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The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on

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: Copper in the African interior is a sought-after commodity. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on

The scramble for Africa’s critical minerals and other valuable materials is underway as global multinational companies and the superpowers of the world eye the abundant natural resource of Southern, Central and East Africa.

By Leon Louw founder of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine

The missing piece of the puzzle to export minerals and other goods from the vast African interior to Europe, China and the USA, has historically been road and rail links from pit to port, and access to electricity.

These constraints are gradually being overcome as renewable energy sources are coming on-line and as new road and rail networks are being built and upgraded.

China, the USA and Europe are pouring money into the development of critical infrastructure in countries like the DRC, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

Linking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on)

Meanwhile the idea to link the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in Central and East Africa is gaining ground. Yesterday Kenyan President William Ruto announced that the country is working with Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Congo (Brazzaville) on a trans-African railway line that will link the east and west coast of Africa.

“We are currently having a conversation to see how we can connect the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. I think there is about 1000km of the rail that we should connect,” Ruto said at the African Private Sector Dialogue on the African Continental Free Trade Area in Nairobi yesterday.

He added that the connectivity is set to boost trade between the East and West African nations by reducing the time goods take to move within the continent as well as to America.

“Currently, goods traveling to America are forced to go around the African continent via South Africa to countries in the west of Africa as well as America, impeding trade. However, the project will make trade viable between Africa and America as well as between the regions through seamless connectivity,” Ruto said.

America to fund rail corridor (The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on)

Ruto’s remarks follows the announcement by the USA at the G7 Summit in Japan last week that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is evaluating USD250-million in financing for a “key economic” rail corridor connecting the Angolan port of Lobito to the DRC Copperbelt

Once fully operational, the Lobito Corridor could significantly improve the logistics costs and carbon footprint of exporting metals from the DRC and Zambia.

The Angolan government recently awarded a 30-year concession on the Angolan side of the Lobito Corridor, with the potential of a 20-year extension, to a consortium including Trafigura, of Geneva, Switzerland, and Mota-Engil of Porto, Portugal.

The consortium will be responsible for the operation, management and maintenance of the rail infrastructure and rolling stock from the Lobito port to the Angolan-DRC border.

According to Ivanhoe Mines’ Executive Co-Chairman, Robert Friedland the Lobito Corridor will soon be one of the most important trade routes for vital copper metal and other critical minerals required for our planet’s energy transition.

“The proposed investment by the U.S. Government emphasises that a coordinated global effort is required to upgrade critical infrastructure across Sub-Saharan Africa to unlock the tremendous potential of this region, and in the process generate unprecedented economic benefits for the DRC and its neighbours, Angola and Zambia.

“The open access to the deep-water port in Lobito by rail would not be possible without the vision and investment made by our shareholders CITIC and Zijin. CITIC was instrumental in upgrading the Lobito port and the rail line in 2014, while our joint venture partner Zijin is currently active in upgrading road and border infrastructure in the DRC to enable access to the Lobito Corridor from the Copperbelt, as well as improve existing export corridors,” said Friedland.

CITIC is one of China’s largest conglomerates with businesses in comprehensive financial services, advanced intelligent manufacturing, advanced materials, new consumption and new-type urbanisation. Zijin Mining is a large multinational mining group engaged in the global exploration and development of copper, gold, zinc and lithium, as well as engineering and technological research.

Are we not beneficiating? (The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on)

While these efforts should be lauded, we should also ask if the intention is to extract, mine and export these raw minerals and ship them from Africa to international markets without adding any value?

Ports on the west and east coasts are being upgraded and expanded at a rapid pace to ensure more ships will be able to load increased volumes of goods, not only minerals, but also agricultural products and timber.

This is good news for landlocked African countries in the interior as it will make it easier to export their goods to markets in Europe, the America’s, China and the East. But shouldn’t we also be thinking about adding value and trading within Africa in addition to bolstering our export capabilities?

WhyAfrica will visit countries in Southern, Central and East Africa during our annual WhyAfrica Road Trip later this year. Follow WhyAfrica we it comes to natural resources in Africa, we cover all the angles.

The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on

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The scramble to export Africa’s valuable natural resources is on

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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management