Gold rush in South Sudan as oil prices drop
Gold mining is booming in war-torn South Sudan as the oil industry stagnates amid economic chaos in Africa’s newest nation.
The conflict between government and rebel forces in South Sudan has seen tens of thousands of people killed since December 2013. The country relies on oil production for almost all its revenue and hasn’t officially exported any gold although all that is about to change. Dove Mining of Thailand and Panamanian company 4MB have announced the country’s first official gold exports in September. The companies expect initial annual shipments to be worth $500 million with 55 percent of profits to be shared with the government, which has suffered from a cut in the price and output of crude oil.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy of South Sudan will possibly contract by 3.5 percent this year, after dropping 13.8 percent in 2016. Inflation was recorded at 334 per cent in May. However, the gold mining industry is bucking the trend.
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Many of the richest homes to gold deposits are in the south of Sudan, which is currently experiencing armed unrest. The civil war has seen authorities powerless to prevent the gold rush, as miners and traders battle over territories.
In 2016, Cordaid and the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining conducted an assessment of the gold mining sector in two states of South Sudan, between February and May 2015. It claimed that artisanal gold mining in South Sudan ‘employs’ more than 60,000 people and might indirectly benefit almost half a million. However, “with most artisanal, small-scale and exploration mining taking place in rural areas with abundant small arms and limited presence of government security forces, disputes over land access and ownership exacerbate existing conflicts”.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.