Minerals and the Energy Transition: Key Findings and How Africa Can Leverage Its Potential
3 August 2022
African countries endowed with minerals critical to the transition to clean energy have potential opportunities to benefit from this transition yet face significant risks and development challenges. Preliminary reports show that Africa has a wide variety of what are considered critical or strategic or transitional minerals such as nickel, graphite, cobalt, lithium, coltan.
Globally, there is surge in interest in critical or transitional minerals. Understanding the key players, their interests, and a relative consensus on how energy transition should be approached in Africa is therefore essential. If not well managed, investments, economic opportunities, and Africa’s aspiration to industrialize may be lost.
Limited supply and the race to control supply chains for critical minerals could also fuel corruption and conflict rather than spur development in supplier countries as companies compete to edge out potential rivals. To minimize corruption risks, governance deficiencies must be understood and addressed.
This session highlighted the impact of climate change and the energy transition on mining, focusing on future critical minerals (such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, etc.) in the global supply chain and the path to clean energy and net- zero. It revisited the concept of critical minerals or green minerals and explain in detail what they really are. Speakers used specific case studies to highlight the complexities and uncertainties that exist, such as how long the energy transition will take, the potential gaps and risks to the mining sector, and whether a new policy direction is needed for Africa's critical mineral-rich countries. New developments such as domestic transition, electric motorization, carbon storage and clean energy technologies were examined, and whether this provides a significant opportunity for Africa's critical or strategic minerals such as lithium, graphite, and cobalt, among others. The session explored potential policy choices Africa's critical mineral rich countries, such as Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, etc., can make to benefit, but also whether the boom in critical minerals could be short-lived.