Will Africa grab the opportunity to cultivate a local battery value chain?
Written by: Nasi Hako
Is Africa going to miss the industrial development opportunity to cultivate a battery energy storage hub? This was a question posed by TP Nchocho, CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation, during a Mining Indaba session on the path to zero-emissions mining through battery electric vehicles.
On the first day of the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba, hosted at the CTICC in Cape Town, three panellists sat down to expand on the future of zero-emissions mining for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in Africa and the role of critical minerals in the path to a just energy transition.
Nchocho began by highlighting the massive opportunity for industrialisation that sits before Africa as the world moves towards a greener, circular economy. Roland Chavasse, the Secretary General of the International Lithium Association, echoed this sentiment, saying that “Africa, and indeed the world, is bursting with lithium resources” and that the time has come to capitalise on what is a “once-in-a-lifetime pivot” toward zero emissions development.
Time to prioritise local value addition
Given that Africa has vast lithium resources and the demand for battery electric vehicles is growing, panellists agreed that African political and economic leaders need to collaborate to create a Lithium hub in Africa on an integrated basis.
Chavasse expressed that he believes in cooperation, collaboration and conversation as essential driving factors in doing so. Chavasse even suggested that Africa look to Australia for inspiration, as the country exports half of the world’s lithium resources to China, but is now looking at ways to manufacture the minerals locally and cultivate jobs while decreasing export expenses and carbon emissions.
Echoing this sentiment, Nchocho said that Africa should optimise local businesses in its supply chain and partly credited the underdevelopment of African countries to a lack of local value addition in African supply chains. He said that African countries such as South Africa need to shift their mentality and pursue progressive development through large-scale industrialisation in an equitable way.
Battery value chain in Africa
The discussion also reflected on the importance of making mining for green minerals a green process so as to cultivate a lithium future that is circular and sustainable. Panellists agreed this could be done by creating a thorough plan on how to decarbonise the mining process, from mining minerals to recycling batteries.
For this to be achieved, David Sturmes, the Director of Corporate Engagement and Strategic partnerships for the Fair Cobalt Alliance, said that access to finance will be pivotal and that investment and consistent government intervention could help Africa unlock a local supply chain.
Reflecting on past mistakes, the panellists agreed that the just energy transition should prioritise the just element of the transition and genuinely and equitably invest in citizens’ quality of life across the board.