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We won't ship it, build it in Africa: Continent seeks a green mineral industrialisation fix

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

Climate dealmakers at COP 27 are pushing to curb exports of Africa's strategic minerals, critical to the world's green energy revolution, to supercharge the continent's green industrialisation.

Seth Onyango, bird story agency

Resource-rich African states are keen to stimulate investments into their green minerals sector with an eye on building lithium-ion batteries supply chains to electrify the world's transport fleet.

In a change of tack, stakeholders from different sectors are building consensus on the sides of the African Pavillion in Sharm el-Sheikh on harnessing the continent's new green power.

These include sweeping curbs on green material exports to industrialised nations at the expense of local manufacturing.

Although not on the cards yet, curbs could include the suspension of export licenses of some firms.

This will force industries overseas that rely on African minerals to manufacture components of their electric systems to either set up shops in Africa or face biting shortages.

It comes on the back of frustrations from African states meeting at their pavilion who feel they are getting a raw deal from the ongoing negations at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh.

"If after a decade they have not honoured their promises, when do you expect them to do that?" Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist and Director of Research and International Cooperation at Afreximbank, said.

Dr Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist and Director of Research and International Cooperation at Afreximbank at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, November 14, 2022. The event has been heralded as "Africa's COP" . (Photo : Seth Onyango, bird story Agency)

"But we have options within the continent. The beauty is that when you move into the green space, some of the most important minerals from the green transition, whether it is lithium or Cobalt are in this continent. We have to get to where we are able to leverage what we have to achieve our goal. For a century, they relied on our oil and gas to power their economy… that was major leverage that we could not deploy because we did not have the technology to produce and process it locally," he added.

Fofack wants Africa to "action" that leverage as part ion Africa's economies of scale.

Bilha Ndirangu, a co-founder of Jacob's Ladder Africa, a sustainable development hub that advances the agenda of youth in Africa towards self-reliance and productivity, echoes Fofack's sentiments asserting that green industrialisation is part of finding local solutions to local problems.

With financing needed to grow these industries, she is asking governments to instead of investing in fossils due to its current Ukraine war-induced demand, they should use the funds for clean growth.

As Africa pushes to halt exports of green minerals, Ndirangu wants states to make the industry attractive for investments.

"There are policies that we need to put in place to attract manufacturing… ease of doing business, cost of energy, favourable taxes and enabling environment," she said.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), which has been building consensus among countries where the minerals are mined, is working on an African Green Minerals Strategy (AGREMS) to prop up clean industries to meet global demands for electric system components.

As clean energy transitions gather pace, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects demand for critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, Cobalt and rare earth elements will soar.

AfDB sees leverage in these minerals. Its strategy is expected to foster policies that ring-fence minerals for local production instead of often cheaper exports.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) data on global mineral reserves, Africa hosts Cobalt (52.4%), Bauxite for aluminium production (24.7%); Graphite (21.2%), Manganese (46%) and Vanadium (16%).

AfDB sees Africa as the driving force behind the cobalt value chain, coupled with significant lithium deposits in the greenstone belts in Zimbabwe, DRC, Ghana and Mali.

Globally, the demand for these minerals for the low-carbon energy transition will boost mining activities in resource-rich African countries.

On that premise, the multilateral lender seeks to recruit an individual consultant to help craft an approach for the preparation of an AGREMS.

Its green minerals strategy will capitalise on the opportunities offered by the AfCFTA to promote the emergence of regional markets for mineral resources by supporting the development of regional value and supply chains, regional labour market and regional infrastructure.

The approach paper is therefore expected to identify the scope and the relevant orientation to guide the preparation of the green minerals strategy and action plan towards the development of the entire value chain.

bird story agency



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