Good choice for mines board leadership


Workers at Nyakabingo mines in Rulindo district during the ore dressing process. (File)


Re: Senate approves new parastatal heads, envoy (The New Times, February 15, 2017). The appointment of former CEO of Rwanda Development Board (Francis Gatare) to head the newly established Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board is both timely and commendable.

This sector is quite nascent in Rwanda and recent discoveries have only shown that Rwanda needs to be more cautious about the leadership and/or governance of this sector. A wise quote goes; a chain is as strong as its weakest link.

Governance in the mining sector is its strongest link, but also its weakest link and I have no doubt the chief executive will promote integrity and professionalism in the sector.

One only needs to cast an eye on our neighbours to the west to see how bad governance can wreck havoc on the mining industry and subsequently the economy.

Between 2010 and 2012 alone, DR Congo lost $1.2 billion on sale of undervalued mines. Mining companies blatantly create offshore investment companies in order to avoid paying taxes due to weak systems.

At the heart of these deals, lack of environment protection plans and/or enforcement, local community exploitation as they are excluded from the value chain means the famous resource curse in Africa is a reality.

President Paul Kagame has, however, vowed that resources will not be a curse for Rwanda.

From dubious investment deals and mining deals that outsmart the government, to loopholes in the system that are easily exploited by private companies, one has to appreciate that this is one golden goose Rwanda cannot afford to play around with.

Nigeria itself, since 1960, has lost US$400 billion in stolen/misused oil revenue not to mention lives that have been lost in an effort to try to control the oil rich Delta region.

There is now increasing pressure from the West to shun the so-called ‘conflict minerals’ and unfortunately Rwanda’s minerals are sometimes looked at with suspicion.

However, with the mineral tagging standards already in place, the Board will now need to market aggressively in order to change this perception and attract more investors to the country.

This in itself needs a dynamic/aggressive person/institution able to erase this kind of image in lucrative Western markets.

I remain optimistic that Rwanda will be the much needed light to other African countries.