The speech by Ms. BP Sonjica at the African mining Partnership plenary, Elageni, Durban, Feb 2009.  We reprint as issued by the Department of Minerals and Energy: 

Colleague ministers, Chairperson and Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Minerals and Energy African Union (AU) Commissioner of Trade and Industry, Ms Tankeu,  Captains of the mining industry, President of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and labour representatives here present  Members of the press; distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of South Africa, I humbly extend to you all, a warm welcome to this, the sixth consecutive African Mining Partnership Plenary. The port city of Durban (Ethekwini) is the largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). It boasts the busiest port in Africa and is literally festooned with excellent tourist attractions, including, albeit not limited to, the cultural heritage, warm subtropical climate and beautiful beaches. This province accounts for about 2,5 percent of primary mineral sales and 49 percent of revenue generated from selected processed mineral products. It is therefore not a coincidence that the secretariat deemed it fit to bring this plenary to yet another beautiful South African province.

The Republic of Ghana has recently experienced a change of government, following yet another democratic election. Consequently, our chair is not present at this plenary meeting. However, my colleague, the Minister from Mali, in his capacity as the vice chair of the African Mining Partnership (AMP), will preside over the proceedings of this plenary.

The sixth AMP plenary coincides with the global financial crisis whose ramifications could pose a serious threat to the sustainable development agenda of the mother continent. We need to close ranks to weather this financial storm. It threatens the limited pool of jobs we have created in the minerals and mining sector.

Without any doubt, the economic meltdown will deepen the poverty levels and severely impact on the prospects of economic growth within the continent. It is against this backdrop that I firmly believe that our collective effort, rigorous enforcement of the strategic frameworks which underpin our various projects and indeed the drive to harmonise our policy environment, should all be focussed on creating demand for the consumption of the large repository of mineral resources within the belly of the mother continent. This will lessen the extent of our external dependencies, which inherently creates vulnerabilities with significant negative impact in respect of the continental growth and development in such environments of crises.

Shadrack Gutto who heads the Centre for African Renaissance Studies at University of South Africa (UNISA) writes that “the resistance to colonial occupation and foreign rule that culminated in the attainment of independence and liberation by most African countries by the 1990s can be considered to be the beginning of the reawakening of Africa and the resolve to regain the continent’s position at the forefront in the development of human civilisation.”

I further submit that as champions of Africa’s Renaissance, we have a duty to extend Africa’s reawakening to our beloved continent’s mineral resources’ heritage to improve the lives of our people. The extent of reform of mining regulatory regimes undertaken by the bulk of African states to create attractive investment conditions as well as significant improvement in fiscal discipline and governance is a demonstration of Africa’s readiness to take advantage of the African century. Not so long ago, the continent was riddled with political instability, but one is proud of the progress made to date with only four countries on the continent remaining unstable. It is our belief that the African solution is imminent.

It has since become abundantly clear that the principles of a developmental state must be fast-tracked. While I concede that more regulation is utterly unnecessary, yet better and smarter regulation is critical to advance our collective drive. I will argue further to say that state intervention is necessary for co-ordinated development to take place because such a development requires not less state as some would contend, but better state action.

I would also like to thank the organisers of the highly successful Mid-Term Executive Committee meeting held in August 2008. A number of specific directives emanated from the extensive engagement among executive committee members and attending delegates. I keenly await the report of the preparatory meeting of officials, which will be utilised as a yardstick of progress against specific outcomes of the said directives.

It is also apt to convey my sincerest gratitude to the AU Commissioner here present, Ms Elizabeth Tankeu, who provided leadership in co-ordinating the work of the task force on Africa’s mineral resources, constituted by the African Union Commission (AUC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank with contributions from the AMP. In addition, the commissioner bravely took on the task of convening the African Ministers meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last October, which concluded that both the declaration and mining vision will be adopted at this plenary meeting of the African Mining Partnership.

The proposition of the mining vision clearly articulates the drive towards Africa’s industrialisation programme through its abundance of mineral resources. The development of this vision is consistent with the broader continental development agenda. I keenly await the pronouncement of the outcome of the meeting of the African Union Heads of States that was held in Addis Ababa last week pertaining to the prospects of institutionalising the AMP as a Ministerial structure of the African Union. This will help to streamline and expedite initiatives aimed at cultivating the continental economic growth through its mineral resource endowment, such as the AMP, the Mining Vision and others.

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate my welcome to you all and congratulate the secretariat for successfully organising our meetings.

Programme Director; kindly allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the African States for their continued support of initiatives by the AMP. I also cherish the hope that the AMP will grow in strength and assist in guiding the minerals resource heritage of the continent into a sustainable and prosperous future for Africa. In Barack Hussein Obama parlance, “Yes, we can.”

I thank you.