State participation in the mining sector is a throwback to the socialist mind-set that once formed the premise of many national companies. Few West African nations have contemplated setting up an organization to oversee and harness their country’s natural resources. The free market system has trumped state sentiment in ensuring that the sector is managed effectively and efficiently by private companies whose main aim is to create shareholder value.
In Africa, there have been several attempts to establish state-owned organizations to oversee the commercial development of natural resources. In 1986, Burkina Faso established the Comptoir Burkinabe des Metaux et Precieux. Structural Adjustment Programmes brought operations to a grinding halt. Globally, state-owned enterprises have seen two renaissance periods: initially in the 1960s and 1970s and recently in the early 2000s with Chinese companies taking the lead. Fears about the efficiency of how the states have been run have been the main sticking point for many critics.
Although no West African country has, or has had, a state-owned mining corporation, we should not dismiss the model as being archaic or ineffective. The DRC’s state-controlled Gecamines has adopted a model which allows for private participation. It allows the government to retain a stake in its mines while accruing the benefit of private sector expertise. In South America, there is the state-controlled and Chilean-based Codelco, which has successfully navigated through national politicking to remain a mainstay. The countries where state-controlled organizations existed have benefitted from legislation and regulations that allow for private enterprises to co-exist in a cohesive environment, which in turn leads to growth. The private sector provides experience and technical expertise, while also not being hampered by politics.
Government must also understand its role in laying a foundation for the commercialization of its resources, rather than meddle in the affairs of private enterprises. The Debswana model in Botswana serves as a good example of a successful government and private partnership. The temptation for government to meddle in the affairs of business threatens to disturb the very fibre of the business, potentially making is a commercial disaster.
Zambia’s copper industry is an example of government poking its nose where it is not needed. Though, through no fault of their own, the price of copper plummeted to a 20-year low at the time of the state-owned corporation’s closure, the government was forced into selling its assets at a loss.
Many advantages can come with a state-owned mining company, such as having the backing of a government, but governments often don’t have the requisite technical expertise. In the past, African countries with state-owned mining companies have lacked the commercial nous to navigate through trying times and have had to resort a fire sale of assets.
Investor confidence is built on the stability of a government. Also, a private company needs to know that the government will not move the goals posts to suit their own agenda.
The ability to navigate through the volatile terrain of the mining sector, where the prices of your resources are dependent on world events and driven by consumption, requires a strong hand from government to mitigate other uncontrollable factors, such as demand for metals, prices, as well as macro and micro economic factors. The objectives should also be clearly set out to ensure that the majority and not a handful feel the benefit of resources.
With the support of the World Bank, Nigeria’s mining sector may thrive. The World Bank’s work with the government can strengthen the sector and see mining become a key component in the revitalizing the nation’s fortunes. Despite Nigeria not hosting any international mining companies, by helping local mining companies, who to date are have received little assistance from banks, remains the country’s best bet.
This support can kickstart the growth of Nigeria’s mining sector and replicate the success of their West African neighbors. – Written by Richie Seun Johnson
Cryptocurrency for Africans
George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.
What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?
Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.
Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.
It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.
What is your own investment philosophy?
I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?
First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.
First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?
If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.
Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.
What is your most prized investment and why?
My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.
Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?
I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.
What do you spend your money on mostly?
Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.
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King Price Insurance’s CEO Gideon Galloway, who built an insurance company in South Africa worth over $226 million in six years, talks investments, industry trends and how self-driving cars will change the entire car insurance landscape.
Offering The American Dream
Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.
It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.
A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.
“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.
With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.
Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.
“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”
According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.
These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.
According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”
Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.
“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.
The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.
According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.
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