Washington International Law Journal


Africa boasts one-third of the world’s mineral resources. Mineral development, if governed by appropriate legal frameworks, is key to facilitating development in Africa. With this realization, the African Union (AU) adopted the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) in 2009, which aims to prioritize African industrialization, safeguard the environment, build and utilize local labor force capacity, facilitate transparency, and improve revenue-sharing mechanisms in Africa. However, at the same time, the dawn of artificial intelligence (AI) and complex levels of automation is making quick inroads into the mineral development sector. This article argues that, in response to the AMV, over half of Africa’s governments enacted a new generation of laws that seek to maximize the retention of mining benefits within the country. Focusing on labor-related local content provisions of these laws as an example, it highlights the inclusion or enhancement of provisions on local content aimed at building and utilizing local labor force capacity to address employment challenges in these countries. It concludes that because these reforms do not envisage the dawn of advanced automation, the elements of the law that aim to address growing unemployment may already be ineffective on arrival. Local content provisions on labor speak to the need to hire locally with due attention to efficiency and economy. However, they are in tension with automation, which is also aimed at improving efficiency, economy, and safety, thus quashing the push for increases in local labor force numbers before it can materialize. Closer and specific engagement between industry and government, for example, through collaborative multi-stakeholder sector-planning commissions, is necessary to plan for the impact of automation, and a reframing of local content may be necessary to ensure that the sector’s legal framework is responsive to the realities of automation.

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