Africa’s shifting balance of power from oil to minerals
Climate action will change the importance of the continent’s various natural resources. Our map – and stories – look at the minerals winners (in blue) and the hydrocarbon losers (in red)
Hello - the festivities in New York are in full swing at the NY Climate Week and the UN General Assembly. Once finished, we will report on how Africa’s green concerns have fared. In the meantime, we’re hearing that events are spilling onto the streets and parts of Manhattan have come to a standstill. Hopefully that leaves lots of time to read our newsletter and share it with friends old and new.
⏳ Today’s reading time: 4 mins
1. What African shoes and minerals have in common
Kenya will ban the trade in shoes from next year, said Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria this week, to boost domestic production.
A similar policy route is also debated by African leaders for minerals critical to battery production, electric vehicles and other climate tech areas.
Global demand for the minerals is increasing fast, in some cases exponentially.
The news: A growing number of African countries are now implementing trade restrictions for raw lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese or graphite (all crucial to battery performance).
The aim is to prevent African minerals from being shipped overseas for processing, where most of the value-add occurs.
If instead processors must stay locally, so the logic goes, African industrialisation gets a boost, generating more jobs and tax revenue.
How it’s done: There are more and less crude ways to force domestic processing.
Export bans are the most straightforward lever.
Shipping quotas are a more variable policy option.
Changes in duty regimes provide the most subtlety.
Who is doing it: At least five African countries have implemented specific restrictions for raw critical minerals (further countries have restricted other minerals).
Namibia: In June banned the export of most unprocessed crushed lithium ore, cobalt, manganese, graphite and rare earth minerals.
Zimbabwe: In December said it would only allow shipping of concentrates, with plans to impose a tax on lithium concentrates destined to export markets.
Ghana: In July approved a green minerals policy to boost the domestic use of lithium.
DRC: Revised its mining code to put a top tax rate (10%) on strategic minerals shipping; higher than precious metals (3.5%) and gemstones (6%).
South Africa: Policies aimed at boosting minerals’ domestic processing.
The response: Looming export restrictions are contributing to a recent surge in bilateral supply agreements, driven by international minerals consumers.
Countries: Saudi Arabia is looking to buy $15 billion worth of mining assets in African countries, Britain inking a deal with Zambia, Japan investing in Namibia, and the US making strategic loans to a Mozambican graphite mine.
Resource riches: Africa is home to 48.1% of the world's reserves of cobalt, 47.6% of manganese, 21.6% of natural graphite, 5.9% of copper and 5.6% of nickel (overall 30% of mineral resources worldwide).
Rise in demand: By 2030 copper and nickel demand is expected to rise by 50-70%, cobalt and neodymium by 150%, and graphite and lithium six to seven-fold (assuming a net-zero scenario).
EU leaders fear becoming too dependent on Chinese minerals, as happened with Russian gas. Hence they want to diversify to African minerals.
Bottom line: The Africa Finance Corporation reckons the onshoring of minerals processing could earn the continent an extra $228 billion a year.
For this purpose, it will fund new transport links in DRC, Zambia and Sierra Leone as well as new industrial zones in DRC and Gabon.
2. Imagine an Africa without oil & gas
Climate action will have many unintended consequences – one is the negative impact of declining global oil & gas demand in Africa.
Who is affected? The chart above shows the continent’s main hydrocarbon producers.
The news: The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that oil & gas demand will start declining by 2030.
The IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, out next month, will declare that "the world is on the cusp of a historic turning point".
This is “driven by the striking rise of clean tech like solar & EVs, and economic shifts in China,” says IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
Why it matters: An estimated 11% of Africa’s GDP comes from oil & gas.
Uneven distribution. Hydrocarbon extraction is concentrated in select regions. Some AU countries are extraordinarily dependent on it, making them vulnerable to demand changes.
By GDP: Where hydrocarbons dominate the economy (% of GDP)
South Sudan: 60%
Equatorial Guinea: 60%
By government income: Some oil producers have diverse enough economies to balance hydrocarbons with other sectors. Yet governments still remain dependent on oil income.
Nigeria: 7% of GDP but 85% of government income
Sudan: 15% of GDP but 60% of government income
The data: Primarily based on World Bank information, analysed by Green Rising.
The list could grow. Ghana, Mozambique and others are investing in gas extraction.
The big picture: A world moving away from oil & gas could impoverish parts of Africa unless further actions are taken.
This strengthens the contention that global climate action and African growth should be addressed together.
If climate action increases African poverty and instability, as a byproduct, and with it emigration and extremism, successful climate action becomes less likely.
The solution: Climate action needs to include the replacement of oil & gas income in Africa.
That means supporting climate-positive growth in hydrocarbon economies.
It also means creating new sources of government income from the green economy.
Reality check: Peak oil demand has been called before. Hydrocarbon demand will not die overnight.
That may be good news for some AU countries. But only if extra time is used to diversify economies away from hydrocarbons.
An eventual decline is likely in a world where Tesla is worth more than the other top ten car companies combined.
Nightmare scenario: Imagine Nigeria with half a billion people in three decades (that's the forecast) and a government budget that has lost much of the 85% once coming from oil & gas - without replacing it.
A major political upheaval would seem more than likely as a result.
Bottom line: Africa needs to avoid unequivocal winners and losers from climate action or it might fail to act altogether.
3. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers
Mayokun Iyaomolere is an environmentalist and founder of Plogging Nigeria, focusing on community-based litter collection and environmental advocacy, and Green Switch Academy, dedicated to educating and empowering individuals for climate action.
Q: What media best explains Africa's climate crisis? A: For a captivating perspective, the Nigerian documentary "Thank you for the rain" offers a thought-provoking exploration.
Q: Which African country should outsiders visit to learn about climate change? A: Head to Aiyetoro in Nigeria’s Ondo State to witness firsthand the devastating impact of coastal flooding.
Q: What climate action have you taken recently? A: I conducted a climate education session involving over 1,000 students, emphasizing awareness for driving vital changes.
Q: Who's your climate action role model? A: Sir David Attenborough's documentaries raised global environmental awareness.
4. Media monitoring
Hydrogen power: South Africa aims to raise $1 billion for green hydrogen projects together with Denmark and Holland.
Wrong direction: The WTO predicts a threefold increase in African food imports by 2025 due to climate challenges.
EV momentum: Yadea, a Chinese producer of electric two-wheelers, makes its African debut.
Carbon concerns: Legal experts caution on equitable compensation when carbon developers negotiate deals in Zimbabwe.
Health concerns: The WHO says rising temperatures have undermined efforts to reduce the continent's disease burden.
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