Exclusive interview with Duncan Harris, President of the Australia Africa Chamber of Commerce, the moderator of the Spotlight session, “The Africa/Australia mining connection: What do investors have in mind?” during the upcoming Africa Mining Forum Digital Event from 16-20 November.
Let’s start with some background on Australia Africa Chamber of Commerce, its members and its goals.
The Australia Africa Chamber of Commerce is the national peak body in the facilitation of bilateral trade and investment with Africa. We are a not for profit member-based organisation. We have a stable and growing base of members and other currently totally in excess of 1200.
We have put together a series of consequential partnerships with major bodies in Australia such as Austrade, Export Finance Australia and DFAT. The Australian based drivers are complemented with a range of important on-ground market facing Africa-based organisations such as Asoko Insight, Invest Africa, Trade Advisory, Songhai Advisory, and AFSIC to create meaningful contacts and connections.
Any specific projects in the mining sector that you as an organisation are involved in currently that you are particularly excited about?
We broadly are working with the Mining, Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector to aid and abet the mining sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic must have had an impact on your members’ activities on the continent?
The onset of COVID-19 has seen all businesses adapt to the new world of Zoom and other like type platforms. This has enabled there to be strong and ongoing interactions to meet new operational requirements.
Tell us more about the Chamber members’ interests in Africa at large?
In August, we initiated the “Africa Calling” webinar series in conjunction with our various partners. This has ranged from “How to succeed in business in Africa” and “How to navigate the corporate map in Africa” to a two part series with our Africa-based heads of mission who provided broad insights into the opportunities within their respective posts to multipart webinars involving trade and investment opportunities within, for instance, South African provinces culminating in business to business exchanges and expos.
How important is sustainability, responsible mining and eco-friendly practices on the ground?
There has been a real recognition of ESG by both the owners/managers of mining companies also increasingly driven by their sources of funds. This is best summarised by indicating that the mining industry, in keeping with other sectors, has moved from shareholder rights to the broader stakeholder rights,
What advice would you give a prospective investor in this sector in the region?
Be conscientious with the normal due diligence requirements to understand risk.
What is your vision for mining on the continent?
Mark Cutifani is the CEO Anglo American. Mark has said that with over 30% of the world’s mineral resources that “If you are not in Africa, you are not in mining.”
As such there is abundant opportunity. The starting point, other than a good ore body, is licence to operate, which begins with the local community.
You are part of a session on the Australia-Africa connection in the mining sector – What will be your message at this year’s Africa Mining Forum?
There are opportunities aplenty across all commodities, including the rise and rise of critical minerals e.g. vanadium.
What surprises you about this industry?
Resilience underpinned with innovation, the application of data and the adaption to the changing new world geo-political settings.
Anything you would like to add?
Conferences such as Africa Mining Forum give rise to both inspiration and aspiration.
* Interested in seeing Duncan in action during the Africa-Australia connection session at Africa Mining Forum next week? It’s free and easy to register: https://www.africaminingforum.com/register