Facilitating social responsibility within Zambia’s extractive industry

Zambia, with its vast mineral resources and minerals, is facing a dilemma, says Australia Awards alumnus Barnaby Bwalya Mulenga. That dilemma is to create wealth by growing its extractive industry and taking advantage of booms in commodity prices while meeting the development needs of the Zambian people.

After completing a Master of Environmental Science and Law at the University of Sydney, Barnaby returned home determined to use his skills and knowledge to make positive change. Once back in Zambia, he was  promoted to Commissioner of Lands, managing the country’s land under the leadership of Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

His next career step was the move to his current role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the government’s Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development. Through this role, Barnaby leads a team focusing on a more equitable balance between mining company needs, to ensure continued investment and the responsibility to provide benefits to mining communities and society as a whole.

A study supported by the African Development Bank (ADB) revealed that only about 10 per cent of the US$4 billion spent in Zambia’s mining sector benefited citizens and citizen-controlled companies. Barnaby is adamant this needs to change.

‘We need to make citizens a priority, create jobs, buy locally manufactured materials, protect the environment and more,’ says Barnaby.

While studying in Australia, Barnaby learned the importance of balancing the need for developing countries to create wealth, including through industry, with the need to take care of people and preserve the environment. ‘My scholarship studies taught me how to undertake specific strategic environmental assessments to meet long-term goals in Zambia’s extractive space,’ says Barnaby. ‘As CEO, my aim is to substantially increase funds available to mining communities from the current 10 per cent to a minimum of 40 per cent.’

As CEO, Barnaby leads a large team that develops policies for the responsible exploitation of minerals. The nine directorates he leads works together to help coordinate and manage the extractive industry, to drive positive growth and solutions in a socially responsible way—providing opportunities for Zambians.

‘On behalf of government, we support developing legislation that, in turn, supports Parliamentarians so more people in mining towns and related communities gain the benefits they deserve,’ says Barnaby. ‘This includes mandating corporate social responsibility and specifying the consequences of environmental and social activities.’

The directorate of mine development, for example, audits mining company applications to ensure community needs are incorporated. The directorate of planning spearheads the development of subsidiary legislation to ensure communities benefit. Other directorates encourage exploitation of mines so tangible benefits are costed, objectively assessed and implemented to help local communities cope with the implications of mining development.

Barnaby highlights the critical role Australia has played in his career. He remembers being featured on the cover of a Sydney University publication with two female students, one from Lesotho and one from South Africa. ‘That story predicted that we would be future leaders and lo and behold this has come to pass,’ he says.

Photo Credit: Barnaby Mulenga

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