With the rise of mining in Africa comes a greater need for certain skills that are scarce on the continent. The current skills gap in the mining sector is not restricted to Africa; it’s a problem globally. This was found by the Chamber of Mines in Zambia in 2020, who released a report on the problem.

According to the report, the mining industry ‘has become the victim of its own success’. The report states that its ‘exponential growth’ over the last two decades has ‘drained the talent pool’. In other words, the growth of talent cannot keep up with the rate of expansion in the mining sector.

Along with this fast growth, there are various other reasons for the worldwide shortage of talent in mining.

For one, an enormous portion of workers in the sector are reaching retirement age – nearly half, in fact. This is further draining the global talent pool. Mining companies left scrambling to find replacements, of which there are not enough.

Secondly, mining is no longer a popular career option. This is because workers face a certain amount of hardships. These include long work days, harsh working conditions, and having to move to remote locations.

And thirdly, the last 20 years have seen an upsurge in global mineral production due to increasing demand. This has just about exhausted the industry talent pool.

The situation in Africa

Countries in Africa that are abundant in minerals are struggling with a dearth of mining talent. Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ghana are a few. This skills gap is linked to insufficient teaching and learning facilities (due to a lack of funding) and mediocre governance. In some countries, like Ghana, inadequate training programmes are to blame.

There is room to improve these circumstances, however. Countries can widen their mining talent pool by building dedicated training institutions. Private sector companies can aid in this by providing funding and expertise, so that training curricula meets industry skills requirements. A collaboration between private businesses and educative institutions could be the answer to closing Africa’s mining skills gap.