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Critical Minerals: Africa Is the Key to a Sustainable Energy Future – UN

Critical Minerals: Africa Is the Key to a Sustainable Energy Future – UN

Africa’s vast deposits of minerals essential to the global energy transition, such as cobalt, copper and lithium, can fuel a sustainable energy future, said UN Secretary-General for Trade and Development Rebeca Grynspan.

Rebeca Grynspan spoke during an event held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and online on 4 June, as part of the organisation’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

The event on the theme ‘Maximising Africa’s potential: Harnessing demand for essential minerals to drive inclusive growth and sustainable development’ explored ways to optimise the development benefits of these minerals.

‘Cobalt, manganese, graphite and lithium are not just elements on the periodic table,’ said Grynspan. “They can be the foundations of a new era – powering our homes, driving our vehicles and connecting our world. Catalysing a green revolution that can lift millions of people out of poverty and create a fairer world.”

But to realise this vision, said Grynspan, the world must break free from the past and reject the extractive model that has kept resource-rich nations dependent and poor.

‘Instead, we must embrace a new paradigm that prioritises domestic value addition, promotes regional integration and empowers local communities,’ he added.

Value addition and justice are key

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Antonio Pedro, said that adding value to critical minerals in Africa could make the continent a competitive hub for green industrialisation.

‘Imagine the potential if African minerals were processed into African batteries, installed in African cars travelling around the continent and the world,’ he said.

‘This would accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and the electrification of transport systems on the continent, create decent jobs and make Africa a competitive centre for green industrialisation,’ Pedro added.

He also called for fairness and equality in the way minerals are harnessed in the global energy transition and in boosting sustainable development, noting that a mining boom that does not bring benefits to everyone in society, ‘will leave us back at square one’.

For her part, the Vice-President of the African Union Commission, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, emphasised that the exploitation of minerals critical to sustainable development in Africa would require a different and strategic approach to policy-making in order to position the continent as a new pole of global growth.

‘In addition to the right mix of policies, it also requires fair international structures and systems, especially in terms of regulations and rules,’ she said.

Nsanzabaganwa warned that some current rules and those in the pipeline threaten to affect African countries’ efforts to increase and improve beneficiation and value addition on the continent.

‘It wouldn’t make sense not to rely on our continental certification systems and instead condition minerals from Africa to go to another certification system only to come back to us for value addition or trade between us,’ she said.

A new course for development

The event brought together leaders, diplomats, experts and key stakeholders to chart a new course for development in Africa, exploring ways to better harness the continent’s critical mineral wealth.

Africa is home to considerable reserves of the world’s critical energy transition minerals: 55% cobalt, 47.65% manganese, 21.6% natural graphite, 5.9% copper, 5.6% nickel, 1% lithium and 0.6% iron ore globally.

But the continent has yet to fully capitalise on the opportunities presented by its natural resource endowments. Estimates show that African countries generate only around 40 per cent of the revenues they could potentially collect from these resources.

In the midst of the current global crises, limited fiscal space, slow growth and high debt, African countries need to maximise the financial and development benefits of these resources.

See Also

Participants discussed ways to improve revenue mobilisation and tax administration, boost regional value chain integration and increase investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation to support mineral-based industrialisation on the continent, while promoting climate action.

The event prepared the ground for further discussions scheduled to take place during the Global Leaders Forum, from 12 to 14 June in Geneva, to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN on Trade and Development.

Semanário Económico



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