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MADI: “The mineral resources sector in Africa requires strong institutions”

Exclusive interview with Frank Mugyenyi, executive director and founder of Minerals African Development Institution (MADI). He is also an advisory board member of Africa’s Green Economy Summit, taking place in February 2024 in Cape Town.

Let’s start with some background on you.

Good morning, viewers and listeners around the world. My name is Frank Mugyenyi. I’m the executive director and founder of the Minerals African Development Institution, and I have a lot of experience in the mineral resources sector, having worked for the African Union in terms of minerals development. Before that I was with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and I was in charge of industrialisation, looking at how the extractive industries could contribute to Africa’s growth through industrialisation. So I’m quite happy to be part of this discussion.

Over the years, you have championed the establishment and strengthening of key African institutions. Why is this important and what are the challenges?

Yes, that’s very true. Over the years, I have championed and been involved in either establishing or the strengthening of African institutions that contribute to the African integration agenda. When I was at Comesa, one of my key highlights was the establishment of the Comesa Business Council, which is a member state body established by treaty. And then also the strengthening of the Comesa Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute in Addis Ababa, among others.

At the African Union I was involved more pronounced in the establishment, or maybe call it the institutionalisation of the African Minerals Quality Centre and the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) as a specialised agency of the African Union. The AMDC was established by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa as a flagship project for the implementation of the African mining vision. But then, after my first meeting with the ministers that took place in Maputo in December 2013, they decided that they have the AMDC should become a permanent African structure; and that all fell on my desk. In 2016, the heads of states and government adopted the statute, establishing the AMDC with specialised status of the African Union.

Other than that, I was also involved in the strengthening of institutions, such as the Organisation of African Geological Surveys, which is a member states association organisation for national geological societies’ surveys, and then we also had the South and Eastern African Minerals Centre (SEMIC) in Dar es Salaam, which is now the African Minerals and Geosciences Centre. I was actually also part of the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.

Africa needs strong institutions. There is no country or region globally that has developed without strong institutions. Without strong, independent institutions, Africa cannot move, cannot integrate the decisions that are made by the heads of states and government at summit level and at sub-regional level. The regional economic communities at the African continental level need to be well-informed. If they’re not informed, then you get decisions that pile up and they’re not implemented. So you have decisions that are made because on information feeding into the decision-making that is not well-researched, there is no think tank working on it, there is no policy guidance, and there are no homegrown solutions.

So, it is quite right to say that Africa needs very strong institutions that will enable it to integrate in a number of areas, not only the mineral resources. But, when you go into the mineral resources with this mindset, it becomes more critical, because the backbone of any economy in the world is dependent on minerals. If you want to go into agriculture, you need minerals, fossil fuels, fertilisers and mechanised technology. That’s why the mineral resources sector in Africa requires strong institutions.

Tell us more about the Minerals Africa Development Institution or MADI and your activities. You are the founder and global executive director.  

The Minerals Africa Development Institution or MADI was established with the background of realising that there was a gap with regards to independent, African-led think tanks to advise member states to add to other institutions that we have already, such as the MDC, the African Union Geoscience Centre in Dar es Salaam and many others. But also, since these are government-based institutions, they are governed by the statutes of those organisations like the African Union, or the members that work with those institutions’ member states.

There was a need to have an independent think tank that is African-led, but also has the capacity and the capability to contribute to research to find homegrown solutions for Africa, especially in the mineral resource sector, but, as I said, the mineral resource sector feeds into all other sectors of the economy. So, the Minerals Africa Development Institution is an independent think tank. It’s a social enterprise, we are not an NGO. We were established in 2020.

Currently, we are a member of the consortium of 18 members implementing an EU-Africa project called AfricaMaVal, which is an EU-African raw materials value chains partnership.

How relevant is the concept of circular economy to the mining sector and how can it be achieved in your view?

The issue of circular economy is very, very important in the mining industry. Why? For two reasons. As of now, the demand for minerals that go into the green economy is huge and cannot be met by mining, by extracting and by digging up the soil on the continent. So, buying raw materials that we need for the green economy, can be fed by a lot of other minerals that have already been used, but are going to waste. So recycling will be very, very, important. We have a lot of minerals embedded into the products that we’re using that were as a result of mining.

How important is green hydrogen to the future of the green economy?

We have to industrialise, and industrialisation requires huge energy. As we move into renewable energy, we are having to reduce some of the fuel the energy that we’ve been using to support industrialisation. For example, we will have to do with less coal to light up the furnaces of the first industrial revolution, the second industrial revolution and so forth. Before they were based on polluting energy, coal and others. So if you ever want to power Africa and power the world and support industrialisation, we need different forms of energy and green hydrogen will be one of those. As of now, 600 million people on the continent don’t have electricity. Those who can access energy know it is not simple; they often have load shedding and so forth. So we have alternative means of getting energy that is renewable, but also that can support industrialisation, because solar and wind may not be strong enough and powerful enough to support industrialisation, much as hydrogen will do. So, if we can get green hydrogen to support alternative renewable energy to fuel to, to energise and feed into the demand of the energy by the green economy, that will be a very beneficial. An alternative will be nuclear energy, if we can manage it in a way that it does not contribute to insecurity and so forth. But high green hydrogen, which we know now, and thanks to the first Africa’s Green Economy Summit, we are told that it can be produced quicker and actually more cost-effective than it would have been before. Thanks to the advancement in technology, we are happy to see that this is going to happen. So, I think we need to really concentrate on what we can achieve to fit into the green economy of the future, and green hydrogen in that regard is very key.

You are a member of the advisory board of Africa’s Green Economy Summit. How important is such an event for the continent in your view and what will be your message for the upcoming event?

Africa’s Green economy Summit is very, very important, and it’s very timely. It’s coming when the rest of the world is looking at feeding into the green industries of the world, how to green economy in the world how Africa fits into that. Given that it has a lot of resources, it will require investments into those resources, so that the rest of the world can benefit, but also that Africa can benefit. So it’s very important to reposition Africa in this green transition. And Africa’s Green Economy Summit is the anchor to all this development for Africa.

When you look at the investments flowing in into the green economy, they are immense. Why? Any strategist that is looking for long-term investments should look at green investments right now, because this will this will not only promote and increase the durability of the investments to make it more sustainable, but also it will be strategic that you are not investing in, what is called, stranded assets, meaning that they will be losing economic value, such as fossil fuels and so forth. So, strategically any investment flowing should flow into the green economy. And all these investment opportunities responding to challenges to the investments in the African green economy, you can find them at Africa’s Green Economy Summit. It’s very important, as it is showcasing what is happening on the continent and what is happening in Cape Town. The last time we saw certain zones that have done so well within Cape Town. There will be projects that one can look at that can enforce and inform the rest of the world how to go about it. So we are able to showcase from Africa what we are able to do.

And we also need to attract investment, not only for the rest of the world to come and extract and go, but also to come and extract so that Africa can benefit too. We have these resources, we have to keep assets, we have the natural resources, and we have a young population, these two have to work together. And if they have to work together, they have to look at the strategies that makes them work together to benefit this world. And young people are innovative and creative, they know what they have to do.

So, if we get them to start getting involved in this green economy, then they can drive the whole green economy agenda of the future. But all these things can be met at Africa’s Green Economy Summit. You need to know who’s who in the industry, you need to know who you can partner with, through B2B. You need to look at what do you want from Africa and what does Africa want from the rest of the world. As my friend, Mosa Mabuza, the CEO of the Geoscience Council of South Africa says: “Africa has everything that the rest of the world wants, and the rest of the world has what Africa needs.” So, the needs of the world and the needs of Africa can be met at Africa’s Green Economy Summit. So I’m really very happy that MADI is part of this and we are happy to be involved. And we look forward to the next summit in 2024. Thank you so much.

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