Anglo American is big in the mining industry and one of the countries they work in is South Africa. Back in May I attended a seminar in London hosted by Anglo American and learned first hand the extent of their Social programme. You can listen to what Jon Samuel their Social and Community Development programme had to say here.
I was impressed by the extent of their social services programme and no one can argue that they are not doing their best to give back in the communities in which they work.
All businesses have resources on which they draw in order to succeed and one of these resources are the people that work for that company. As you can see in this article from The Telegraph Anglo America has done its best to understand issues that affect their employees and ultimately their bottom line.
Back to the event in May something that struck was companies involved in the extractive industry do move on sometime when whatever it is they are extracting runs out. That being the case I wondered
- what happens to the social services they put in place,
- is there a mechanism of handing these over to the local governments?
- why weren’t the local governments not providing these services in the first place?
- is this all negotiated as part of the mining licence?
We discussed some of these points on the day but do not feel that I came away with any sort of clarification per se. These issues are complicated! In the case of Anglo American, they could say no providing these services and insist that the local government is responsible but that would leave them with a very unhappy community/neighbours/staff as I suspect that these sort of communities do not benefit directly from the Licence fee. I could be wrong here of course.
In these sort of situations working alongside the community to understand their priorities is paramount and you ignore these at your peril as put simply you will FAIL. We recognised this very quickly in the project I am involved in SW Uganda.
Although we wanted to create income generating activities the community wanted clean water and education for their children as the local government did not provide for those under 8 years old. We resist this for a while as it would lead us down the child sponsorship lane which we didn’t want to take on but eh community stood their ground!
So a few years down the line we have built one classroom at a time now we have three with 100 children from the village and yes we have had to start a child sponsorship programme as most of the children are either from very poor families that cannot afford the fees or are orphaned by Aids.
This has lead to a smoother working relationship with the community as hey can see the benefits of the project to them as it resolves/addresses a problem they have.
I still have a problem with NGO’s and or Business being left to provide social services by African governments.
What do you think? Are you and NGO or a business facing this very predicament? Let’s hear from you