The Mining Bill 2013 will come as a welcome achievement if (or when) it’s eventually passed. The discovery of minerals has brought about cautious optimism in the country. However I do think Kenya would reap from the many benefits of the mining industry which doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to wait 10 years to start enjoy our oil finds or industries running on the coal found in Kitui. I think outsourcing of services and labour would be far more beneficial.
Take a look at India for example. It is said that 11 out of 12 diamonds set in any jewellery in the world are cut & polished in India. To put it simply, irrespective of whichever part of the world you live and you buy diamond studded jewellery, there’s a good chance you’ll be taking home a diamond processed in India. India is not a producer of diamond but their diamond polishing industry is unmatched. They have the skill and the labour.
Just like their medical services, that have become renown by many Kenyan patients seeking treatment abroad since they offer affordable, yet world class treatment and they even have a name for it “medical tourism”.
“With nearly one million employees in its diamond manufacturing sector, India is today the world’s largest manufacturing centre for cut and polished diamonds, contributing 60% of the world’s supply in terms of value and 85% in terms of volume. Eleven out of every 12 diamonds set in jewellery worldwide are processed in India, according to India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC). It is said that India by 2015, India will have a 49.3% share of the world diamond roughs for processing in value terms, with 21.3% going to China, 7.1% to Russia, 5.5% to South Africa, 4.7% to Israel and 1.4% to the US.”
Another idea that has already been suggested is a Minerals and metals commodities exchange. A minerals and metals exchange is a market where various minerals and contracts based on them are traded. The United Kingdom for example has The London Metal Market and Exchange Company founded in 1877, where metals like aluminium, aluminium alloy, cobalt, copper, lead, molybdenum, nickel, steel billet, tin and zinc are traded.
These could be examples Kenya could learn from. As Mining secretary Najib Balala simply put it “We can’t have all the minerals and metals but we can lead the region in trade,”. Congo is believed to have an estimated mineral worth of 24 Trillion $. Imagine if traders had an option of trading these minerals here in Kenya instead of the largely controlled, monopolised and often biased European market, the benefits to the economy would be immense.
Finally testing laboratories. This to me would be the simplest and most defining of outsource services we could have. There is only one outdated lab at the Geological Department, yet researchers, institutions and even corporates still choose to take samples to Europe where they have better, standardized equipment. In Africa only South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are known for their excellent labs. Testing some of these samples is an expensive venture and by having a lab here it reduces the cost of shipping the samples abroad and even reduces the chances of them being contaminated or damaged.
In short we don’t have to wait for the next 30 years to start reaping from the benefits of our vast mineral resources outsourcing services that are not only necessary but also vital would be a a great way to start off.