Mining Ministers from the African continent will meet at ADU – designed to attract even greater Australian investment over the near-term.
Its focus is the untapped mineral wealth of the continent, which continues to prove a magnet for international investors and sector leaders.
In following the trends underpinning debate on the continent’s future, six specific issues will be at the heart of this year’s ADU agenda.
These include increasing security concerns, widening the economic role beyond mining that Australian miners can play in Africa’s development, and breaking down barriers to ensure more African women participate in the continent’s mining future.
Heightened concerns in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, as well as ongoing threats in Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan, have brought the security issue to the forefront of investors’ risk assessments.
With this in mind the 2019 ADU program will host its first ever (1) security main stage panel discussion.
Despite the ASX enjoying record levels of late, junior miners continue to struggle to attract funding from their traditional sources.
Alternative options are increasing, particularly among streaming and royalty companies whose financing packages are proving popular in North and South America but are yet to take hold among Africa or Australia’s resources sectors.
Increased M&A activity is also being seen as a way of breaking the capital impasse.
An emerging source for juniors amid strong commodity prices is to tap larger mining companies which have cash inflows from production but which value the better and lower risk exploration and development skillsets of the smaller industry players in adding to mineable resource volumes.
On the upside, there remains equity market interest and capital access out of London for African explorers and miners, despite the broader Brexit environment.
(3) Project development
The next six months will see at least three Australian-owned gold operations in Africa hit steady-state production with a host of others further up the development pipeline.
After a string of failures in the Australian gold space, project execution has become paramount in Africa for Australian players there, underpinned by enhanced contingency planning to better manage Africa’s geopolitical, logistics and community variables.
(4) Women in mining
Gates Foundation founder, Melinda Gates, has urged G7 Finance Ministers to focus on the inclusion of women in the growing African digital economy.
The issue will be the subject of a special session.
Emerging evidence points to a revitalisation of developing African economies through the empowerment of women through getting access to digital financial services such as mobile phones, bank accounts and their own choices on how, where and why to spend.
The program will be mindful that despite a slow start, the Australian mining sector is finally embracing gender diversity but the African resources sector still lacks equality.
Australian miners are being seen as leaders in being able to bring more women into the domestic African mining workforce and breaking through into senior management roles or overcoming such inhibitors in countries such as Mali where, until recently, it was illegal for women to work in underground mines.
(5) Deeper economic engagement
While mining investment continues to dominate the Africa Downunder agenda, there are indications of widening engagement between the two regions.
This year’s ADU will see METS (Mining Equipment, Technology and Services) industry growth leaders present for the first time, with Africa likely to prove a major beneficiary of Australia’s proven METS expertise.
Such economic engagement is also the pivot point for scheduled Ambassadorial meetings over two of the three day ADU program with wider initiatives covering infrastructure, education and agriculture, to be canvassed.
While Australia is well-established in African resources projects, its agricultural investment is less advanced.
This year’s event will provide an opportunity for engagement and conversation about how the two continents – which have so much in common climactically – can support each other and what role mining companies can play in agricultural development in Africa.
(6) Engaging the diaspora
African-Australia Week, which is anchored by the three day ADU forum, is already showing the extent to which Africans are active in Australia.
Events include the Succeeding Beyond Borders conference, the West Australian African Community Awards Gala Dinner and the Africa Downunder Cup which brings African community groups and conference sponsors together for a highly competitive football tournament.