The third edition of Saudi Arabia’s Future Minerals Forum (FMF) has come and gone but what remains to be told is the story of Nigeria’s prominence in the comity of over 80 nations that graced the conference. The FMF, conceptualised to create resilient and responsible mineral value chains in Africa, Western and Central Asia has become the foremost gathering of countries endowed with solid minerals and those interested in harnessing the resources or investing in its value chain.
Hitherto, Nigeria had paid scant regard to her mineral resources, largely because of over-dependence on oil, but all of that changed with the advent of President Bola Tinubu’s administration. Eager to diversify the economy and maximise the immense potentials of the sector, President Tinubu drafted one of his most trusted lieutenants, Dr. Dele Alake to superintend over the newly created Solid Minerals Development Ministry, an offshoot of the former Mines and Steel Ministry.
Dr. Alake, representing Nigeria’s Solid Minerals sector, led a delegation to a minerals conference in Riyadh from January 9th to 11th, 2024. The schedule was anticipated to be demanding, with the initial meeting involving discussions with Saudi Arabian Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar AlKhorayef. Alake emphasised President Tinubu’s commitment to solid minerals development, outlining ongoing reforms to enhance governance, ease of business, and address security challenges in mining regions.
He further made a case for investments and partnership with Saudi Arabia in areas of exploration, extraction and the whole gamut of the mining sector value chain whilst ensuring his guest that the policy of full repatriation of profits to home countries and tax waivers on imported equipment are some of the incentives put in place by President Tinubu to attract investors. It was an elated AlKhorayef that welcomed Nigeria’s renewed interest in solid minerals. Acknowledging that the world is moving away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, of which critical minerals will play a major role, he aligned with Alake’s submission that mutually beneficial partnerships will suffice to advance the economic interest of both countries. Consequently, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia agreed to set up a joint technical committee to work out modalities for collaboration.
In a departure from traditional roles, Nigeria and other nations, including Pakistan and the UK, took centre stage at the Future Minerals Forum’s opening session. Dr. Alake, alongside notable figures, discussed the topic “Why the Super Region? Should the Super Region Have its Own Critical Minerals Strategy?” Alake emphasised the need for inclusivity to involve local value addition, challenging the historical practice of extracting raw materials from Africa.
Hitherto, Nigeria had paid scant regard to her mineral resources, largely because of over-dependence on oil, but all of that changed with the advent of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
“For us in Nigeria and most of Africa, the idea of a super region is quite significant in order to harness the mosaic, distinctive mineral resources that are within the confines of the super regions and consequently achieve a sustainable energy mix for the world. In Nigeria, we have prioritised the development of our critical minerals and rare earth metals, so the idea of inclusivity in a super region entails collaborative efforts, not only in the area of investments but technology transfer, knowledge sharing, and more importantly, for us in Africa, local value addition, the Minister asserted.
The superlative performance of Nigeria didn’t go unnoticed as Alake was soon trailed by a deluge of international media organisations for an interview. Initially, we had four on our list – CNN, Saudi TV, Argaam, and CNBC, but we ended up doing a whopping seven, including the renowned London Economist and Bloomberg. Everywhere we turned, dignitaries stood in awe of Dr. Alake, as they literally fell upon themselves to take pictures or commend his presentation at the opening session.
When the African Ministers of Solid Minerals/ Mineral resources needed a rallying point to forge a common front, they approached Nigeria to lead the way. Alongside his Ugandan counterpart, Hon. Dr. Peter Lokeris, Dr. Alake led the African delegation comprising nine countries into a series of meetings and the resolution was unanimous – Africa will no longer be given the shorter end of the stick, value addition should take the centre-stage of inclusivity in the super region! Alake thereafter offered to host the African Ministers in Nigeria to consolidate on the agreement and forge a way forward for the development of Africa through harnessing its abundant mineral resources.
Aside from engagements with the Saudi political establishment, mining sector players from across the world also played the Minister and expressed their interest in Nigeria’s mining sector. Monaco’s Jean Boulle Group, led by its Chairman, Jean-Raymond Boulle, informed the Minister of an impending visit to Nigeria, asserting his firm’s readiness to expand its operations to Nigeria’s mining value chain. The Saudi royal family was not left out as HE Prince Fahad Al Saud alongside the CEO of their family office, Constandinos Felder also met Alake with the aim remaining the same – interest in Nigeria’s critical minerals and willingness to bring massive investments into the country.
From the reception accorded Nigeria at the just concluded FMF, we can deduce that the world is ready for Nigeria. The onus now falls on us to put our house in order. Thankfully, the 7-point agenda of the Minister is well on course. Just a few days ago, President Tinubu alluded to the establishment of the solid minerals police – an integral part of the 7-point agenda, which is christened “Mines Police”, during a meeting with State Governors. Also, plans for the establishment of the Nigerian Mining Corporation (NMC) that will bequeath an efficient governance structure for the mining sector are well on course.
2024 will be an interesting year for the renaissance of Nigeria’s mining sector. The coming weeks and months promise to be action-packed in that regard, with Dr. Alake leading the way. May Nigeria succeed!
Segun Tomori is the Special Assistant on Media to the Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals Development