CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR) AND UNMET PROMISES OF MINERAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES BUSINESS IN AFRICA

The Jesuit Africa Social Centres Network (JASCNET) organized a seminar at Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR), Nairobi, from the 17th to the 21st April 2017 on governance of minerals and natural resources in Africa.

The following institutes were represented: Arrupe Center for Research and Training (CARF, DRC), Centre of Study for Social Action (CEPAS, DRC), Research Centre for Peace (CERAP Ivory Coast), Jesuit Africa Social Centers Network (JASCNET, Kenya), Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR, Zambia), Jesuit Institute of South Africa (JISA, South Africa), PREMICongo (DRC), and Silveira House (Zimbabwe).

The seminar was officially opened by the JESAM president who celebrated Mass together with the participants and welcomed them on behalf of the Jesuit provincials and Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar.

The director of JASCNET presented the objective of this seminar as follows: to review what the social centres have been doing since the beginning of the program on governance of mineral and natural resources, to share what lessons social centres can learn from one another as well as search for the way forward so that wealth generated from mineral and natural resources may be of benefit to the African population.

Two speakers presented researches conducted in Katanga, DRC, and in Kitwe, Zambia. The first research from DRC entitled Environmental dialogue in the perspective of corporate social responsibility (CSR) of mining enterprises in Katanga was informed by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si: it emphasized what true dialogue requires. The pope encourages true dialogue among various stakeholders in mining companies and in local communities, in positions of leadership and of government. This dialogue should encourage people to understand and speak on environmental matters that especially affect people’s life and not only talk about the lack of infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and roads that may be difficult to run if the environment is damaged. As Laudato Si teaches, in the dialogue between the population and mining companies, the target should be integral development.

The second speaker presented three papers on research conducted in Zambia. These are:
1. The unmet promises of Zambia mining, 2. The working conditions, workers’ rights and sustainable business practices in the mining industry in Zambia, and 3. Reforming the CSR of extractive industries: lessons from Zambia. According to general opinion, mining was supposed to generate government revenue, reduce poverty, create jobs and spur local industry. Research revealed that, on the contrary, mining has had negative consequences, such as environmental degradation, displacement of human persons, high living costs, unemployment, food insecurity and loss of land, among others.

To solve this crisis of unfulfilled promises of mining, it has been argued that corporate social responsibility (CSR) needs reform, so as to develop a program that will procure what mining had promised. The researcher further argued that we could draw some inspiration from the Social Teachings of the Church to reform CSR in Africa.

The social centres attending the seminar presented what they have been doing in relation to governance of mineral and natural resources.

Their reports showed that most social centres are engaged in many areas: in advocacy, publications, coordination of civil societies, research, capacity building, policy formulation, reform of mineral legislations in the various countries, revision of contracts, empowerment of artisanal miners and of communities, and clarification of the relationship between natural resources and conflicts.

The participants were assigned to work in groups which later shared the outcome of their discussions. They examined how to address the main issues affecting good governance of mineral and natural resources. In response, they committed themselves to develop programs to fight corruption, to promote transparency, to strengthen political goodwill, to advocate for a strong legal framework and institutions, to ensure that existing mining regulations are enforced, to prioritize the competing needs and environmental considerations, to foster democratic power structures both locally and internationally, to give equal bargaining power to all citizens, to denounce greed, to give skills to local communities, to reduce overdependence on mining, to master geological exploration, to put a halt to politicization of technical issues concerning natural resources, to ensure equity in allocating the benefits of natural resources, including the local communities within the mining areas.

They decided to share and widen best practices to deal with the above issues through: 1) Education-formation of conscience-raising awareness
2) Creating platforms for dialogue between mining communities
3) Fostering political and economical governance training
4) Advocacy, lobbying and pressure-groups.

At the end, the participants were taken through an overview of governance of mineral and natural resources in Africa. The speaker stressed that Africa has the fastest economic growth index, yet also the lowest human development index. One of the reasons is that we don’t address key issues in this field adequately. With this, he called upon participants to explore more on this topic so that they could enlighten many Africans and popularize knowledge in the governance of mineral and natural resources.

In conclusion, the social centers agreed that there was need for them to collaborate in this field since they were all dealing with the same problems though in different countries. In addition, they called for better relations with the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) on mining and ecology. JASCNET agreed that it will publish the two researches done in Katanga, DRC and in Kitwe, Zambia and help social centres to have access to all the publications and researches on mining, governance of mineral and natural resources already done by social centres in Africa. Participants recommended to JASCNET to offer this kind of training to more people and not only to the leaders of social centres in Africa.
For more information contact:

Rigobert Minani SJ JESAM Social Apostolate former Coordinator and JASCNET former director
jascnet.admin@jesuits.net