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The new scramble for Africa

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The new Kazungula bridge from Botswana to Zambia over the Zambezi River has made it easier to transport copper from Zambia to South Africa. WhyAfrica crossed the bridge during our 2022 Southern Africa Road Trip. Copper remains the mainstay of the Zambian economy. Image credit: Leon Louw

The new scramble for Africa 

Africa is in a unique position to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for minerals that support the global transition to a green economy.

By Warren Beech

While the global mining and natural resources sector continues to face headwinds, Africa is well positioned to benefit from increased demand and investment in battery minerals. Africa has vast untapped reserves of battery minerals like copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, manganese, alumina, tin, tantalum, vanadium, magnesium, and the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs).

For many years, African countries have presented the “Africa Rising” narrative to the rest of the world, and every opportunity has been taken at international forums to indicate that “Africa is open for business”. However, despite this narrative, African countries with vast mineral resources have not benefitted as much as they could have. This is as a result of various reasons including policy and regulatory uncertainty, concerns surrounding security and integrity of operations and personnel, infrastructure constraints, political instability, regime changes, and concerns surrounding nationalisation, nationalism, and the integrity of ownership of mining assets.

The global commitment to decarbonisation and the transition to a green economy requires access to astronomical amounts of the “battery minerals” and other minerals that support the green economy, providing African countries with a perfect opportunity to benefit holistically not only from direct exploration and mining activities, but also local beneficiation, infrastructure development, socio-economic growth and development, and revenue (taxes).

The opportunity can benefit individual countries and regions, particularly where cross-border infrastructure development is required.

Recent announcements by Germany, the largest economy in Europe, that it intends accelerating investment in Africa in 2023 is a reflection of both the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on energy supply and integrity in Europe, and Europe’s commitment to the transition to a green economy. Germany is not alone, with significant commitments from other European countries such as the United Kingdom and France. The Russia-Ukraine war has emphasised just how important access to alternative energy sources is, and this is good news for African counties with reserves of the “battery minerals”, liquified natural gas and green hydrogen.

Some African countries better positioned (The new scramble for Africa) 

Some African countries are better placed than others to capitalise on increased demand for the relevant minerals because of past domestic and regional pressures to ensure that citizens benefit from mineral wealth, including through implementation of nationalism policies and frameworks.

Some African countries have already taken significant steps towards achieving nationalism objectives through the implementation of policies which promote local beneficiation, a key element of any nationalism programme.

One of the most recent examples is Zimbabwe, which has banned the export of unprocessed lithium to encourage investment in local beneficiation.

Zimbabwe has the largest lithium reserves in Africa. Lithium is a critical ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, which are vital to both electrical vehicles and renewable energies such as solar energy. Zimbabwe is not unique in this regard. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has also implemented policies aimed at encouraging local beneficiation of cobalt and copper.

While countries such as Zimbabwe, and the DRC are encouraging local investment in beneficiation, Kenya is focusing on solar and wind projects, and is currently developing the world’s largest geothermal plant.

These examples demonstrate how well-positioned African countries are, and it is vital for Africa to take the opportunity to benefit from increased global demands. If African countries that hold the reserves of the “battery minerals” can, individually, and collectively, create an environment which is conducive to investment, growth, development, and transformation objectives can be achieved.

The logical question to be asked is whether any countries in Africa are currently succeeding in attracting investment, and if so, how are they achieving success.

Read the full article in the January issue of the WhyAfrica magazine

Warren Beech is the CEO of Beech Veltman Inc, a boutique law firm with a specialist team in the mining, infrastructure, and natural resources sector.  

The new scramble for Africa

 Read the full article in WhyAfrica’s January issue which will be available in print at this year’s Mining Indaba that takes place in Cape Town, South Africa, from 6 to 9 February 2023.

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One of WhyAfrica’s goals is to identify the opportunities and challenges in Africa, and at the same time, to stay informed about how geopolitics and the changing political economies in Africa affect your business. As a member you will have access to all this business intelligence. You can now register and pay to become a member by simply clicking on the following link: https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/ 


The new scramble for Africa

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