By Mandla Hadebe, Acting Director, Economic Justice Network Africa and Mukasiri Sibanda, Tax & Natural Resource Governance Advisor, Tax Justice Network Africa

Over the past few weeks, a coalition of institutions including the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) and the Economic Justice Network Africa (EJNA) have been working to organise this year’s Alternative Minig Indaba. Both TJNA and EJNA have invested in contributing into the platform given the role that it plays in bringing together stakeholders from Africa and across the world to discuss an issue that has continuously ravaged the country resulting in continued high levels of poverty and inequality in the continent.  For this reason, TJNA and EJNA remain committed to contributing to platforms such as the AMI that bring together stakeholders from across spectrums of society.

Both this year and last year, one of the impacts of the Covid-19 virus and the attendant challenges and barriers has been the increased need for effective and efficient communication both for institutions such as TJNA and EJNA as well as movements such as the AMI. The impact of the reduction in inter-personal interactions has made communication essential for movements and platforms such as the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) to thrive.

It was upon reflection on the role that the AMI could play as one of the first events of 2021 that the organisers landed on the slogan for this year “The (AMI) Revolution Will Not Be Muted!” We saw it as an opportunity to lay a foundation to showcase how nimble and robust communication can allow for a successful event even in the tough conditions imposed by the global pandemic. Against this background, this year’s AMI will run virtually from 8 to 12 February 2021 under the theme “Building Forward Together, Pivoting the Extractive Sector for Adaptation and Resilience Against Covid-19.”

History is littered with examples of extinct species that failed to adapt to the changes in their environment and this is a risk that the AMI has not taken lightly. Lockdowns, social distancing and other regulatory measures brought in by many governments across the globe to contain the spread of the Covid-19 have made it difficult for people to gather physically to share and discuss topical development issues that affect them – precisely what a traditional indaba is meant to achieve. As such, with the disruption brought by Covid-19, digital meeting spaces have become the new normal. But, as we all know, the issue is not just one of survival, but to make sure that the space remains a vibrant learning space and continues to grow in its influence.

In recognition of the need to create such an environment,  one of the key objectives of the AMI speaks to bolstering the AMI as a multi-stakeholder engagement platform for key topical policy and practice issues on governance of the extractive sector and sustainable development in Africa such as the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

The AMI’s arsenal of communication tools consists of a website, a twitter handle (@AltMiningIndaba) as well as a Facebook page that generally come alive during the annual AMI period normally held early in February in Cape Town, South Africa. It is indeed true that while these tools are useful, they only give a limited insight into the content generated by the AMI and the full extent of its full reach. To address this, this year there will be several AMI events at national, provincial, district, village levels in several countries, all of which we expect to generate significant context-specific content during the AMI. This content will be warehoused on one platform for easy accessibility and greater traction of the AMI movement.

The outputs of the AMI will consist of workshop reports, presentations, pictures, research papers and any other materials generated across the whole value chain that will also be warehoused by the AMI portal, which we hope will serve as a learning and capacity building hub for all stakeholders. Of course, this process does not prohibit the content generators at national level from sharing the information on their own organisational platforms.

AMI will also explore other opportunities to curate conversations on topical issues on the extractives sector and sustainable development on various social media platforms. For instance, AMI will have its own podcast and You-Tube channel dedicated to thematic conversations each month. To start with AMI will set aside the month of February to generate a buzz about how the history of the movement, important milestones, challenges, success stories and opportunities to explore going forward. The month of March will be dedicated to domestic resource mobilisation (DRM) – strengthening tax linkages and curing illicit financial flows (IFFs) from extractives. And as we consider the topics for the remaining months, April could be dedicated to sustainable and responsible growth of artisanal and small-scale mining and so on and so forth. The idea is to create a continuous conversation that any AMI stakeholder should feel comfortable joining and continuing the conversation in their specific contexts.

AMI will leverage its strategic members such as the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) and the Third World Network Africa (TNA) as curators for specialised conversations on the extractive sector and sustainable development – tailored along the pillars of the Africa Mining Vision (AMV).

Another area the AMI will explore is to increase its work with the youth and other interested activists to generate blogs on key discussions that take place at the AMI and subsequent events at national and local level. What we will look to developing is a capacity building and mentorship programme that will equip interested activists with writing skills, provide coaching and editing on blogging. There should also be a space to curate the voices of the communities and other important players to spread the message of the AMI.

While the AMI finds itself within an unprecedented environment, it provides us with an opportunity to be innovate in content generation in different countries and curate vital conversations on topical issues on the governance of the extractive sector.

Yes, the AMI will not be muted – and now is the time to ensure the message rings loud and clear.