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Patrice Motsepe: Beneficiation must make commercial sense

“The export of oil, the export of minerals, will for many decades continue to be a critical part for the growth of African economies. The emphasis is on diversification. We have for many years – not just in South Africa but in many parts of the continent – spoken about beneficiation. And I think part of the secret, in relation to beneficiation, is you have got to make it attractive, profitable for the private sector – and it will take off. You may have to look at mechanisms like tax concessions...  You will not have to worry about beneficiation if it makes commercial sense.” – Patrice Motsepe, founder of African Rainbow Minerals Photo by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

“I think part of the secret, in relation to beneficiation, is you have got to make it attractive, profitable for the private sector – and it will take off… You will not have to worry about beneficiation if it makes commercial sense,” said Patrice Motsepe, founder of African Rainbow Minerals. Photo by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

“It’s not about what the politicians say about investment in Africa. It’s about what the investors say. They make the decisions, and we have got to make sure they view us as a good place [to invest]. That’s the only way that we can create jobs, have inclusive growth.”

This is according to Patrice Motsepe, founder of mining company African Rainbow Minerals and one of South Africa’s wealthiest men.

Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, Motsepe said it is up to African governments to ensure the right policies are in place to secure private sector investment and confidence. This should include guaranteeing the commercial viability of value-added activities such as local manufacturing and beneficiation.

Mining and the export of raw commodities will continue to be economically important for the continent, argues Motsepe. But if governments want to diversify their exports and add value to their commodities, they need to ensure it is profitable for the private sector.

“The export of oil, the export of minerals, will for many decades continue to be a critical part of the growth of African economies. The emphasis is on diversification. We have for many years – not just in South Africa but in many parts of the continent – spoken about beneficiation. And I think part of the secret, in relation to beneficiation, is you have got to make it attractive, profitable, for the private sector – and it will take off.”

He added most successful economies have used various mechanisms, such as tax concessions, to make beneficiation more attractive for investors, and African countries will need to do the same.

“You will not have to worry about beneficiation if it makes commercial sense. But it can only happen when you do these things in partnerships with governments and the private sector.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he highlighted, is one example of a politician who seems to be creating a more enabling environment for the private sector. And Motsepe said he has felt this “excitement” when talking with the leaders of large Indian companies.

“Africa in many fundamental respects is no different from many other continents, and by that I mean we have to do the same sort of things that creates jobs, uplifts people’s standards of living, takes us out of poverty, and helps provide skills.

“I think there is a greater recognition that the single most important partner to realise all of the dreams we have for our people… is the private sector, [and] partnerships with investors.”

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