CAPE TOWN – Already a gem of an economic growth story, Ethiopia looks set to add significant shine to its economy through the development of its mineral resources sector.
The East African country’s Minister of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Motuma Mekassa Zeru, told delegates gathered for a country case study at the Investing in Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Monday that the country had identified the mining sector as a priority for development.
And, according to a statement from the country’s Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, the potential is great.
The chief geologist at the Geological Survey of Ethiopia, Hundie Melka Yadete, told the session that the geologically diverse country was rich in minerals, including gold, gemstones, platinum and soda ash.
“Ethiopia is virtually untapped, diverse and vast mineral resources offer huge potential opportunities for exploration and development,” according to the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas statement.
The focus on developing its mineral resources is part of the government’s plan to shift from an agriculture-led economy to an industrial one.
At the moment the agricultural sector accounts for 46 percent of gross domestic product, 80 percent of employment and 85 percent of export revenues.
Recognising the potential of the mineral sector to trigger further industrialisation and wider economic development, Ethiopia’s policy framework envisages the minerals sector to be the backbone of industry by 2023.
The government’s ambitious plans for mining include a target to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP from today’s 1.5 percent to 10 percent by the year 2025.
Motuma Mekassa noted that the country, which was among Africa’s fastest growing economies, had recorded double digit growth for many years. But he added that there was no room for complacency.
“We are on a good track,” he said, “but we are late.”
He noted also that the targeted growth was from a low base. Considering its potential, today’s contribution from the mining sector was “insignificant”, the minister said.
The ambitious targets were, however, also matched by an impressive programme of action and interventions to make the sector and the country attractive to investors.
Because it was a “latecomer” to developing this sector, the minister said, Ethiopia didn’t have much experience, one reason the country’s plans were largely focused on attracting foreign investment and international partners.
“As a government, we are trying to create a conducive environment for investment,” the minister said.
In addition to the development of infrastructure and the provision of quality geo-scientific information, policies and practices put in place to attract investment include a clear and transparent legislative environment and an enabling fiscal and tax regime.
“The government is ready to welcome investors from anywhere in the world,” Motuma Mekassa said.
He said they were working very hard to provide the infrastructure needed by mining companies and added that they were aware that transparency was very important for investors and financiers.
Ethiopia had made a strong commitment to work with companies, both big and small, to develop mineral resources, whether that be by providing infrastructure or improving rules and regulations.
Whenever their efforts stumbled on a lack of experience, the government sought help from outside parties.
The minister said transforming the sector was a priority but “we lack capacity” in a wide array of areas, from management of licensing to environmental issues and even community development
“We are trying to capacite ourselves but we need partners.”
African News Agency