Ethiopia Should Ponder a Namibian Blueprint for Mining Magnificence

Sep 16 , 2023
By Wondemagegnehu G. Selassie

As Ethiopia stands on a rich vein of geological potential and opportunities, a deeper glance at Namibia's journey might just be the blueprint for its promising future, urges Wondemagegnehu G. Selassie, a lawyer specialising in issues of mining and petroleum.

In an enlightening tour organised by Ethiopia’s Tulu Kapi Gold Mines S.C., a coterie of figures in the mining industry and influencers embarked on a recent journey to Namibia, an African powerhouse steering a masterclass in mining excellence. An endeavour hinged on fostering a symbiotic relationship between the two countries, the tour witnessed discussions with Namibia’s titan industry players, including the government-backed Epangelo Mining Company and the behemoth Swakop Uranium-Husab Mine.

In the dynamic landscape of the global mining sector, Namibia stands as a beacon of growth and stability, drawing the gaze of industry executives and investors worldwide. Brimming with untapped potential, Ethiopia should see Namibia’s flourishing sector as a blueprint for success. Namibia’s mining industry has undergone a remarkable ascent, posting a formidable 21.6pc growth last year, almost double the previous year.

Although Ethiopia seeks to revitalise its sector, it has yet to witness an industrial-scale mining boom despite rich mineral deposits.

Namibia boasts a vibrant and diversified mining sector with an impressive portfolio of 26 operational industrial-scale mines. A testament to the country’s prowess, the Chamber of Mines of Namibia reported staggering turnovers, with mining activities encompassing an extensive range of materials, from diamonds to essential materials for the cement industry. Notable players include B2Gold Namibia Plc and De Beers Marine Namibia Plc, leaving an indelible mark in the gold and diamond sectors.

During this trailblazing tour, we witnessed firsthand the success of the Husab Uranium Mine, a relatively recent addition to Namibia’s mining web, spearheading uranium production on a monumental scale. An investment that circles a staggering two billion dollars, the Enterprise symbolises China's significant foothold in Namibia, with a 90pc stake in the venture. A visionary move, Namibia’s government ensured its representation, securing a 10pc share through Epangelo Mining Company, a substantial stride toward fostering a government-industry synergy.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chamber of Mines, Veston Malongo, beams with palpable pride discussing Namibia’s strides. Under his stewardship, the Chamber has embodied transparency and ethical practices, fostering a cooperative relationship with Namibia’s Ministry of Mines & Energy. Malongo underscores the quintessential pillars that have anchored Namibia’s success - unflinching stability, a robust mineral prospect, a predictable and transparent government, and investor-friendly laws and competitive tax regimes.

In sharp contrast, Ethiopia finds itself at a crossroads. Despite a promising geological landscape ripe for exploration, the country grapples with a lagging mining sector. An in-depth introspection reveals a tale of missed opportunities and potential yet to be met.

Since the 1993 overhaul of its mining law, which was once touted as avant-garde and progressive, Ethiopia has been on a continual loop of revisions and amendments, the latest being underway. This policy landscape, arguably, might have thwarted the inception of new industrial-scale mines, a stark contrast to Namibia’s burgeoning landscape populated with at least seven new significant players contributing massively to the national economy.

Ethiopia stands on a gold mine of opportunities, both literally and metaphorically. Rich in various minerals and precious stones, it commands a geological diversity that can potentially propel it to the league of Africa’s mining powerhouses.

As Ethiopia reels to find its footing in the mining sector, the Namibian tour emerges as a timely intervention, providing a glimpse into what can be achieved with steadfast policies, infrastructural development, and skilled workforce - ingredients that have scripted Namibia's success story. The glaring difference between the two countries stems not from the potential, but the realisation of that potential. As Ethiopia sees its mining sector's revitalisation, lessons from Namibia’s successful trajectory could act as guiding beacons.

The need of the hour for Ethioia is to foster a stable, investor-friendly environment underpinned by transparency, security, and attractive incentives. A concerted effort to align its policies with its rich mineralogical resources can usher in a new era of prosperity, placing Ethiopia on the global mining map.

The reflection that emerged from the tour is more than a tale of two countries; it is a clarion call for Ethiopia to seize the moment, chart a path of growth and success, and learn from the Namibian blueprint. A collaborative, forward-thinking approach could herald the dawn of a golden era for Ethiopia, marking its place as a formidable player in the global mining arena.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 16,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1220]

Wondemagegnehu G. Selassie, a lawyer specialising in issues of mining and petroleum.

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