"It is clear in the DRC that there is a skill gap in the mining industry as a result of bad governance and misallocation of national budgets, but it is also exacerbated by the history of war."
How has SODEICO contributed to the DRC’s mining industry?
SODEICO was founded in the DRC, 32 years ago. SODEICO HR is the branch dedicated to manpower and human resources management which has been serving the mining industry since 2002. In total, we serve 150 clients across various sectors, with a presence across central-east Africa and in Zambia, Rwanda, CAR, Cameroon, Uganda and South Sudan. The DRC, however, remains the main mining market we serve due to its richness in resources and mature industry across the nation, not just in the Katanga province.
Operating in the DRC does come with its challenges and risks that stem from poor governance which results in instability, increasing the risk for investors. This instability at the moment exists due to the coalition between the old and new powers which slows down reform due to constant lack of agreement. Nonetheless, this is not a reason to not take the risk and invest in the DRC. The new government is attempting to create an independent judicial system, however we still have a long way to go.
How do you ensure the provision of skilled workforce to your clients?
It is clear in the DRC that there is a skill gap in the mining industry as a result of bad governance and misallocation of national budgets, but it is also exacerbated by the history of war. Development of education is actually allocated one of the smallest budgets.
This motivated us to start an independent mining academy where our clients in the industry can source the talents. A lot of mining companies started their own training academies internally, which has been costly, hence why we saw this opportunity to provide this service as opposed to relying on government reform to address the skill gap issue.
How does SODEICO engage with its local community?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) must be redefined. Companies must change the paradigm on what CSR is and how it can contribute to development. Collaborative CSR projects between companies would be a remedy to the DRC’s infrastructural deficit. Companies can invest in building roads, power networks and schools together so as to give back to the community. Individual CSR projects that many mining companies take on are often to help artisanal miners become independent – however these projects tend to fail due to the short-sightedness of the company - they are not thinking long-term.
The mining academy we started is our contribution to the DRC’s development, which was planned after undergoing a long process of self-reflection as a company. However, we also wish to launch a platform where artisanal miners can register themselves to ease their integration into the system.
Does the recently renewed Mining Code address the workforce in terms of local content?
The 2002 Mining Code was substantially amended in March 2018. The problem, however, is that the consequences of the new code were not considered, hence why many mining companies wish to challenge it. For example, the subcontractor law that was enforced stipulates that the subcontractor for mining projects must be 51% Congolese-owned. This is an issue considering that the subcontractors who fit this criterion are not capable of managing the projects due to lack of capacity, human resources and expertise. However, it notably reinforces some local content requirements – such as confirming that 4% of the workforce can be expatriates, which is open to negotiation.
How has COVID-19 impacted your operations?
Fortunately for us, the mining sector was somewhat immune to the pandemic, since the borders allowed the exit of the minerals. Mining companies continued to operate as they have huge remote structures that resemble small cities. Problems did arise, however, when a rotation was necessary. Nonetheless, the real impact of this crisis will be felt in 2021.
As SODEICO we lost 20-25% of our business, which is not catastrophic but it is not ideal either. Our current objective is survival and to regain what we lost. Luckily, we operate across multiple industries and countries which allows us to spread our risk. We will continue to respond to the market trends.