CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Mining is a long-term game, but in southern Africa dramatic political changes have transformed the investment mood for the better in the space of a year.
Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe stepped down in 2017 after a combined 75 years in office, while the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of South Africa’s ruling ANC heralds the looming end of President Jacob Zuma’s scandal-ridden administration.
Industry leaders meeting in Cape Town for an annual mining conference said the mood was radically different from a year ago as rising commodity prices, economic recovery and political change help offset lingering challenges.
“We can see the positive signs already in South Africa. There is nothing better than the rand’s strength to indicate what has happened to sentiment,” said Phillip Barton, chief executive of diamond miner De Beers’ South African operations.
The rand has gained about 5 percent against the dollar since Ramaphosa’s election in December. Underscoring the new confidence, almost 130 years after De Beers emerged from mines around the dusty South African town of Kimberley, the company is going back to its roots with a clutch of exploration permits to prospect for gem deposits there.