On 17th March DMA hosted the Hon Kerfalla Yansane, Minister of Mines for Guinea, at a lunch discussion in Parliament. Chaired by former Minister of Africa Henry Bellingham MP, the meeting enabled the Minister to update mining executives on the current situation in Guinea and in turn to hear a number of ideas as to what Guinea and others should now be doing to revitalise the country’s economy after the devastation wrought by the Ebola crisis.
Inevitably it was Ebola which was on everyone’s lips and here the Minister was happy to outline what is a strongly improving situation. Ebola is now concentrated in a few specific areas in Guinea with the result that it can be contained. The Minister acknowledged however that the stigma of Ebola may well last long after the reality of the situation had changed. Thus there was a growing need for more constant communication to get across the news that Guinea is now okay. That communication both government and business must deliver together. It is now time to go ‘back to business’.
Interestingly, no mining companies in Guinea have been directly affected by Ebola. The companies protected their employees and families and assisted in the protection of the communities in which they lived and worked. Rusal for example built a medical and scientific laboratory in 50 days at a cost of US$10 million. Although triggered by the Ebola outbreak, the laboratory actually tackles a range of dangerous diseases in addition to Ebola. The Rusal representative pointed out that while Ebola may be with us for some time to come, what mattered was to offer modern standards of health and education. Hence their facilities enable checks to be carried out on local workers and foreigners on a daily basis. Looking to the future, mining company Rio Tinto, one of the biggest investors in Guinea, is also working with local communities and other companies to help fund small projects along the route from their Simandou mine.
The discussion ranged over a number of topics including the need for further infrastructure in Guinea to make the country more attractive to investors; for companies to consider investment in industries and sectors in Guinea other than the traditional ones; the need for secondary funding which, for many companies and particularly the smaller companies, has all but disappeared; the challenge for government to get more added value from its resources; the continual need for capacity building in the civil services with which the companies are having to deal; and the ever present and contentious issue of visas for Guineans to visit the UK on business.
One of the recurring themes from the roundtable was the need for creative access to capital in the current absence of traditional financing mechanisms. UKTI outlined a number of innovative credit lines and it is DMA's intention to disseminate these to interested parties.
In conclusion, the Minister said that he hoped that the discussion would be continued but that next time he would be able to personally welcome the participants to a lunch or dinner in Conakry rather than London, as a sign that not only had the situation in Guinea turned but that the tide of outside opinion had also turned. He also invited all attendees to participate in a Workshop in Conakry on 1st April, 2015.
DMA would like to extend our thanks to Anglo-African Minerals for sponsoring the round table.