During a panel discussion on "Building a regional battery mineral value chain in Africa", Antonio Pedro, the acting secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), urged African countries to prioritize green mineral value chains for sustainable industrialization.
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He emphasized that in order to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa's Agenda 2063, the world must decarbonize its growth models and shift to renewable energy sources.
The shift to renewable energy sources is a resource-intensive path that requires greater production of a variety of minerals that are central to decarbonization.
According to figures from the UNECA, the African continent is home to many minerals, in which the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for instance, produces more than 70 percent of the world's cobalt.
DRC and Zambia together supply 10 percent of global copper while Mozambique and South Africa hold significant reserves of graphite, platinum metals, lithium and more.
"We have clear opportunities not only from the global green mineral boom but also from our domestic achievements, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area to facilitate the development of regional value chains for these green economy products," Pedro said.
He also noted several innovative financing mechanisms that have been developed to support initiatives such as the battery and electric vehicles value chains.
"In the last two decades we have seen that without the right enabling policies and incentives, commodity super-cycles come and go, leaving our countries dependent on resource extraction," said Pedro.
He deplored the fact that about 70 percent of the region's exports are unprocessed commodities, a situation that can change with the right policies that prioritize industrialization and value-addition in mining and other resource sectors.
The session, which was held in a hybrid format, was jointly organized by the UNECA and African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) ahead of the 9th Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD), slated to be held in Niamey, Niger, from Feb. 28 to March 2.
Oluranti Doherty, director of Export Development at the Afreximbank, noted that it was disappointing that despite Africa being endowed with an array of minerals from copper, magnesium, nickel and cobalt, the continent has not been able to make an energy transition.
"We are working on a framework agreement for special economic zones for the production of batteries, electric vehicles and accessories, and we will facilitate the commencement of studies to facilitate the development of this facility," Doherty said.