Developing local economic development plans in the Ivorian gold mining sector

Dougbou Firming Tade (with white t-shirt, holding papers) during the community awareness sessions which brought together youth, elders and women.

Côte d’Ivoire has a growing gold mining sector. More than a third of the Birimian Greenstone Belt, a network of rocks with significant deposits of diamonds and gold, is in the country. The Belt also extends through Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso and has contributed to the status of Ghana and Mali as second and third largest producers of gold in Africa, respectively. The Ivorian government adopted a new Mining Code (March 2014) to leverage the sector’s potential, support communities and encourage investment in the country.

Alumnus Dougbou Firming Tade returned from his Australian study experience with a clear mandate in mind. He wanted to valorise his newly gained skills and could do so through the implementation of his Reintegration Action Plan (RAP), focusing on the economic and social development of a mining locality. He had completed a Local Economic and Social Development in Extractives short course at the University of Queensland, in 2015.

Dougbou implemented his RAP-aligned activities in Zouan Hounien, a mining locality in the western region of Cote d’Ivoire, from June to September 2016. The mining activities of a regional gold mining company had negatively impacted several villages in Zouan Hounien.  Following an analysis, Dougbou discovered that the mining company had not implemented sufficient programs to support the community and benefit the local economy, despite this being mandatory. Also, there were no initiatives to help women and local small enterprises, thus exacerbating an already weakened economy. He also identified strained relationships between the company and community members, due to the latter paralysing mining activities in protest of the company’s social policy, which lacked job creation and local economic support.

His intervention initially focused on the unemployed community members and small business owners, by creating awareness on economic linkages and the local content and training section of the code. Such community-based programs were critical, as the fluctuations of the price of metals and limited gold deposits meant that the gold mining economy was not sustainable in the long run. Furthermore, the code set a clear mandate for a local community fund, which ensured that affected local communities benefited from mining and local content, as well as capacity training which would contribute to the capacity building of local firms.

The results of his participatory diagnosis contributed to a proposal of sustainable investments and actions that could enhance the daily lives of community members. Dougbou then developed project plans and conducted restitution and validation sessions. Through the project, he engaged various stakeholders such as local authorities, local community members (including women and youth), the mining company, as well as other experts. He conducted a focus group with women to ascertain their specific challenges and expectations. The women’s inputs resulted in strategic and operational planning, which considered their particular needs.

His award-gained skills enabled him to contribute to the establishment of the local development plan, align interventions to local economic and social contexts, as well as consider gender issues in the development of the strategy. As a result of his project, he was also able to re-establish trust between the community and the mining company, as well as influence both stakeholders to adopt an agreement on the development plan’s implementation. Furthermore, the mining company has funded local development affairs and will continue to do so for identified future projects.

His Australia Awards-gained skills continue to have a positive effect on Dougbou’s professional trajectory and development contributions. He was invited to join a pool of experts by the mining company and local authorities to conduct the process of establishing a local development plan. He was also recruited by the mining company to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the plan. Following the closure of the project, he was recruited to facilitate a similar process in the west-northern part of Cote d’Ivoire. ‘Thanks to the Australian government and the short course, my career and circumstances have progressed favourably,’ he says.

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