AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) is the world's third largest gold producer with 21 operations across four continents and more than 60,000 employees. Wherever we work we aim to leave communities better off for our presence, and nowhere is this more true than in the country where I work: Ghana.
Education is a key area in which the company supports the communities where it operates. There is so much potential for mining in Africa, but we need to work with governments and NGOs to give people the skills needed to make the most of this vast natural resource.
So, on a continent-wide level we partner with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and launched the African Mining Skills Initiative in October 2012. On a national level we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the AGA School in Ghana in July 2012.
Those are major projects that have a significant effect on the skill levels of people in this country, and consequently on their lives. However, it is also important that we target our activity at a more local level in the two locations we have in Ghana: Iduapriem and Obuasi. These are smaller projects but they are just as important.
When our research revealed that the number of Internet cafes in Obuasi Municipality had fallen from 24 in 2009 to just six in 2012 we saw an opportunity to act. Not only is technology central to the work we do at AGA, but our research clearly demonstrated that among Obuasi's population of 240,000 there was a huge demand from school pupils, students and businesspeople for better access to the Internet.
So, in October AGA donated a cyber café and e-learning centre to the people of Obuasi. It cost the company 35,000 Ghana Cedis ($18,500) and will deliver major benefits to students, businesspeople, and many others in the area.
As John Alexander Ackon, chief executive officer of the Obuasi Municipality, said at the opening ceremony: “Many members of the local community still do not have access to computers or reliable Internet services, which is critical to development. We are delighted that AGA is enabling the community to benefit from technology.”
The project produced extensive media coverage for AGA in leading Ghanaian titles such as B & FT, the Herald, Today, Moment, Daily Post, Daily Searchlight, Enquirer, Business Week, Economic Tribune and the Ghanaian Observer, as well as a host of online coverage.
The company is also producing educational materials, such as a list of Internet “Dos and Don’ts”, which we hope will get people started on the Internet. We are also exploring how to work with the municipality to set up computer and Internet clubs in local schools, and we already have plans to open more cyber cafes and e-learning centres in Obuasi and Iduapriem.
Operating in a country like Ghana it can be challenging for a multinational to choose between competing community priorities and so decide on the most effective way to invest in projects. We have found it very helpful to partner with local groups. This ensures that our projects are aligned with community, municipal, regional, national or broader development plans.
It also means that responsibility is shared, and the company is not strictly responsible for the ongoing management of the projects which it supports. We hope that by engaging with the stakeholders in the countries and communities where we operate we are helping to build a sustainable framework that will make a real difference to people’s lives in key areas such as education and technology.