Green energy an opportunity for African mining

Several African countries are rich in lithium. In picture is a lithium mine in Namibia. Image credit: WhyAfrica

17 December 2020 – The trend towards green energy and decarbonisation is an opportunity for African mining rather than a threat.    

Africa’s minerals sector should seize the opportunities presented by the global transition towards green energy, experts decided during a recent virtual workshop about the future of mining in Africa in a post-Covid-19 world. The conclusion was that the trend towards green energy and decarbonisation is an opportunity for African mining rather than a threat.

The webinar, organised by the African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC) and the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), both entities of the African Development Bank, in partnership with Nordic Africa Institute, was part of a series that is examining the impact of the pandemic on Africa’s extractives sector, particularly minerals, oil and gas.

The ongoing global transition towards green energy and rapid decarbonisation holds significant potential for Africa’s extractives sector, the participants heard.

One opportunity lies in growing demand globally for lithium, which is used in batteries for electric vehicles, smartphones, and off-grid energy storage.

“Africa is strategically positioned to derive maximum benefits from the growing global lithium-ion batteries (LIB) industry,” said Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, director of the ANRC, who moderated the event.

In 2018, Zimbabwe and Namibia were among the top 10 global producers of lithium, with Zimbabwe alone holding 11 million tonnes of lithium ore in its Bikita mines in the country’s Masvingo region. African leaders must step up and include battery production as a continent-wide development priority, participants urged.

Among other themes discussed by the participants was the Africa Mining Vision (AMV), a policy framework created by the African Union in 2009 to ensure Africa utilises its mineral resources strategically for broad-based, inclusive development.

“The realisation of the Vision hinges on strong political will and a commitment to developing strong capable mineral management systems and institutions. It requires an astute understanding of Africa’s relative advantages in the global mineral value chain,” said Dr. Antonio Pedro, director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s sub-regional office for Central Africa.

In a presentation on drivers of the sector in the post-pandemic period, Dr. Kwasi Ampofo, metals analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said “adoption of renewable energy is rising in the mining sector. Investments in renewable energy have increased significantly in the last ten years,” he said.

Ampofo urged African mining companies to take a lead in decarbonisation of their operations and the transition to clean energy to attract ‘green’ funds.

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