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Africas share in global agricultural production is very low – report

Agriculture remains one of Africa’s most important economic sectors, accounting for over 15% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product GDP and providing employment to more than two-thirds of the population.

If the sector’s most notable challenges can be overcome, agriculture could play an even larger part in transforming economies. In particular, governments across the continent are working with international organisations to find solutions to the rising effects of climate change. Nevertheless, the overall is quite bright; cultivated areas are expected to expand and farmers are set to increase their use of inputs, such as fertilisers, improved seeds, irrigation systems and mechanisation.

According to Oxford Business Group Agriculture in Africa report 2019, Africa holds more than 60% of the world’s arable land, but the continent’s share in global agricultural production is low. Vast areas of land are not cultivated and productivity is lower than in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, farming is key for the majority of African economies and accounts for at least 15% of the region’s GDP. In addition, around two-thirds of the African population is employed within the agricultural sector, the vast majority working in small-scale plantations that currently produce at least 90% of overall food production.

The report said chronic long-term underinvestment and poor governance have resulted in an agricultural sector that has been unable to play a role in transforming Africa’s economies, either by ensuring food security, creating jobs or reducing poverty. Now, the sector faces many challenges, the most notable of which is low productivity. This results from a variety of factors, some of which include low use of inputs and irrigation systems. In this context, farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change- a fact that has shed light on the need for increased attention an investment in the continent’s promising agricultural sector.

It indicated that Africa’s 30.4 square kilometres boast a diverse range of agro-ecological areas and climates. These include rainforest vegetation with tropical weather, found in the south of West Africa and in Central Africa from Sierra Leone to the Congo’s. Other areas are dry and arid vegetation, such as those countries in the continent’s Sahel region.

‘’This diversity is a tremendous asset, but it also poses a substantial challenge for African agricultural development,’’ Abidjan-based African Development Bank stated on its website. ‘’On the other hand, it creates a vast potential with respect to the mix of agricultural commodities and products which can be produced and marketed in domestic and external markets. On the other hand, the diversity implies that there are no universal solutions to agricultural development problems across the continent’’ it said.

According to Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, during colonial period- which for most African countries ended around the 1960s- agriculture was the most significant sector in the continent’s economy. At this time, farmers were made to produce cash crops which were then exported to European countries as raw materials for their own growing industries. The exported cash crops included: cocoa, coffee, palm oil and rubber from West Africa: cotton from the Sahel region; tea and coffee from East Africa; and tobacco and sugarcane from the south of Africa.

‘’In general, food crops were not promoted and farmers grew them for subsistence only’’ the IFPRI reported. ‘’During the colonial period, Africa was developed essentially as an agricultural-exporting economy. This goal was achieved with some success, as evidenced by the number of African countries being top global producers of tropical cash crops’’. Cote d’Ivoire, for example, has become the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans. Today, the country accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa input.

After independence, the report said many African countries focused on financing local manufacturing and considered agriculture to be a less productive food supplier. As a result, the post-colonial period was characterised by underinvestment in the agricultural and rural sectors. Consequently, Africa’s agriculture recorded poor performance throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with production in sub-Saharan Africa growing on average by only 1% annually between 1971 and 1980, compared with the 3% growth seen throughout Asia. Land productivity was also two to three times lower than that observed in Asia.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the International Monetary Fund IMF and the World Bank pushed for the implementation of structural adjustment programmes SAPs, which were schemes designed for poor nations and countries in crisis, intended to reduce the role of governments in the economy. Countries were asked to implement these SAPS as a pre-condition for loans or external resources. The report said key measures included liberalisation of the economies, with the abolition of regulations such as price controls; privatisation of state-owned companies that were considered to be inefficient, reduction of public expenses and promotion of foreign direct investment FDI.

Further according to the IFPRI, the austerity measures resulted in a reduction of government spending in the sector. In sub-Saharan Africa the share of public agriculture spending inn the total budget declined to an annual average of 3.3% in the 1990s, down from 7.4% in the 1980s. The expansion of cultivated land meant that production growth climbed higher than in the 1970s, though productivity remained low, with output per ha of land at approximately 180 US Dollars in 1990. This was about one-third of the yields producer in Asia.

The report indicated that in 2003 the African Union launched the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme CAADP, a strategy centred on agriculture, with the goal of reducing poverty and ensuring food security. The programme defined agriculture as a main engine of economic growth, and called for African governments to allocate 10% of their annual budget to the sector with the target of 6% annual growth. The Maputo commitments made in 2003 were renewed in 2014 in Malabo Equatorial Guinea.

One of the CAADP’s most notable achievements has been that it ‘’has significantly raised the political profile of agriculture’’ according to the IFPRI. Some 40 countries has signed CAADP agreements by the end of 2014, with many nations designing their own investment plan for the agricultural sector. However, the CAADP’s targets are still far from being met. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa only achieved a 2.6% average annual growth rate in the agricultural sector between 2003 and 2009.

Nevertheless, six countries- Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mozambique, Nigeria and Rwanda- have managed to meet the growth goal of 6%. In regard to the investment target, in 2016 just 13 countries had successfully met their pledge to invest at least 10% of their budget in agriculture.

According to the Alliance for a Green revolution in Africa AGRA: ‘’Progress has generally been slow, mainly because many countries, despite the willingness to do what is right, grapple with capacity challenges that hinder their ability to design and implement a transformational agenda’’ it stated in its 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report.

AGRA noted that recent policies placing farming at the heart of Africa’s economic development and promoting public investment in the sector are key to developing agriculture across the continent. However, more needs to be done to improve the poor structural governance seen in some African governments: although the private sector dominates the agriculture sector, its success is only made possible with public investments and policies.

‘’The past norm in African countries has been poor governance with respect to the agricultural transformation. Poor government performance has been in part associated with past foreign aid efforts at reducing the size and scope of government. Those policies were felt quite harshly by the agriculture sector, which depends heavily on government actions, and thereby inhibited the growth of the small-scale commercial private sector that dominates the sector. AGRA said. ‘’Fortunately, more recently these foreign aid policies appear to have been reversed, however, the quality of governance continues to be poor in many African countries’’

According to AGRA, Ethiopia, and to a slightly lesser extent Rwanda and Ghana, are positive examples for the continent when it comes to successful large-scale agricultural expansion. For the past 25 years Ethiopia has recorded sector growth above the 6% target defined by the CAADP. The East African nation has massively invested in its agriculture, including in irrigation and made the CAADP in a 50% reduction in rural poverty.

According to Thomas Jaine, professor at Michigan State University, public investments in the agricultural sector have had a direct and measurable impact on productivity. Jaine stated that recent yield improvements were observed in countries that embraced the AU’s CAADP scheme, especially in Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

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New Khoemacau owners commit to mine’s multibillion Pula expansion

6th December 2023

The future of Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation, Khoemacau Copper Mining, looks promising as the new owners, MMG Group, commit to the mine’s expansion plans. MMG, an Australian headquartered company owned by China, has expressed its dedication to doubling Khoemacau’s production and transforming it into one of the most significant high-grade copper operations in Africa.

Nan Wang, the Executive General Manager for Australia and Africa at MMG, stated that while the immediate focus is on maintaining a consistent production level of 60ktpa, there are solid plans to increase Khoemacau’s production capacity. The company aims to double its production from 3.65Mtpa to 8.15Mtpa, resulting in an increase in payable copper from approximately 60ktpa to around 130ktpa.

To achieve this expansion, Khoemacau has completed a pre-feasibility study on the project and a solar power initiative. The next step is to conduct a feasibility study, which will pave the way for increased production capacity. Additionally, Khoemacau has identified extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, positioning the company for an exciting new phase of development.

The current Khoemacau operation reached full production and nameplate capacity in December 2022, following over a decade of investment totaling over P10 billion. This significant investment allowed for an intense exploration program, resulting in the development of the most automated underground mining operation in Botswana. The first concentrate was produced in June 2021, and the product entered the export market in July of the same year. Throughout 2022, the company has been working on the pre-feasibility study for the expansion project, with the feasibility study scheduled for the following year.

The expansion plans will involve the construction of a new world-class process plant in Zone 5, where the current mining of ore takes place. This new plant will be larger than the existing one in Boseto, which currently receives ore from Zone 5. The expansion will also involve the development of new underground mines, including Mango, Zone 5 North, and Zeta North East. These additional mines will bring the total number of underground shafts at Khoemacau to six. The ramp-up of production from the expansion is expected to occur in 2026.

Khoemacau, which acquired assets in the Kalahari Copper Belt after the liquidation of Discovery Metals in 2015, currently employs over 1500 people, with the majority being Batswana. The Khoemacau Mine is located in north-west Botswana, in the emerging Kalahari Copperbelt. It boasts the 10th largest African Copper Mineral Resource by total contained copper metal and is one of the largest copper sedimentary systems in the world outside of the Central African Copperbelt.

The mine utilizes underground long hole stoping as its mining method and conventional sulphide flotation for processing. Resource drilling results have shown the existing resources to have continuity at depth, and there are several exploration targets within the tenement package that have the potential to extend the mine’s life or increase productivity.

The Zone 5 mine has already ramped up production, and further expansion in the next five years will be supported by the deposits in the Zone 5 Group. The estimated mine life is a minimum of 20 years, with the potential to extend beyond 30 years by tapping into other deposits within the tenement package.

In conclusion, the commitment of MMG Group to Khoemacau’s expansion plans signifies a bright future for Botswana’s largest copper and silver operation. With the completion of pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, as well as significant investments, Khoemacau is poised to become one of Africa’s most important high-grade copper operations. The expansion project will not only increase production capacity but also create new job opportunities and contribute to the economic growth of Botswana.

 

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Khoemacau Copper Mining to be acquired by MMG Limited

6th December 2023

Khoemacau Copper Mining, a leading copper mining company, has recently announced its acquisition by MMG Limited, a global resources company based in Australia. This acquisition marks a significant milestone for both companies and demonstrates their commitment to continued investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry.

MMG Limited is a renowned mining company that operates copper and other base metals projects across four continents. With its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, MMG has a strong track record in mining and exploration. The company currently operates several successful mines, including the Dugald River zinc mine and the Rosebery polymetallic mine in Australia, the Kinsevere copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Las Bambas Mine in Peru. MMG’s extensive experience and expertise in mining operations make it an ideal partner for Khoemacau.

MMG’s commitment to sustainability aligns perfectly with Khoemacau’s values and priorities. Khoemacau has always placed a strong emphasis on safety, health, community, and the environment. MMG shares this commitment and applies the principles of good corporate governance as set out in the Corporate Governance Code of the Hong Kong Listing Rules. As a member of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), MMG adheres to sustainable mining principles, ensuring responsible and ethical practices in all its operations.

Over the past 12 years, Khoemacau’s current shareholders have made significant investments in the development of the company. With approximately US$1 billion deployed in the project, Khoemacau has successfully transformed from an exploration and discovery phase to a fully-fledged operating copper mine. The completion of the ramp-up of the Zone 5/Boseto operations has set the stage for the next phase of expansion.

With the acquisition by MMG, Khoemacau is poised for an exciting new chapter in its development. The completion of a pre-feasibility study on the Khoemacau expansion and a solar power project has paved the way for increased production capacity. The feasibility study will be the next step in doubling the production capacity from 3.65 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) to 8.15 Mtpa, resulting in a significant increase in payable copper from approximately 60,000 tonnes per annum (ktpa) to 130,000 ktpa. Additionally, Khoemacau has extensive exploration opportunities across its license area, further enhancing its growth potential.

The CEO of Khoemacau, Johan Ferreira, expressed his gratitude to the current owners for their stewardship of the company and their successful transformation of Khoemacau into a fully operational copper mine. He also highlighted the company’s focus on the expansion study and its vision for the future with MMG. Ferreira emphasized that the partnership with MMG will ensure Khoemacau’s long-term success, delivering employment, community benefits, and economic development in Botswana.

MMG Chairman, Jiqing Xu, echoed Ferreira’s sentiments, stating that the acquisition of Khoemacau aligns with MMG’s growth strategy and vision. Xu emphasized MMG’s commitment to creating opportunities for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and communities. He expressed confidence in Khoemacau’s expansion potential and the company’s ability to realize its full potential with the support of MMG.

The sale of Khoemacau to MMG is subject to certain conditions precedent and approvals, with the expected closing date in the first half of 2024. This acquisition represents a significant step forward for both companies and reinforces their commitment to sustainable mining practices, responsible resource development, and long-term growth in the mining industry.

In conclusion, the acquisition of Khoemacau Copper Mining by MMG Limited signifies a new era of investment, growth, and sustainability in the mining industry. With MMG’s extensive experience and commitment to responsible mining practices, Khoemacau is well-positioned for future success. The partnership between the two companies will not only drive economic development but also ensure the safety and well-being of employees, benefit local communities, and contribute to the overall growth of Botswana’s mining sector.

 

 

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BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

6th December 2023

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.

The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.

Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.

The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.

Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.

Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.

In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.

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