Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa) has said civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media are the only key watchdogs that can save huge sums of money lost through mineral exploitation in Africa by foreign investors.
Osisa programme manager for media and ATI Dr Dumisani Moyo made the observation at the ongoing two-week Journalism Summer School (JSS) training in Lusaka, Zambia.
Moyo, who concentrated on Paladin Energy Limited uranium mining in Malawi, said in most of the countries’ mining deals are clear to the investor and government only.
He said investors do not declare their profits in the mining countries and, instead, register their firms at international stock exchange markets.
“There are loopholes in the way the mining deals are handled and, if the media and CSOs remain inactive in checking the deals, a lot will continue to be lost. We need a proactive media that puts an eye on mining issues from the onset.
“The CSOs too need to be active and ensure there is transparency in the way the deals are signed and handled for national benefit,” said Moyo.
He said due to lack of serious checks and balances by both the media and CSOs on the mining deals and other mining activities, Africa has lost about $6 billion in the last four years and more will continue to be lost if there remains weak checks.
Going forward, Moyo said African countries with minerals need to come up with a possible system that monitors mining deals.
He said investors should be forced to declare their profits in the host countries and governments too, should update the public about activities surrounding the mining deal.
“This is what brings the need for access to information. Mining deals should be guided by a proactive disclosure of how much is being collected. This can only be possible if there are strong CSOs and a proactive media supported by access to information environment.”
Acting deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Zambia, Professor Bizeck Phiri, reminded the media that it remains the fourth estate and should not spare any area because the public always expects a lot from it.
He challenged the media to jack up and ensure it unearths more on mineral wealth, saying failure to do this is a let down to the public.