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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya has urged member states to fast track harmonisation of policies in the mining industry to make the sector more competitive and profitable.

According to Ngenya, the sector's potential can only be sustainably harnessed through establishment of governance structures and leveraging on the existing multinational trade agreements.

Ngwenya told The New Times that sound institutional frameworks will enable COMESA's national and sub-national governments to have a say in decisions regarding the use of the resources located in their territories including minerals if they harmonise policies regulating the sector.

"Good governance underlines the sustainable exploitation of mineral resources," Ngwenya said adding that harmonisation of national and regional mining policies will underpin sustainable and broad-based socioeconomic development in the region and Africa at large.

He added that more and more types of mineral resources can be more fully tapped as COMESA countries adopt the Mining Vision of Africa.

"The introduction of an appropriate policy mix and the best global mining practices in line with country specific circumstances will help institutional capacities to best market their natural resources including minerals.

According to sector experts, multilateral trade agreements such as the Tripartite Free Trade Area signed by COMESA, East African Community and Southern Africa Development Community provide the necessary framework for multinational mining companies to do business.

The COMESA region should therefore improve their mining policies in line with the African Mining Vision (AMV)'s principles of "transparent, equitable and optimal exploitation of a country's mineral resources to underpin broad-based socioeconomic development, said Jean Malic Kalima, the president Rwanda Mining Association.

According to the COMESA boss, countries need to play a key role in proactively regulating the conditions for investments to secure the long-term development of their countries.

In 2014, COMESA signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Australia which established a framework for the cooperation in mineral and petroleum resources, agriculture, vocational training and capacity building.

For almost 2 years now, miners have been counting losses following a decline in global prices of major minerals. The unstable prices particularly for metals have significantly affected the mining sector, which is one of Rwanda's leading foreign exchange earners.

The country's mining sector recorded poor performance in 2016 leaving miners less optimistic about the situation going into 2017.

However, latest statistics from National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) paint a positive picture with the mining sector performing well in first quarter of 2017 when compared to last year.

The growth is largely attributed to the slow recovery in commodity prices at the international market.

For example the exported value of the main minerals (Coltan, Cassiterite and Wolfram) increased by 18.5 percent, from $ 40.73 million recorded in first quarter of 2016 to $48.25 million in 2017 same period.

There is hope therefore that harmonizing trade policies could further expedite growth in the mining sector especially in emerging economies like Rwanda.