As the Mining Indaba, the massive annual exhibition in Cape Town that bills itself as the “biggest mining investment event”, winds to a close today, it is clear that the powerful overlords of Africa’s mining sector haven’t learnt any new songs since the jamboree started 25 years ago.
When that first Mining Indaba was held, its host country, in many ways Africa’s standard-bearer in all matters mining, derived 43% of its export earnings from minerals, and the mining sector alone was responsible for more than 500,000 jobs. Since then, the sector’s share of exports has dropped by 40% and its direct output of jobs is down by 10%. And as everyone knows, this has nothing to do with South Africa moving up the value chain. In fact, real “value added” in the South African mining sector has been contracting since 2015.
Even though the continued decline of the South African mining sector has been a matter of concern within South Africa for a while now, the festive air at the Indaba, and the rousing speeches celebrating the triumph of African mining, mirrors perfectly the general attitude among Africa’s elite regarding the sector.