PRETORIA, The surge in exploration and mining in the region indicates that COMESA countries have tremendous potential for mineral deposits

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region holds the highest potential for minerals development in the continent.

The secretary general of COMESA, Sindiso Ngwenya, says, this potential can be sustainably harnessed through establishment of governance structures and leveraging on the existing multinational trade agreements.

Speaking at the Africa Down Under (ADU) conference on mining that took place in Perth, Australia from recently, Ngwenya said sound institutional frameworks will enable COMESA's governments to have a say in decisions regarding the use of the resources located in their territories.

Good governance underlines the sustainable exploitation of mineral resources, Ngwenya said. Harmonisation of national and regional mining policies will thus underpin sustainable and broad-based socioeconomic development in the African region for the benefit of all the citizens.

In his address titled; Promoting Sustainable Mining Development through Cross-Sector Alliances and Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Ngwenya noted that more and more types of mineral resources can be more fully tapped as COMESA's countries adopt the mining vision of Africa.

The ADU event is an annual event aimed at raising awareness of Australia's interests in African mining and energy. It is attended by governments, investors, mining service industry, suppliers and mining consultants.

He said: The introduction of an appropriate policy mix and the best global mining practices in line with country specific circumstances would improve institutional capacities and fiscal governance.

Further, he noted that multilateral trade agreement such as the Tripartite Free Trade Area signed by COMESA, East African Community and Southern Africa Development Community provides the necessary framework for multinational mining companies to do business.

COMESA national governments should improve their mining policies in line with the African mining vision (AMV)'s principles of transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of a country's mineral resources to underpin broad-based socioeconomic development, the Secretary General said.

COMESA's mining industry is dominated by Zambia, DR Congo and Zimbabwe. Ngwenya said current surge in exploration and mining in the region indicates that COMESA countries have tremendous potential for mineral deposits.

Ngwenya said COMESA countries need to play a key role in proactively regulating the conditions for investments to secure the long-term development of their countries.

While improved governance of institutions is critical at sector level, COMESA national governments' forging optimal partnerships in building spatial linkages for economic diversification can have a multiplier effect on development outcomes, particularly in its landlocked low-income economies, he noted.

In 2014, COMESA signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of western Australia which established a framework for the co-operation in mineral and petroleum resources, agriculture, vocational training and capacity building.