Sand and gravel lay the foundation of domestic economies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific

Dec 5, 2016

Egbert Hamilton, artisan from Jamaica, polishes and sculpts with alabaster. Photo: UNDP

A once neglected minerals sector may hold the key to tens of millions of jobs across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, at a time when oil and metal exporting countries are grappling with low commodity prices. Major infrastructure ventures and rapid urbanisation (forecasted to increase from 40% in 2010 to 56% in 2040 in Africa alone) are ramping up the demand for construction materials exponentially. In Africa, approximately US$360 billion in infrastructure investments are needed by 2040 to make the continent competitive and productive. Estimates from the African Development Bank indicate that for each billion invested in African infrastructure between 3-7 million jobs are created. In the Caribbean, the construction, mining and transport sectors account for 35% of GDP in average. And in the Pacific, post hurricane reconstruction and other infrastructure projects fuel a construction industry worth US$978 million, creating thousands of jobs.

However, the national and local enterprises that mine, process and supply minerals and materials used in construction are in need of an overhaul. While nurturing home-grown jobs, especially those of youth and women, and boosting local enterprise development, the small-scale and mid-size operators that dominate the sector lack know-how in areas like marketing and technology and have a poor environmental and health and safety record.

“Minerals like sand and gravel can spur sustainable domestic economic development in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, but we need to make sure this sector is productive, inclusive, responsible and creates sustainable jobs for vulnerable people such as youth and women. The need for infrastructure investment in our countries is immense and the development minerals sector’s contributions are potentially huge. We need to unlock its potential taking into account our international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” said Viwanou Gnassounou, Assistant Secretary General of the ACP Group.

The ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme is an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, financed by the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and implemented by UNDP. It is investing €13.1 million in training and developing SMEs, governments, civil society and other stakeholders in 40 countries across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to equip this essential sector to meet the growing domestic demand. In the first eighteen months of the programme, more than 1000 people have participated in 28 training and knowledge sharing workshops.

The programme is already bearing fruit. Rural roads built with domestically produced cobblestone provide a proof of concept of how ‘development minerals’ – a phrase coined to reflect their potential role in creating local jobs and spurring domestic growth – can meet the demand for construction materials and contribute to local development.

“In Madagascar, rural roads are made with compacted clay so they are in bad condition in the rainy season. Madagascar has a lot of granite, so we want to use it to produce cobblestones to make roads. If there is a road, you can create jobs, improve production, so people can have a livelihood and eat,” says Bob Onimilanto Andriamifidy, a private mining operator from Antananarivo, who through his participation in the programme has learned new entrepreneurial skills and developed a project now being pitched to international and domestic funders. “In one day, one person can lay down ten square meters. A road of 1,000 kilometres is about 3 million square meters, so that’s a lot of jobs for men and women,” he said.

“The local minerals used in construction, manufacturing and agriculture contribute greatly to development. Together with the EU, we are supporting the African, the Caribbean and Pacific Group of States to revive the domestic minerals sector in over 40 countries. This is about the materials that are used to build houses, pave roads or reconstruct cities after disasters. It also helps improve the livelihoods of millions involved in the constructions sector in the developing countries. It generates income and dignified living conditions for the very poor. In other words, this is about the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Barbara Pesce-Monteiro, Director of the UN and UNDP Office in Brussels.

Contact information

Gabriela Flores,, Tel: +44 7931924934 or Josephine Latu-Sanft,, Tel: +32 2 743 06 17

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