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14th Aimes Review and Strategy Meeting, Accra, 13-15 August 2013 - The Africa Mining Vision: From Promise to Realisation

14th Aimes Review and Strategy Meeting, Accra, 13-15 August 2013 - The Africa Mining Vision: From Promise to Realisation

1.       Introduction

The 14th Review and Strategy Conference of AIMES (African Initiative on Mining Environment and Society) will take place in Accra Ghana on 13-15 August 2013, under the theme – The Africa Mining Vision: From Promise to Realisation. In the two years since the last AIMES meeting which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe there has been a strengthening of the tide of Afro-optimism thanks to the persistence of Africa’s economic growth on the basis of the continued favourable prices of minerals.   A key feature of this new optimism is the broadening of consensus for a re-orientation of policies towards an agenda for structural transformation of Africa’s economies, even as it is possible to discern a spectrum of meanings and consequences in the use of the concept “structural transformation”. Central to most of the the conceptions of Africa’s structural transformation is recognition that Africa’s economies should escape from their raw material commodity export dependence, a feature which has been accentuated by the ongoing commodity boom, and must embark on a path of commodity based industrialization. This position repeats a central thesis of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV).

Against the above background the 14th AIMES review and strategy conference will bring together 40 representatives of CSOs and key social constituencies from across Africa with a view to update each other on our current areas of engagement, developing common perspectives on the challenges of realizing the AMV, developing an agenda for common advocacy and taking steps towards strengthening AIMES and improving its relations with other networks and key social constituencies.

The African Initiative on Mining Environment and Society (AIMES) a pan-African network of CSOs working on mining and development issues has been in existence since 1998. It brings together a broad spectrum of groups working on different aspects of mining and development but unites them around the theme of mining’s role in Africa’s development. The coalition comprises organisations from Africa’s key mining countries and has been an important framework and platform for capacity building, mutual support and collective advocacy engagement. The annual review and strategy meetings of AIMES enable capacity building, collective reflection on issues, shared analysis and adoption of common campaigns and strategies. The practice of rotating the meetings among AIMES members in different countries has helped strengthen the domestic legitimacy and influence of AIMES members who have hosted the annual meetings. The last review and strategy meeting in Harare brought together 40 participants from 16 countries.

2.       Background and Context

The past decade of increased global demand for minerals, the accompanying price rises and growing mining investments led by major emerging economies, especially China, have had a number of consequences for Africa. The most immediate have been the growth in exports and earnings and resultant economic growth in mineral producing African countries. Globally the geo-economic shift underlying the mining boom is expressing itself in a “new scramble for Africa” between the traditionally dominant OECD powers and major emerging economies. These developments have exposed inadequacies in Africa’s liberal mining regimes which are characterized by weak regulatory frameworks which do not sufficiently protect communities, workers or the environment and have overgenerous provisions for foreign investors in laws and contracts. These inadequacies have long been the object of analysis and criticism by African CSOs.  In recent times the inequities in benefit sharing have fuelled questioning by many African governments and engendered now widespread processes for the reform of mining regimes across Africa. The Africa Mining Vision (AMV), adopted by African Heads of State in 2009 and the policy process it has initiated represents a programmatic crystallization of the questioning by governments and demands by CSOs for reform of the operative mining regimes.

In many respects the AMV has turned CSO demands into planks of official policy and their strengthened their legitimacy. This development AMV offers a historic opportunity for African civil society to work across the society-state divide for transformative change in respect of the role of minerals in Africa’s economies.  AIMES members have been engaged with the AMV process since 2008 and the 2011 Annual Meeting in Harare extensively discussed the AMV. That meeting called on African governments to strengthen the social base of the AMV, warned of various external threats to the AMV reform agenda and called on African governments to remain resolute around the AMV in the face of these threats.

There have been a number of important developments around the AMV since the last AIMES meeting. In December 2011 the Second AU Conference of Ministers Responsible for Mineral Resources Development adopted an Action Plan for the implementation of the AMV and also agreed to set up the Africa Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) as a pan-Africa centre to support the implementation of the Action Plan. A number of key provisions in the Action Plan were supplied by CSO activists. In October 2012 the multi-stakeholder Eighth African Development Forum held in Addis Ababa welcomed the adoption of the AMV and its Action Plan and called on African governments to broaden and deepen the constituency around the Vision so as to strengthen its base in society. Alongside these continental level processes a number of regional initiatives have been developing. In the ECOWAS region CSOs have been active participants in the ongoing definition of an ECOWAS Mineral Development Policy. There are indications that the East African Community has initiated moves towards domesticating the AMV and its Action Plan.

The AMV is increasingly becoming the reference point for a broad range of actors – campaigning CSOs, bilateral and multilateral political and finance institutions, mining TNCs, as well as intellectuals of varying orientations – with all of them expressing their support for it in whole or in aspects. This is irrespective of the history and role of these actors in the definition and implementation of the ruling paradigm that the AMV challenges and their actual current practices. Apart from AIMES an increasing numbers of CSO coalitions around Africa have welcomed the AMV with varying degrees of caveats – Publish What You Pay, the Alternative Mining Indaba and the Africa Trade Network being examples. The World Bank, AusAid, Canadian CIDA, the EU, are some of the financing agencies that have declared support for the AMV and are offering support for aspects of implementation.  In early 2012 the World Bank published a study on how to increase local content in mining industry in West Africa.

Whilst groups such as AIMES are ranged on one end of this spectrum of seeming common purpose, ranged on the other side are the mining TNCs, their home governments and bodies such as the World Bank who would be quite happy to see a neutered AMV. For them the transformative reach of the AMV should not go beyond tinkering with Africa’s existing mineral economy in response to some of the threats posed by “resource nationalism” but without any fundamental change in the model.  The concluding statement from the 2011 AIMES meeting noted the danger of derailment or distortion of the radical promise of the AMV as happened to earlier instances of plans for structural transformation such as the Lagos Plan of Action. Essentially the AMV has become a contested policy framework and a battle is unfolding over what it is or should be.

The contest over the AMV must be situated in the wider debate about Africa’s development options and the implications and possibilities of the unfolding scramble for Africa among old and emerging global powers and the continent’s decade-long commodity boom-driven growth. At the representational level the growth, the opportunities for new wealth that it offers and improvements in the bargaining positions of African countries and institutions and the associated Afro-optimism is framed by the increasingly strident “Africa rising” narrative. On the other hand the recognition of the limits, inadequacies and unequally shared benefits of growth are captured in a common acceptance of the need for the structural transformation of African economies. However as noted earlier the increasingly  common use of the term hides important differences in meaning, policy implications and therefore development outcomes of such transformation, similar to the differences hidden under the seeming shared support for the AMV.

In most African countries the issues on the mining reform agenda are by and large of a fairly eclectic and narrow type and show little indication of being re-oriented and energized by the logic and complex implications of the AMV agenda. For most governments increasing public revenues through re-negotiation of mining contracts and revision of fiscal regimes is the main expression of a desire for change. This revenue focus is exemplified in new countries striving to join the EITI. There is little forthcoming by way of changing the way public institutions deal with, for example, the concerns of communities, workers and artisanal and small scale miners. Across the continent there is little indication of how governments plan to embark on the most ambitious part of the AMV agenda – mineral based industrialisation with its associated linkages and diversification.

Nature of the 14th AIMES Conference

Seen through the lens of the AMV the advocacy focus of AIMES members can be grouped into three broad categories: a) interests and rights of constituencies (e.g. communities, workers and ASM); b) optimizing revenue inflows and utilization (e.g. fiscal reforms, plugging illicit flows, revenue transparency, revenue utilization including, benefit sharing with communities); and c) optimizing the development effects of minerals (e.g. linkages and diversification, local content). However to be successful in using the advocacy opportunity offered by the AMV we to deepen our knowledge and reach beyond our traditional areas of focus (i.e. revenue transparency, human rights and environmental impacts, etc.)  out to other issues and organisations so as to better understand and come to grips with the multifaceted agenda and opportunities of the AMV. Successful advocacy around the AMV requires the construction of a much broader coalition which incorporates CSOs and groups which historically have not been working on mining issues. The emerging contestation around the Vision agenda makes this even more imperative if the fears that we have expressed about potential hijacking, dilution, etc. are to be prevented from coming to pass.  

Over the past couple of years AIMES and some of its members have been engaged in reaching out to other constituencies and organisations so as to help develop the broad and diversified alliance for change that the AMV entails. Trade unionists attended the Harare AIMES meeting and in the period since there have been a number of events to which the secretariat and other AIMES members have invited workers representatives. Also AIMES members have been invited to participate in meetings of trade unions at various levels. There has also been outreach to other CSO coalitions outside the mining area. Outside Africa a number of Africa solidarity organisations in Europe and North America have began to support AIMES’ campaign line around the AMV. Despite these developments it is fair to say there remains considerable ground to be covered on both knowledge building and strategic positioning in respect of the AMV.


Flowing from the above challenges the 14th AIMES conference will seek to:

1.       Increase members’ knowledge of the content of, status and processes around ongoing mining reform agenda at various levels;

2.       Define an advocacy agenda and strategy for the network in respect of the AMV reform agenda, and

3.       Agree ways of strengthening AIMES and enhancing its outreach to other networks and constituencies.  

Taking account of these objectives the meeting will have the following format and content:

1.       Report from the Secretariat and overview of meeting context.

2.       Reports from and discussions of national situations and work of members.

3.       Presentations and discussions on three broad thematic areas with the aim of identifying an agenda of advocacy issues and challenges and defining a strategy for the realisation of the AMV at national and regional levels:     

a.       The AMV and the struggle to advance the rights and interests of constituencies and definition of an agenda of collective engagement;

b.      Optimizing mining revenue and utilization and relevance of ongoing campaigns for the work of AIMES; and

c.       Tackling the challenges of mining and structural transformation.

4.       Strengthening AIMES and enhancing its outreach to other networks and constituencies


There will be a maximum of 40 participants in the meeting, including those from the host country, Ghana. Not more than 35 participants will be drawn from outside Ghana. Participants will mainly come from members of AIMES with a minority from outside the network, from constituencies such as organized labour and CSO networks working on development issues seen as important for building a diversified change coalition. A number of policy officials and researchers will also be invited as resource persons.

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