The ministry of mines this week revealed a staggering figure of N$23 billion in money earned from the export of minerals produced locally during the 2017/2018 financial year. Companies listed as producers of these minerals are all foreign-owned, some without an iota of local ownership. This means the bulk of these billions is building economies of other nations, at the expense of ours. Namibia’s mineral resources are a sad paradox - a paradox of being a poor nation, and rich at the same time. The N$23 billion mining revenue is nearly half of the projected national budget announced last month by finance minister Calle Schlettwein. Had commodity prices not slumped during the period under review, this figure would even be much higher than what was generated. This is proof, therefore, that mining – to which Namibia is a silent spectator – is a cash cow for foreign merchants. Forget the old ‘Scramble for Africa’ mothered by the Berlin Conference. We have a new wave of the same scramble, except this one is under the guise of a blanket called free-market and trade liberalisation. Interestingly, what is lifted from under our ground is worth more than bilateral aid and loans, soft and hard, from overseas. True, to extract these minerals costs money that we do not have, but this cannot be an excuse for eternity. Our grandchildren cannot inherit the status quo. They must find a new mineral regime in place, with Namibians its key drivers and beneficiaries. We cannot accept loans worth, say N$2 billion, from elsewhere while we have an economy capable of producing N$23 billion from mining alone. It could well be that the loan is advanced to us from the very money that these foreign companies generated from our own resources. What a circus! On Namibian affairs and resources, we must be the authority and proverbial ‘big brother’ to whoever comes here, and not the other way round as is the case now. Namibia’s mineral resources are not for eternity. They, like diamonds at Oranjemund, will someday become extinct like dinosaurs. But will we have something to show for such rampant extraction if we are currently at the periphery of such exploitation? Already, a new World Bank report, “The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018”, offers evidence of how much poorer Africa is becoming, thanks to rampant mineral, oil and gas extraction. We are part of Africa and when reality finally hits home, we will not be spared the consequences of the poverty that is anticipated. Africa is already feeling the pinch of its smash-and-grab development policies aimed at attracting foreign direct investment, but which the World Bank now sees as counterproductive. Our short-sighted focus on jobs, taxes and royalties, as benefits from mining companies operating in our country, must be tilted. We need to start looking at long-term strategies that will sustain our future, as a nation. It is more sustainable to forge ahead with the radical transformation of our mining and other key sectors than rejoicing in the glories of today, sweet but short like making love, at the expense of the future. Our natural resources, when finally depleted, must leave an indelible mark of prosperity and investment in other modern industries, such as technology for various uses. It would be a real shame when a third generation from now hears that this country was once pregnant with mineral wealth, but sees no baby that emerged out of such pregnancy. Let’s thus contain our excitement at announcements such as that of the N$23 billion generated from mining, for there is little evidence of how this has changed the lives of people in Gochas, Okatana or Impalila Island.
2018-04-20 09:47:18 5 months ago