U.S.-Africa Roundtable on Responsible Minerals Sourcing in Africa

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Center for American Progress
Washington, DC
August 6, 2014

Remarks as Prepared

Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome the African ministers and the Executive Secretary of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, who are with us today, as well as our other participants, the business leaders and members of the NGO community, to discuss the importance of responsible mineral sourcing. And a special thank you to the Center for American Progress for providing this space, and the Enough Project for sponsoring this important event.

As Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs, I am delighted to lead this roundtable because I believe it is time to expand the collaborative approach that has begun in several countries and within the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region on developing a responsible minerals trade.

We are at a tipping point. A tipping point for Africa because the global boom in commodities has many looking to a resource rich Africa as a growing source for the minerals needed in manufacturing.

A tipping point for the United States because of the revitalization of U.S. manufacturing and growth in such important industries as automobiles, electronics, construction and other consumer goods.

A responsible minerals trade requires a multi-stakeholder effort, so today we have gathered some of those who have pioneered this approach to discuss the challenges, but also the success stories.

Luckily change – good change – is already happening, thanks to initiatives by African Member States, corporate leaders, NGOs like The Enough Project, and other supportive actors in the supply chain.

Two other factors are contributing to positive change.

One is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which requires American companies to disclose their use of gold, tin, tungsten or tantalum mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries.

That is helping to prevent armed groups from using minerals to fund their activities.

Another is the African Mining Vision (AMV), an African-led effort to put economic and development objectives at the heart of mineral extraction.

In the United States, manufacturing companies, such as Intel, Motorola Solutions and HP have been taking the lead to bring corporate social responsibility and profitability into the same equation so that their products become conflict free.

In 2013 for example, Intel traced its mineral supply chain across 16 countries – starting from the smelter sites where the raw ores are processed – so it could certify the world’s first conflict-free microchip.

A framework of ideas and strategies for all business enterprises is growing thanks to the work of organizations such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which the U.S. joined this year, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

More and more stakeholders recognize that responsible mineral sourcing isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s economically the smart thing to do. When supply chains are sustainable and well-governed, investors have the confidence to invest in companies, sectors and economies.

When they do that, economies can grow and deliver prosperity to greater numbers of people.

The stakes couldn’t be more important. By 2050, more than half of the world’s population growth will take place in sub-Saharan Africa. And most people will be under the age of 30.

The future of these young persons is dependent on economies that allow them to enjoy the things that all people expect:

a good education, nutritious food, a job that gives them the dignity and provides the means to build a home, raise a family and aspire to greater things.

It’s critical that products on which we depend, and the minerals that can deliver economic growth to so many African states, do not perpetuate poverty, warfare, corruption and environmental degradation.

Positive change is underway, but what further actions can governments, businesses, NGOs, investors and consumers take?

As I look around this room, I see so many of the players that are working to make a difference – and I look forward to hearing more ideas about what we can do to create a stable system that moves away from supporting destructive exploitation and will attract long term investment, embrace transparency and accelerate economic growth.

I am also hoping today we can extend the dialogue on improving the investment climate and governance of the minerals sector – so more U.S. firms can see the region as a credible and responsible place to do business.

So, thank you all for being here – and for the work that you do to promote transparency and prosperity. I look forward to listening and learning how we can help build dynamic, fluid and healthy economies that support a responsible minerals trade between the U.S. and Africa.