Often big businesses have come under criticism for, among other things, interfering with the affairs of small scale ventures, particularly where they elbow them out in a bid to build empires.
It is touted as the rule of the capitalist world, where big fish eat small ones, and those who are small, eat even smaller ones.
However, it appears there is an exception. If the recent pact between the big miners in Tanzania, the government, small miners on protecting the latter is anything to go by, then this country is taking a pioneering move to have this long time practice turned upside down.
Under the pact Anglo Gold Ashanti (AGA) and African Barrick Gold (ABG), which are also the leading miners of the metal in the world, have agreed to fully align and work with the government and the World Bank to create a sustainable and regulated artisanal and small-scale mining sector in the country by supporting the latter’s sustainable growth.
The ‘partners’ made their commitment at a pioneering meeting that was attended by Energy and Minerals deputy minister Steven Masele and various corporate entities from the mining industry, ministries, agencies and civil society organisations recently.
In essence the ‘partners’ would basically support the small miners secure modern equipment, capital, mining skills, and above all, thrash out conflicts between them and large scale miners which have sometimes led to deaths.
This ‘partnership’ should therefore not only be hailed, but deserves massive support from the well wishers of this crucial industry.
We are saying so because, if these efforts go beyond mere public relations gimmicks, it would be the first ever example of big business uplifting the small ones in the country.
Of course we are aware that the government has been making efforts to help small scale miners, including raising the mining budget from 2.5bn/- in 2011/12 to 8.9bn/- this year.
It has also taken efforts to provide extension services to small scale miners, under the ministry’s Medium Term Strategic Plan 2012-2016. These, of course, are positive steps towards bolstering this crucial area on which a big number of people depend for a livelihood.
Disputes between small and large-scale miners of Tanzanite at Mererani in Manyara Region and gold in Shinyanga, Geita, Mara and Tabora regions are clear cases in point.
We believe that this ‘partnership’ if well nursed could help solve this long time outstanding problem and raise efficiency in the industry.
Small scale miners, now in the region of 2 million and second to agriculture, in the named regions, need assistance to move them out of the present quagmire.
It is well understood in economics that large scale miners cannot alone build the economy — especially the one we have.
It is therefore necessary that the small ones — particularly women —should be helped out so that they can also work to grow the economy.
But above all, we expect those overseeing the ‘partnership’ to move quickly to the next level of implementation if their positive resolution is to have an impact.
We say so knowing that too many declarations of good plans have failed because basically nobody acted on them. This should not be one of them.