Alumni shifting thinking in Nigeria’s mining industry

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“We share evidence from Australia on new ways of working,” says Fatima Ibrahim.

Eight Australia Awards alumni are banding together to influence major shifts in the operations of the Nigeria Ministry of Mines and Steel and the mining community. Mining remains largely underdeveloped despite the country’s abundance of mineral resources and the government’s road map for making priority sector.

The short course alumni—five women and two men—share a changed mindset and draw on each other for ideas for meaningful change. As an influential collective, they’re applying the new skills, knowledge and networks developed while studying in Australia to educate, train, develop policy, and advance women in mining.

“Now that we’re back home, we’re leveraging our skills to make positive and sustainable change,” says Florence Msheliza who completed a Mining and Community Study Tour at the University of Queensland. “Together we’re overcoming some of the challenges the Ministry and sector faces We’re also supporting the government’s priority to develop mining to attract investment and diversify the economy from oil and gas.”

“These miners rely on mining officials to cascade important information to operations on the ground, where it’s most needed, but this isn’t always happening,” says Florence. “We decided to fill this communications gap.”

Site visits are key, with the alumni talking direct to the miners, in their own language. Clear and direct communications ensure that accurate and essential information reaches miners quickly.

The alumni assume various roles. Some are running capacity building and training workshops on health and safety, personal protective equipment, and the environment, reducing the risk of accidents and illness. In doing so they are addressing critical issues such as the need to use safety gear, including masks to avoid inhaling dust, and helmets and gloves for overall protection. Woven into the workshops is a video produced by an Australian mine site.

Training colleagues in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is one way the group of alumni influencers is having an impact in their workplace.

“We share evidence from Australia on new ways of working,” says Fatima Ibrahim, who completed a short course in Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives at the University of Queensland. “We also encourage our colleagues to apply for Australia Awards. I applied for them because another alum motivated me to do so. It’s rewarding to return home and apply your new knowledge and networks for positive change.”

Women in mining is another priority area for the like-minded group of alumni. Fatima Hannatu Muhammad, who followed the same short course in Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives, collaborated in a sub-group to organise a conference with International Women in Mining, the fastest growing network for women in the sector, with more than 10,000 members in more than 100 countries.

The Australian High Commission provided support and the “Unlocking the Potential of Women in the Mining Sector in Nigeria” was held in Abuja on 15 October 2018 with 100 participants. Empowering women to improve the industry in Nigeria was a conference theme.

“Once again, we shared knowledge about how mining works in Australia, focused on sustainable mining and came up with development projects for female miners,” says Hannatu. “This helped expand their expertise and advance their careers.”

Collective leadership is stimulating for the alumni, including Serah Greno, another alum who completed a Master of Environmental Management at Flinders University.

“Our Australian education awakened new abilities, enables us to think progressively and outside the box,” says Serah. “It’s rewarding to connect, interact, relate to and work with one another, especially since we’re culturally attuned to the political, economic and social environment in which change needs to happen.”

These eight alumni continue to drive change by working in teams and leveraging off each other. “It makes a huge difference,” says Serah.

Photo: Fatima Ibrahim, Serah Greno, Hannatu Muhammud, Florence Msheliza

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