• May 29th, 2020

Mineral wealth: Time for a Namibia renaissance

For years, Namibia has been ranked as the 4th largest producer of uranium worldwide, behind only Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia. In 2012, for example, 7.1 percent of global uranium oxide supply came from Namibia. 

It is easy to predict how many billions of dollars is accrued from supplying the fourth largest volumes of uranium globally, but the question that we must ask is: in whose pockets do these billions end?

Central to Namibia’s voluminous supply of uranium to the world is Rössing, which, as reported this week, is being sold to a new Chinese majority shareholder, replacing another foreign owner, Britain’s Rio Tinto.

Simply put, the country’s largest uranium mine, which contributes to Rio Tinto’s annual profits of over US$1.4 billion, is exchanging foreign hands. US$1.4 billion equals nearly N$20 billion - and this is just profit, not revenue.
Namibia’s operational and development budget for the current financial year, which we are struggling to fund anyway, is N$58.5 billion. Imagine the ease with which this budget could be funded if the Namibian people, through their government, owned more than three percent they currently own in Rössing.

Namibia cannot continue to be a turf of transactions between multi-international corporations over our resources while we watch on with folded hands.

The creation of Epangelo Mining in 2009 was to help us get meaningful participation in the domestic mining sector but as things stand, that objective has not been realised to date. 

In business, a decade is a very long time and we ought to have made strides in capturing some of the mineral resources, instead of still watching China and Britain exchange our revered Rössing mine helplessly.    

The paradox of rich resources and poor people – a situation glaring in Namibia and most of Africa – is partially answered by situations like this. It reminds us of the old Oshiwambo analogy of a frog catcher who died of thirst while standing in water where this tasty tailless amphibian resides.

We cannot be so richly endowed but remain firmly rooted at the tail end of the global development indices.
True, there are dark chronicles of slavery and colonialism to both why our people are poor and why strategic resources remain in the hands of foreign superpowers.

If Namibia is to benefit from her resources she must disrupt the status quo – and this can be done legally, even if it means amending the existing archaic laws that were deliberately designed to benefit foreign players at the expense of the local populace. By not doing anything about this, we are jealously protecting the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Although we are not privy to granular details of the deal between Rio Tinto and China regarding the sale of Rössing mine, it looks at the face of it as if Namibia will again be watching from the stands.

There has been much talk of an African renaissance in recent years. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s second post-apartheid president, has spoken of a ‘rebirth that must encompass all Africans’.

For this rebirth to be achieved, we need midwives that are prepared to cut their way to the new baby, which, like Jesus of Nazareth, will become the saviour of our country’s economic future.

New Era Reporter
2018-11-30 10:03:02 | 1 years ago

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