Blog mijnbouwonderzoek Rwanda

Tijdens zijn onderzoek naar mijnbouw in Rwanda heeft FMS-onderzoeker Jasper van Teeffelen een blog bijgehouden (in het Engels). Lees hier over zijn ervaringen in Rwanda: van afdalingen in diepe mijnen tot boeiende gesprekken met ministeries.

Week 3, 26 november

So week 3 in Rwanda already, time is flying. My days in Kigali are long but productive, going from meeting to meeting, motortaxi to motortaxi, phone call to phone call..

A friend who is doing his PhD research here in Kigali told me that he lost his wallet over the weekend, including all the business cards he has collected over the last month, arguably a researcher's most prized possessions. A horrific fate I can only pray I will be spared from. Kigali is a great city though, and I am getting increasingly better at finding my way around, haggling with my moto-driver, and finding places to buy decent bread. I have even learnt to somewhat appreciate the average 1-hour waiting time it takes for food to arrive, and the impossibility of getting a waiters attention. Ok, I admit, only somewhat. 

The government structure here is quite interesting. I had a meeting today at the Presidents Office with a senior analyst of the Strategic Policy Unit. The SPU is a small unit whose policy analysts works directly under President Kagame, and more or less above the Cabinet. They have a supervising role and are to ensure that all different policy areas are aligned with each other. They also follow up on the implementation of proposed policies, which is a significant problem in many (developing) countries. It is supposedly a highly effective institution.

The person I spoke to was able to give me great insight, and it is interesting to see the extent of donor involvement in Rwandas mining sector throughout its history. One high-placed official at the Ministry of Natural Resources told me that in the 1980s mining exploration in Rwanda was largely funded by the UNDP, and in the 1990s the EU supported a small program on Rwandas high-potential mineral areas. I hope to learn more about this and especially current donor involvement in my remaining 10 days here in Kigali!

I hope you have been enjoying the pictures and updates on Facebook, and of course any feedback or questions are more than welcome!

Week 2, 19 november

Bourbon Café, Kigali hotspot for muzungus and Rwandans alike, is a great place to drink good coffee and eat overpriced and not so good food (the free wi-fi somewhat makes up for it, as do the speakers blasting Jody Bernal).

I'm waiting for two energetic young guys from a local film school to arrive and discuss a short documentary were making about mining here in Rwanda. Theyre going to an artisanal mine tomorrow run by a cooperative. They will shoot the goings-on at the mine and interview the workers. We hope it will give you and European policymakers an idea of the way the metals on which we so heavily depend are produced. Yesterday I met with the executive secretary of the federation of mining cooperatives in Rwanda, and he had some interesting things to say. The complete lack of equipment is a major problem in upgrading production, and he was very enthusiastic about the idea of a new loan from the European Investment Bank, something they had received in the past. Right now they have to export a lot of their metals unrefined, which means they get a lower price for it than if they had the equipment to refine it to a higher grade.

Only 4 more working days remaining here in Kigali, and it seems they are going to be pretty busy. It is going to be Mining Week next week in the run-up to International Mining Day (December 4th), so the Mining Department is busy planning site visits and all sorts of events. They hope to be able to use this day to inform investors of the opportunities existing in the Rwandan mining sector. Tomorrow there´s also a meeting of a newly formed mining taskforce of concerned officials from different ministries and departments. It is led by someone from the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative, which is providing technical support to various ministries here in Rwanda, among which the Ministry of Natural Resources. Capacity building is something that everyone I talk to assures me is highly needed, not just in policymaking but for instance also in negotiating mining contracts. An area where development policies could make a contribution!

Week 1, 11 november

My shoes still glistening with tin dust, my throat still dry, I sit down on my hotel bed in central Kigali.

I just returned from visiting a small artisanal tin mine not far from Kigali, and going all the way down one of the mine shafts has left me with many thoughts running through my head. First of all, how these guys get up in the morning and do this for 8 to 9 hours every day what became unbearable for me after 10 minutes. Secondly, how little we, as consumers, think about how dependent our European industry is on the metals these guys dig up each day. And, more importantly, the consequences this has for development in countries across Africa, of which Rwanda is only one of many.

One of the things we intend to find out in this unique little African country, where cars actually stop at pedestrian crossings,  where it is just as difficult to find a plastic bag as it is to find a dirty street, where Im discovering new ways a banana can be prepared every day, is how developing countries can profit more from their natural resources and use them to further their development. Its week 2, and the research is going remarkably well. Im pleased to have met very helpful and friendly people and am finding out more about mining in Rwanda each day.

As anywhere, the way to someones heart is not the stomach, but language. My murakoze (thank you) deep down in the mine as I am given a piece of tin resulted in a hearty laugh, echoing through the shaft. I couldnt help but think of those Chilean miners, and figured that if anything happens, at least this muzungu (white person) can entertain everyone with some basic Kinyarwanda. Muzungu is said to come from the Swahili word zungu, meaning spinning around on the same spot, as white people in Africa are always aimlessly looking around at a loss of where to go. 

So Ill leave you today with that fun fact. Im going to be here for 2 more weeks so be sure to keep checking out this blog and Facebook to keep up-to-date with my progress here in Kigali!

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