AAMEG was founded 10 years ago with a view to supporting Australian companies operating in Africa to mitigate non-technical risks. How has AAMEG faced the pandemic?
We have been very conscious of the effects of the pandemic on the communities around our member’s operations, and the main difficulties were around health issues, moving people in and out of site, as well as supply chains disruptions. As an organization, however, the pandemic has been a strengthening experience. We managed to mitigate the risks very well, relying on our virtual network. In fact, AAMEG grew its membership, our members realizing how important it is to belong to a network like AAMEG when they could no longer make connections or access information as before. Unable to travel, our members also realized they actually do not need to travel as much, and they can instead confidently rely on local teams. I believe these are some of the positive lessons from the pandemic, among all other negative impacts.
Could you tell us more about the profile of your members?
AAMEG represents a diverse mix of companies. About 40 of our members are producers and explorers, another 20-30 are contractors and service companies, and the remaining 30-40 are large professional legal and accounting firms. Naturally, our core is formed by producers and juniors - they are the ones taking most of the risk and driving investment, but our member companies reflect the broader mining ecosystem. In 2022-2023, I expect a higher investment influx into Africa once the pandemic restrictions clear out. AAMEG is particularly relevant for companies going into the continent for the first time.
What is the appetite for risk of Australian players? How are they approaching the sensitive political and security situation in some African countries?
Culturally, Australians have a good appetite for risk. The media tends to give significant attention to geopolitical risks and terrorism. We watch the situation carefully, but we feel that most of the risk is well manageable, and our role at AAMEG is to help companies understand these risks upfront. I think more Australians will be investing in Africa, building back on the successes of many peers in the region, from Perseus, to Predictive Discovery and West African Resources. The region is also seeing increasing consolidation, the big players buying each other up, while opening more room for smaller companies to create value as part of the wider commodity cycle.
What are the investment hotspots in Africa?
From a commodity perspective, there is a big push for lithium and copper, although gold will always find Australian investors. Geographically, the Birimian Belt stretching across Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Ivory Coast is certainly an important hotspot for gold. The other hot investment area is the Arabian-Nubian shield on the flanks of the Red Sea, crossing Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, and over into Saudi Arabian and Jordan. There are many deposits to be found here but they are simply covered in sand.
What is AAMEG’s advocacy position on local content laws?
We fully support the intention of localization directives, especially in the context of the pandemic when the need for local capacity has never been higher. That said, these requirements need to be meaningful and reasonable: Any country will, at some point, require expertise from abroad, so setting expat limits under 4% of the workforce is unrealistic for some projects, especially during construction. Also concerning is that such requirements will force partnerships with unqualified companies or individuals. Local employment is certainly encouraged and desirable, but not to the extent when good intentions end up compromising the quality and economics of a project. Local content laws should not be abused to the point where corruption can take place or investors leave the country because it becomes impossible to operate in.
Could you share a few words about AAMEG Africa Awards?
The Awards recognize Australian miners, explorers, and service providers who champion a transparent and sustainable mining industry in Africa. The purpose of the Awards is to celebrate their work, but also to promote best practices and share success stories among our network. In many cases, mining development equals socio-economic development, so this is a good time for Australians to feel proud of their projects. This year, we had very strong nominations, which shows the good work being done.