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Fig. 1. Participants in EnergyAgency.NRW’s mining industry network workshop. // Bild 1. Teilnehmer des Workshops des Netzwerks Bergbauwirtschaft der EnergieAgentur.NRW. Photo/Foto: EA.NRW

Africa workshop for the network: “Do it better!”

After 400 participants – entrepreneurs from Germany and Africa – had achieved record attendance at the 6th German-African Economic Forum NRW on 18th February 2020 in Dortmund/Germany, which featured many interconnected issues, a specifically designed workshop was held on 4th March 2020 at EnergyAgency.NRW’s mining industry network, Düsseldorf, in Gelsenkirchen Science Park (Figure 1). This proved to be an excellent networking platform to present successful business solutions for Africa from a German perspective using practical examples and to make new contacts. Business in Africa is currently benefiting from both the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and new German programmes such as Africa.CONNECT. In Dortmund, Michael Blank, Delegate of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Ghana (AHK Ghana), asked whether oil, gas, gold and bauxite will continue to determine Africa’s position in world trade: “Or is information – data – the raw material of the future? In any case, digitalisation has brought Africa more than 50 years of development aid.” The raw materials sector and digitalisation were both important topics for the more than 30 participants at the -EnergyAgency.-NRW “Africa 2020” workshop, which, looking back, was a resounding success.

The speakers conveyed exclusive and current market data and practical expertise for service providers and suppliers in the field of raw materials for entrepreneurs, scientific and expert contacts.

Africa remains a market of the future. It is a promising market, since time is needed. In the raw materials sector, it can take two, three or even five years from establishing contact to project commissioning. A lot of patience is required, which sometimes only large companies can afford. Against this background, it is all the more important to provide the best possible support to small and medium-sized enterprises in their African business. These statements were echoed by representatives of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and NRW International who took part in the discussion in Düsseldorf.

The current prospects of the African growth market were realistically presented by experts using examples from the Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and West Africa regions. This is another area where the above-average growth of the African market deserves entrepreneurial attention from German companies. The still unresolved German caution is now being mitigated by increased foreign trade promotion towards Africa. The Centre of Excellence for Mining and Raw Materials of the Southern African-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce was extended by the German BMWi in February 2020 for three years with subsequent partial financing and fully financed country expansion. This means that the Centre of Excellence now covers a total of twelve African countries in the Southern African region.

The interests of Germany and the mining industry were last represented locally at the beginning of February 2020 by the German Federation of International Mining and Mineral Resources (FAB), Berlin, in the form of a federally funded exhibition stand and a German day at the Mining Indaba exhibition.

Throughout Africa, approximately 2 bn US$ were spent on exploration in 2019, with a focus on gold and copper. In 2019, total EU investment was ahead of China, although China remains the dominant force. The EU is also not synonymous with Germany. On the basis of former colonial ties, France, the UK and Portugal have advantages. In addition to China, major investors include Canada, India and Brazil. Germany continues investing only to a small extent. On the other hand, China’s mining investments amounted to 60 bn US$ between 2005 and 2017. As bridging technology, coal is or can be an interesting energy source with opportunities for supplies, e.g., in Nigeria where, as in very many African countries, energy and infrastructures are urgently needed. The World Bank has made a loan of 150 M US$ available for this sector.

There are opportunities for companies from North Rhine-Westphalia in:

  • cavity filling;
  • processing technology in the hard rock field;
  • dump preparation and post-mining;
  • decontaminating residual holes after in-situ leaching;
  • occupational health and safety projects;
  • rock cutting at depths of – 4,000m;
  • digital mining with focus on open source software, such as OPC UA;
  • transmission and compression/processing/distribution of large amounts of data (wired or wireless from very great depths, real time data transmission underground);
  • environmental protection measures;
  • education and training;
  • training local forces; and
  • service staff directly on site for short reaction times.

Africa needs sustainable economic growth, which is also an important element in combating the reasons for leaving the continent. Africa’s young population offers a great opportunity, but is also a challenge and an obligation. After all, combating the sometimes shockingly high youth unemployment rate (approximately 30 %) is one of the most important challenges on the African continent.

The transfer of knowledge, investment in Africa’s economic development and assistance in establishing training opportunities are key elements of foreign trade promotion and development policy. For the North Rhine-Westphalian regional government, these two areas are not mutually exclusive, but go hand in hand. The One World Strategy adopted by the regional government explicitly aims at strengthening the links between both areas. This is supported by an updated raw materials strategy from the German federal government, which has now – at least as a basis for discussion – reached the federal states as well.

Scientific cooperation also offers opportunities for the sectors on both sides to show further points of reference that are good for business. (EA.NRW/Si.)