‘Unlocking over $100 billion potential of mining industry is a collective effort’
THE Executive Director and Founder of CSR-in-Action, Bekeme Masade, the organisers of the forthcoming Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) conference, revealed in this interview, strategies evolved by her team to galvanise interest in the process of unlocking the over $1 trillion dollars trapped within the mining industry.
Do you think Nigeria is really in a position to benefit from mining?
The abundance of mineral resources becomes a curse when it is not properly harnessed. The mining sector is a very broad industry with numerous benefits but peculiar challenges, which will require combined efforts of both government and the private sector to fix these problems. Sustainability across all industries is not what businesses do to look good, it is what they do to survive. If you think long term, you can achieve long-term success. Business must be conducted in a way that benefits all the stakeholders without prejudice to any. Then we can fully harness the potential in the industry. These natural resources are non-renewable, what is left with the community stakeholders is the focus of sustainability. With sustainability, we can fully harness the socio-economic benefits of over 44 minerals and metals in the country to deliver what experts say is up to $100 billion to our GDP in four years, while ensuring that. Imagine what that will do in these times of reduced and unstable oil prices!
How have you positioned the Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) to aid growth of the industry?
The Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference is yearly seminar where captains of industries from the extractive sector, policy makers, entrepreneurs and professionals converge to discuss and brainstorm on resolutions to critical issues and challenges in the industries.
This year, the 4th SITEI Conference is themed, “Unlocking the Hidden Potential in the Extractive Industries”, and is scheduled to take place at Abuja on November 19, 2015 in conjunction with the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
How do you ensure that the conference is not just a talkshow and what would be the assessment mechanism for the results and impacts of conferences like this?
In 2013, we discussed the actions required to implement policies and sustain growth in the extractive industries and beyond. That edition birthed our current benchmarking report of businesses for sustainability that we call the 3C-Index, a report that runs pari passu our Collective Social Investment Report: Nigeria (CSIR); our world acclaimed report which is in its 3rd year. Today, the report is the veritable measure of impact amongst corporate Nigeria with Accenture and EY now working with us to deliver subsequent versions. Our annual CSR report is a high quality first ever widely disseminated and inclusive compendium which covers CSR activities all over Nigeria every year from indigenous businesses, to multinationals, governments and multi-lateral partnerships and is modelled after international reports on sustainable investment.
The oil and gas sector has the highest rating in terms of its focus on sustainable practices. The sector has seen the highest participants of SITEI.
During the 2014 meeting, stakeholders discussed the benefits and challenges with local content. We have been able to bring some of the challenges stakeholders face to the fore for key decision makers to take note of and proffer solutions that benefits all. After that conference, a partnership with FOGARD (Forum for Oil and Gas Diversification) was entered into to set up advocacy working group. That meeting was particularly exciting as it resulted in collaboration with youth organizations leads to the creation of a 5,000 strong youth database.
How could state governments maximize the opportunities in the sector?
As the Nigeria partner to The Robert Gordon University, UK, CSR-in-Action has made arrangements to train 25 high level delegates, a number from each participating state, on “Energy and Mining Development: Opportunities and Threats”, post event. This is another unique value-add that distinguishes this conference.
The sector has the capacity to create up to 3 million jobs. In the early 70s the mining sector accounted for up to 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP. The potential is obvious, especially with the prices of oil dropping in the international market. Advanced economies like Australia, and to some extent Canada, are largely dependent on solid minerals. We have been blessed as a nation with the best of things and we must take advantage of it for the socio-economic development of the country.
So, we will also ensure that we qualitatively and quantitatively manage the conference process and outcomes in order to effectively drive the implementation of the various outcomes from the conference.
What is the role of youths at the conference?
This year are working with JCI (Junior Chambers International), whose members are coming en mass to participate in SITEI, we have also extended invitation to the Universities around Abuja, both private and public. In all we expect about 25-30% of our delegates to be made up of the youth. I believe there is a Nigerian Dream to pursue and there are many youth out there searching for just the right opportunity.