about three years now and we explained to him how unpractical and counter-productive the policy is,” said Malango.
Neither the minister nor officials in his department could be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Hilifa Mbako, the chamber’s vice president, was reported as saying that the decision “was the most important fundamental decision for future investment into Namibia.”
Mining contributed 12.2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product last year. Under the scrapped policy, the management structure of a company applying for an exploration licence was required to have a minimum 20 percent representation of black Namibians. At least five percent of the company also had to be owned by Namibians or by a company wholly-owned by Namibians.
Mbako reportedly stated that requirements and uncertainties created by the planned New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), a regulation intended to force white-owned businesses to sell 25 percent stake to blacks, had adversely affected investor confidence in the country.
– Additional reporting by Nampa/AFP