A team of small-scale miners and officials from Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining are in Arusha, Tanzania to find markets for the country’s gemstones.
Their visit to the neighbouring country at a Gem Fair comes against Malawi’s need to aggressively promote the mining sector to attract investment and boost its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the economy’s output.
Malawi’s mining sector contribution to GDP peaked at 10 percent in 2013, according to Malawi Government’s annual economic report, but has markedly slumped due to the closure of uranium mining operations at Kayelekera in Karonga.
The mine was put on care and maintenance in February 2014 due to what the company said were tumbling prices of uranium on the global market.
Experts, however, argue that the mines and minerals sector has not been adequately promoted and marketed, resulting in resources remaining unknown and largely unexploited.
But Mines Department spokesperson Levy Undi, in an interview on Tuesday, said the fair will serve as an opportunity for officials to gather information on how gemstones are traded on the global market, following government’s plans to establish a gemstone marketing centre.
Undi said information gathered there will also be critical for Malawi to establish trends in gemstone marketing processes and prices.
“The Gem Fair will also give our small-scale miners an opportunity to showcase and market the gemstones that are found in Malawi,” he said.
The fair has attracted 13 sub-Sahara African countries and other mining experts.
Speaking in an interview from Arusha, one of the miners, James Phiri, said this is a worthwhile opportunity to find markets for their gemstones.
He said they are showcasing rose quartz, aquamarine, amethyst and garnet among others.
Phiri, who said the Malawi pavilion is attracting over 50 people daily, added the fair is a good platform to showcase Malawi gems to the world in a bid to attract buyers and investors in the industry.
“There are serious inquiries on our gems and this shows Malawi has potential that is untapped,” he said, adding that apart from Africa, they are interacting with buyers from America, Asia and Europe.
Malawi’s participation to the fair has been supported by the Mining Governance and Growth Support Project, which is co-financed by the World Bank and European Union (EU).