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Hopelessness envelops Ghana’s mining towns even as country becomes top gold producer




Recently, Ghana became the largest gold producer in Africa after overtaking South Africa but some residents of mining communities in Ghana doubt the significance of this feat, claiming that it would have no meaningful impact on their lives.

During a visit to some mining communities in Western Ghana residents expressed how they are appalled by the deplorable state they have lived in for years as they exuded little hope of a better future.

On June 10, 2019, Bloomberg reported that Ghana has overtaken South Africa to become the largest gold producer in Africa.

The report which cited figures from the Ghana Chamber of Mines and the Minerals Council of South Africa, said Ghana produced 4.8 million ounces of gold in 2018 as opposed to South Africa’s 4.2 million ounces.

According to the report, Ghana increased its production by 12 per cent in 2018 as against its 2017 record.

The report attributed Ghana’s increased production to friendlier policies, lower-cost mines and new development projects while citing frequent strikes, high cost and geological challenges as reasons for South Africa’s declining production.

Communities’ plights

But, Joshua Blay, a 42-year old resident of Tarkwa, told in an interview that mining has been going on in Tarkwa for over a century yet residents continue to live in abject poverty, adding that, he expects nothing to change with the country’s new position on the global gold market.

“For us, this is no news. We’ve been living in this condition for many years despite all the resources that is taken from here. Nothing will change,” he maintained.

Tarkwa is the host of big mining firms including Anglogold Ashanti, Goldfields and the Ghana Manganese Company Limited but the town is bedeviled with poor sanitation, bad road networks, inadequate potable water and high youth unemployment.

The situation is even worse in Prestea, another mining town which hosts the Canadian mining firm, Golden Star Resources.

John Anderson, a cocoa farmer in Prestea, narrated how residents of the community grapple with pollution from dust on daily basis because almost all the roads in the community are not tarred.

“We live in a town with abundant gold deposits but we have nothing to show for it. It’s sad,” he said.

Anderson, who is now 61, recalled that not much has changed in the town in terms of social infrastructure since his youthful days.

“The roads had always been bad. We’d always struggled for water. Erratic electricity supply is not a new story,” he said.

Inadequate legislation

Unlike its petroleum sector, Ghana has no law guiding how revenues from mining are to be utilized except for royalties.

This has partly contributed to the poor state of mining communities in the country as there is little effort to channel part of the mining revenues into developing these communities.

Revenues collected from mining in the form of taxes and dividends are deposited into the Consolidated Fund, government’s central revenue pool, and utilized as the government deems fit.

Only revenues accruing from royalties are allocated according to a formula spelt out by legislation – the Minerals Development Fund (Act 912), which paves way for some revenues to be channeled back into the development of the mining communities.

Even so, a recent research on the Minerals Development Fund conducted by the Center for Extractives and Development, Africa (CEDA) showed several breaches in the distribution of funds to mining communities for development.

Two civil society groups – Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) and Friends of the Nation (FoN),  have therefore been leading a crusade for the passage of a comprehensive Minerals Revenue Management Bill with tightened accountability mechanisms to address this problem.

Already, a draft proposal of the bill had been developed by these organizations for government’s consideration while an online petition has been opened to secure signatures from citizens to push for the passage of the bill.

“It’s high time we ensured the proper management of our mineral revenues and we believe that this bill is in the right direction,” said Solomon Kusi Ampofo, the Natural Resource Governance Coordinator of FoN.

Low participation

Aside the issue of legislation, Ghana has not been maximizing its revenues from mining due to the state’s low participation in the industry. Almost all the multinational mining firms operating in Ghana are foreign-owned and unlike its petroleum sector, the country does not have a state-owned mining company to participate directly in the industry.

Revenues from mining over the years have been in the form of taxes, royalties and dividends from the country’s 10 per cent equity stake in some of the mining companies.

The Center for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), an Obuasi-based civil society organization which focuses on the impact of mining, has not been enthused about this arrangement over the years.

The Executive Director of CeSIS, Mr. Richard Kojo Ellimah, told that this trend must change stating that, the focus should be on developing local mining companies in the small scale sector which is reserved solely for Ghanaians.

“This is the best time to increase our support for small scale mining. With a sanitized small scale mining sector that operates in an environmentally sustainable manner we could further increase our production levels and subsequently our mineral revenues,” he said.

Meanwhile, government is still relishing its feat as Ghana tops gold production in Africa but the correlation between such an accomplishment and the level of development in mining communities across the country remains questionable.

By Marlvin-James Dadzie
Copyright ©2019 by Creative Imaginations Publicity
All rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in reviews.

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Cabinet approves proposals for academic user fees




Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, the Minister of Education, has announced that cabinet has approved proposals for a review of academic user fees of students.

He said this was done last month and have been forwarded to Parliament for ratification.

Dr Prempeh said this in a speech read on his behalf at the 11th Congregation of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa.

“I am aware of concerns within the university community on the matter of academic user fees, which have not been increased for three years. I wish to state that, this has primarily been due to the new procedure for approval of these fees by Parliament” he explained.

On the issue of clearance for some universities to replace staff, he said the Ministry of Finance was working on its backlog with urgency and that would be fully resolved before the end of August 2019.

The Government appreciates and understands the need for some staff beyond the age of 65 to be retained, especially for the depth of their experience and ability to continue to enrich faculty, Dr Prempeh explained.

He said there were constitutional implications of maintaining such staff on government payroll and rather, they should be paid from Internally Generated Fund.

“Government accepts the position that there should have being a constitutional amendment to increase the age of retirement to bring such faculty members within the constitutional framework, and Parliament is in the process of considering same” he said.

The Minister pointed out that the government was aware that one of the implications of its Free Senior High School policy was an increase in the number of students seeking university admission come 2020/21 academic year when the first cohort of students under the programme complete their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

He stated that under a $500 million infrastructure upgrade through the GETFund securitisation, universities like UMaT would receive favourable consideration.

This, he said, was primarily because UMaT had remained focused on its core mandate in respect of the nature of programmes it run and the  government believes this was important in developing and nurturing talents in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

He congratulated the Vice Chancellor, Professor Jerry Kuma for his passion in ensuring the UMaT continued to employ the best standards in the training of their students.

Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah, Western Regional Minister, promised to get in touch with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Mr Asomah Cheremeh to ensure that all legacy projects in UMaT were completed as soon as possible to improve academic work.

Source: GNA

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Ghana government to train to 12,000 entrepreneurs in three years – Minister




Ibrahim Awal Mohammed

Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Minister for Business Development, has said private sector remains the engine of growth which could move the country to its desired level.

In this regard, he said it is the goal of government to train and mentor 12,000 entrepreneurs nation-wide to enhance their businesses within three years adding that beneficiaries of the training would also have access to a GH¢100 million loan with 10 percent interest rate.

Dr Awal, who made this known during the fourth breakfast meeting for Chief Executive Officers in the Western Region, said so far a total of 300 entrepreneurs have been trained in the region.

The meeting, organized by the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), was to enable the CEOs interact and discuss pertinent issues that would enhance the growth and development of their businesses.

He said the government has put in place five driving force pillars, made up of modernization of agriculture, infrastructural development, human resource development, entreprenurship and industrialization to help develop the private sector.

He said under the modernization of agriculture ‘the Planting for Food and Jobs’ and the ‘One District one Factory Programmes’ would be implemented, adding that in the past two years about a million people have been engaged in the PFJP.

For infrastructure development, the Minister said, government has made available about $2 billion to address the short falls in the sector adding that the road sector would be the major beneficiary.

He said everything was being done to address the human resource shortfall in the country, hence the introduction of the free senior high school programme and the TVET programme.

Dr Awal said a lot of avenues are being created for the private sector to strive adding that the skills development centre and community mining programmes being executed in the Western Region are some of the interventions being put in place by the government.

He said government would continue to give the private sector the needed space to operate since they are the major employers in the country- “over 13,000 people are being employed by the private sector”.

Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, the Western Regional Minister, also underscored the important role the private sector play in the growth of the economy and urged them to continue to play their roles effectively by paying their taxes.

He said a free zone enclave will be sited in the Western Region and that five private community mines would be established in the Amenfi area.

He said the business world is changing to a technology driven one and tasked them to brace themselves up and adapt the current technological world.

Mr Alex Frimpong Chief Executive Officer of GEA, said the lack of affordable capital, ready market, technology and human resources were the major challenges facing many businesses in the country.

He called on the government to assist them by getting them affordable loans and ready market to enable them stay in business.

Many of the participants expressed concern about the numbers of taxes being introduced by the government, infrastructure shortfalls and the difficulties in assessing loans from the bank.

Source: GNA

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Violent extremism on the rise in West Africa – Chambas




Dr, Mohammed ibn Chambas

West Africa, last year, saw a “significant rise in violent attacks directly related to violent extremism,” the Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr Mohamed ibn Chambas, has said in his latest report to the UN Security Council in New York.

“The security situation remains volatile in the entire Sahel, where escalating violence and insecurity have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis leaving a total of 5.1 million Burkinabe, Nigeriens and Malians in need,” he said in his briefing on the activities of UNOWAS.

Dr Chambas singled out Burkina Faso where in the past six months the security situation had deteriorated.

He said 226 security incidents contributed to a rise in the number of internally displaced people from 47,000 in December 2018 to 220,000 and more than 25,000 refugees in June this year.

“The north and east of the country remain the most affected by recurrent attacks of terrorist and armed groups as well as an increase in inter-communal violence with the involvement of seemingly uncontrolled self-defence groups,” Dr Chambas said

“Terrorist groups are furthermore directly targeting schools and forcing health centres to close.

“Today, a total of 2,024 schools and 37 health centres remain closed in Burkina Faso as a direct effect of this crisis.

“Amid this rapid escalation, Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres has requested a significant scaling up of the United Nations’ response and put in place an Emergency Task Force on Burkina Faso,” he added.

The Task Force will meet immediate needs and tackle the structural causes of the insecurity.
Dr Chambas announced the launch of a $100 million Humanitarian Response Plan, which he said was already being revised because of rising costs.

The Lake Chad Basin, too, has seen an increase in violence from attacks launched by the Boko Haram offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, despite heightened counter-terrorism efforts, the report said.

He noted that the rise in violence in West Africa had been compounded by the growing links between terrorism, organised crime and inter-community clashes.

The situation was so serious that ECOWAS leaders decided at their June 29 meeting in Abuja to hold an extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou on September 14.

“It aims at discussing a concerted security approach for West Africa and the Sahel and represents a unique window of opportunity to harmonise the fragmented security arrangements,” Dr Chambas told the Council.

On the political front, hr said: “Pre-electoral and post-electoral periods…continue to be characterised by tensions, antagonistic contests and disputes, including around non-consensual constitutional amendments.

“Addressing such potential sources of conflict remains a major priority ahead of the upcoming cycle of high-stake presidential elections in West Africa scheduled for next year in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo.

“Furthermore, tensions around electoral periods derail the necessary attention to the pressing need to address questions of development and inequality,” he added.

Dr Chambas stated that “the journey of democratic consolidation in this region has not been easy and cannot be taken for granted.

“Several countries in the region continue to struggle with human rights challenges.

“I am particularly concerned about the instrumentalization of the judiciary for political objectives in some cases as well as a predominant sentiment of impunity for violent crimes, undermining respect for the rule of law.

“In this sense, I commend the exemplary path chosen by The Gambia, where the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission as well as the National Human Rights Commission have embarked on their challenging tasks in a credible manner that has contributed to transitional justice and social cohesion.”

There is going to be a Strategic Review of UNOWAS, which Dr Chambas hoped would “contribute immensely to respond to our quest for adequate resources to enable us to sharpen our tools for preventing conflicts and sustaining peace”.

Source: GNA

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