Africa’s position on the green minerals chessboard


What you need to know:

  • With an astounding 70 percent share of the globe’s cobalt and considerable untapped reservoirs of essential minerals like manganese, graphite, nickel, and lithium, the continent is on the brink of a momentous shift toward a sustainable future

By Jasper Kwayu

Africa presently occupies a crucial position as a pivotal player in the worldwide shift towards sustainability, particularly in the realm of green minerals.

With an astounding 70 percent share of the globe’s cobalt and considerable untapped reservoirs of essential minerals like manganese, graphite, nickel, and lithium, the continent is on the brink of a momentous shift toward a sustainable future.

At the heart of this transformation lies the African Green Minerals Strategy (AGMS), a blueprint that goes beyond merely positioning Africa as a mineral source, casting it as a centre for sustainable development.

The AGMS advocates transition from mere resource extraction to value addition, emphasising economic resilience and self-sufficiency.

The strategy promotes common external tariffs and shared responsibility, fostering unity among African nations, recognising that collective action is pivotal to leverage the continent’s strength in the global marketplace.

The AGMS aims to elevate Africa from a passive participant to a leader in the green-tech revolution, investing in technical expertise and innovation to position African minds at the forefront of defining the next era of clean technology.

On the global stage, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) underscores Africa’s strategic advantage in global supply chains.

Abundant in critical minerals, the continent becomes indispensable for technology-intensive industries spearheading the global transition. UNCTAD’s call to action positions Africa not just as a resource-rich continent but as a key driver of the next phase of global economic evolution.

However, the pursuit of these vital minerals highlights the delicate balance Africa must navigate between progress and responsibility. Nations like Namibia and Zimbabwe, embroiled in lithium controversies, exemplify the nuanced decisions countries must make.

As lithium, the “white gold” of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, becomes a coveted resource, African nations must navigate challenges to ensure economic prosperity aligns with environmental preservation and social responsibility.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya offer distinct perspectives on Africa’s mineral management landscape. The DRC, with vast cobalt reserves, exposes the disparities between economic potential and social development, as President Felix Tshisekedi presses for better terms from China.

In contrast, Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor, East Africa’s largest carbon offsetting project, illustrates the delicate balance between mining exploration and income generated from carbon credits.

These African nations serve as microcosms, reflecting the choices the continent faces in managing its abundant resources, even as Africa contributes only about 4 percent of global carbon emissions.

In the context of China-Africa and US-Africa relations, Africa emerges as a significant stage in the global geopolitical theatre. China’s strategic dominance in critical mineral markets, evident in its influence over Namibia’s lithium mine, solidifies its status as a formidable player.

Simultaneously, the United States, recognising the need to diversify supply chains, initiates the Minerals Security Partnership.

Recent geopolitical tensions between China and the US, especially regarding critical minerals, add layers of complexity to Africa’s position.

China’s export restrictions on germanium, gallium, and other essential minerals integral to chips, telecommunications, and electric vehicles become pivotal leverage points in its trade disputes with the US and Europe.

The resumption of mineral exports, albeit with stringent licensing requirements, underscores China’s strategic stance in global trade dynamics.

Despite recent diplomatic engagements between presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the intricacies of their mineral-related trade disputes persist, indicating that substantial concessions may remain elusive.

Africa’s role in the global power play is undeniable. As Washington seeks to broaden its supply chains, Beijing adeptly navigates diplomatic nuances concerning competitive dynamics.

The vast mineral wealth of Africa transforms into a geopolitical chessboard, where each major power strategically vies for control over resources integral to the unfolding global green revolution.

In the midst of these intricate manoeuvres, Africa finds itself at a pivotal juncture, with the trajectory of its mineral wealth intricately tied to the implementation of the Africa Green Minerals Strategy.

Jasper Andrew Kwayu is a business development professional. [email protected]