Big infrastructure or extractives projects have the potential to create growth for local African communities. Their contributions can be transformative and intelligent community engagement ensures the benefits are shared.
Increasingly, Australian companies operating in the extractive sector in East Africa are implementing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects to contribute to sustainable economic development in their host communities. Some of these companies have started CSR initiatives as early as the exploration phase.
One example is Australian company Base Titanium Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Base Resources Ltd). Their Kwale Mineral Sands Operation represents the first significant foreign direct investment in Kenya’s mining sector.
Melba Wasunna, External Affairs Manager, explains that Base Titanium considers meaningful engagement with communities affected by their project as key to its success.
“Base Titanium’s organisational structure brings community affairs to the highest managerial level and allows for a deep understanding of community impacts during the design, construction, operational and ultimately decommissioning phases of the Project.”
Base Titanium has prioritised opportunities for local residents and committed AUD $27.5 million to community investments.
Base has been part of a successful Business Partnership Platform (BPP) project, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Cotton On Group and Business for Development. The partnership has helped establish ethical cotton production in Kenya, contributing to the economic transition of communities once mining activities eventually cease.
Community engagement has not been without its challenges but Base is focused on seeking positive outcomes for partner communities.
One way that some of the issues can be discussed is through locally-constituted committees, which act as an interface between the project and affected communities. According to Base the committees are “an important tool for addressing grievances or concerns and establish a mechanism for achieving more participatory and inclusive solutions.”
There is tremendous opportunity in the extractives sector in East Africa. The shared value model is one way that companies can work with communities to ensure equal opportunity and that natural resource wealth translates into growth for the host country, the company and its investors, and local communities.