Author: Steven Clay
Recent calls by the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League to nationalize South Africa’s mining industry have resurrected a seemingly never-ending debate: to nationalize or not. What implications would nationalization have on the global mining economy as a whole?
- Nationalization doesn't have to cut out the private sector completely. Partnerships in Namibia and Botswanna between mining companies and the government have seen little decrease in foreign investments. The private sector handles the funding and operations of the mining industry, while the government regulates manufacturing while remaining in control of the mineral resources.
- Nationalizing the mines could, in the short term, make South Africans better off on the whole. If ownership of the mines is turned over to the state, future profits and current assets of the industry could be used towards creating news jobs, and providing more state services for the betterment of the South African people.
- It could help boost South Africa’s other industries. With ownership of the mining industry turned over to the public sector, investors and businesspeople of the private sector previously involved in mining would be able to focus their efforts on other industries. More attention from the South African private sector to these industries would make them more wealthy and competitive on a domestic and global level.
- It could lead to better financial security for South Africa. A shifted focus of the private sector towards other South African industries will make them more appealing for foreign investors, leading to a diversification of foreign investments and South African assets. If nationalization follows the same path as Namibia and Botswanna with little decrease to foreign investment in mining, the overall result could be a significant increase to South Africa's overall wealth.
- Nationalizing the mines could significantly decrease foreign investment in South Africa's mining industry, as investors would see their investments at risk with government ownership of the industry. These investments allow the mining industry to provide jobs and growth in the industry and wealth to South Africa, which is necessary to foster the expansion of its other industries.
- It could make South Africa less competitive on the global stage. Since nationalized industries are typically not run for-profit, South Africa’s mining industry could ultimately fall behind other countries’ mining industries, such as Chile or Russia, ultimately decreasing the efficacy and overall profit of the mining industry and its contributions towards South Africa's other industries.
- Nonexistent, insufficient, or slow compensation to former investors could deter them from investing in other South African industries, or removing current investments in other industries of South Africa's private sector.
- It creates a logistics issue. If outside firms were involved with the transportation or creation of infrastructure in supporting mineral shipments, a question arises as to whether the government will take over this role, or whether it will have to create new agreements with these outside firms. This could likely be time-consuming and costly, and the end result may not prove to be as efficient as it was when run completely by the private sector.
Currently, South Africa’s government claims that it has no plans to nationalize its mining industry. South Africa’s Mines Minister Susan Shabangu has emphasized the importance of foreign investment in South Africa, a significant part of which is vested in the mining industry. However, the debate rages on. What do you think? Should South Africa seriously consider nationalizing its mines?