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April 10, 2015
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Sub-Saharan Africa: Mining Indaba Invests in Africa Once More in 2015


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A little over 20 years ago, shortly after the now iconic 1994 elections in South Africa, a small group of people came together at the Cape Sun Hotel to discuss and share their vision for mining investments on the continent. The Investing in African Mining Indaba was born. Fast forward to today and Mining Indaba has become the largest and most revered mining investment event in the world. We spoke to Maria Palombini, Group Marketing and Public Relations Director of Mining Indaba, to find out what makes this trade show so successful and where they are headed in the future.

The Event: Why is it important to have an African event geared towards local businesses and internationals working within the continent?

Maria Palombini: Africa has long been known for its export of resources to the world. However today, Africa is on the cusp of what is becoming known as the “emerging market story of the next decade”. Today, Africa has a growing educated and young adult base which makes the continent quite appealing to companies who want to reach this growing audience of potential consumers. Many African governments have implemented progressive policies to attract investments in different markets such as telecommunications, manufacturing, and more.

The mining industry in Africa has opened the gateways for global investors to peek inside on what the continent has to offer. Mining in Africa gave birth to the launch of many secondary supportive industries such as construction, transportation and logistics, waste management, and others. Through revenues earned from mining, there was opportunity for investments in infrastructure development and education in order to make it viable for other industries to enter and get the attention of global investors.

The Event: What does it take in terms of manpower and numbers to organise an event of this size?

Palombini: A great portion of our planning strategy revolves around the fact that our core organising team is based in New York and London. However throughout the years we have developed solid relationships with many different partners who are now integrated to the Mining Indaba brand. We have more than 30 partners on the ground including printers, event managers, technology companies, public relations firms, and of course the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), who has been our strongest and most supportive partner throughout the years. The quality of the individuals behind these partnerships has been a strong asset to us and has been critical in ensuring the annual successes we have had with the Mining Indaba.

As the conference continues to become more global, the demand for customising the conference experience becomes that much greater. Every professional comes to the Mining Indaba with their own business agenda and trying to meet the expectations of 7 000 plus people representing 100 countries and more than 2 300 international companies, becomes a significant feat.

The Event: How long has Investing in African Mining Indaba been running and what is the estimated ROI in business created through the event each year?

Palombini: The Investing in African Mining Indaba (informally known as Mining Indaba) is in its 21st year and has always been held in Cape Town, South Africa. There have been two direct benefactors of as a result of the Mining Indaba’s history:

a. The African mining sector. Since the inception of the Mining Indaba, the African mining sector has grown each year. The Mining Indaba is a central pathway for key players to meet the right people at the right time. It is an unparalleled week of deal-making and discovery in African mining. It is estimated that billions of foreign investment dollars have been channelled into African mining as a result of the relationships and opportunities discovered at the annual Mining Indaba.

b. The local Cape economy has directly benefited from R552-million throughout the last eight years (2006-2014) and 4 500 direct and indirect jobs have been created during that time. It has been noted by the local Cape business owners that the Mining Indaba audience brings more revenue than when the City of Cape Town hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The Event: What has the conference’s growth trajectory been like in the last few years?

Palombini: In 2004, the Mining Indaba grew substantially enough to expand into the CTICC, its present hosting venue. But it was not until 2010 that the Mining Indaba experienced significant growth. Throughout the last five years, the conference has grown from 3 000 delegates in 2010 to 7 800 delegates in 2013, a record-breaking year. It has grown from 200 sponsoring companies to 489 in 2013.

The Event: How healthy would you say the mining industry is in Africa?

Palombini: Africa today continues to be considered as one of the most mineral-rich continents in the world. Unfortunately the global mining industry has trailed quite a bit as a result of lagging commodity prices. However investors and global mining companies continue to look to Africa as one of the most important regions to focus on for when the global mining industry returns. South Africa has served as the gateway into Africa for many years. For mining it continues to be one of the more heavily operated areas on the continent and presents great opportunities for foreign investors. In order for the country to maximize the foreign investment dollars and the return of increase in demand for resources, it will need to continue to refine legislation and further its work in mending relationships between labour and mining companies.

The Event: What were the highlights from the 2015 Investing in African Mining Indaba?

Palombini: The 6 750 delegates at the 2015 Mining Indaba arrived with some uncertainty as a result of the lagging commodities prices, but departed with a sense of optimism based on the information from experts on the stage and the many one-on-one conversations made at the event. The greatest change to this year’s Mining Indaba was the conference programme featuring some of the world’s top economists, continental experts, and of course, the inclusion of Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as a distinguished speaker. The programme also featured investors representing some of Africa’s and the world’s largest dealmakers as speakers and panellists, as well as some of Africa largest and top emerging mining corporates.

The Event: Where do you hope to see the Mining Indaba in 5-10 years? What kind of legacy would you like to leave for the African continent?

Palombini: We plan on seeing the Mining Indaba remain true to its core mission: bringing all the right professionals to continue to capitalise the mining industry in Africa. Our goal is focused on having every participant leave the conference each year knowing they might find the right connection, uncover some new exciting investment opportunity and make the deals that will continue to bring their business forward.

The legacy we hope to leave behind is rooted in our social commitment to education; to empowering the next generation of mining leaders. The Mining Indaba Bursary Programme was founded in 2013 in which we provide up to US$30 000 to South African university students pursuing studies in mining or engineering. The programme originally started as US$20 000 for two students and now in 2014 it was increased to U$30 000, helping four students. The bursary programme covers costs for four students for one academic calendar year – covered costs include tuition, books, room and board, mine excursions and other related academic expenses.  Also in 2014, we added an annual endowment of US$2 500 to REAP – the Rural Education Access Programme – based in South Africa. This programme helps underprivileged students from the regional providences in SA to help them continue their tertiary studies.

The Event: Are there any plans in motion for next year’s event yet?

Palombini: We have just begun to plan for 2016. Our first and foremost priority is to continue to unite global investors with attractive mining opportunities on the continent. In order to achieve that we will continue to invest in our conference programme to bring in the best analysts, investors, macroeconomists and the right experts. If the market starts to turn around towards the latter portion of 2015, the 2016 Mining Indaba will be one of the most critical events for African mining.


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