Renewable energy? African batteries could become a global power source
New climate investments offer Africa a chance to industrialise. Its minerals can be turned into battery ingredients on the continent prior to export. It’s tricky but becoming more likely.
1. New minerals framework favours African production
Minerals dug from African soil are to play a major role in the global green transition - and in the process could transform the continent's economy.
Many materials at the heart of clean technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels are found in Africa.
But for the continent to win a transformative global market share, supply chains would have to undergo substantial change.
The news: An intergovernmental panel has now set the foundations for such change, giving Africa a boost. The International Energy Agency (IEA), mandated by governments around the world, has drawn up new guidelines for minerals production.
During its first-ever critical minerals summit, the IEA issued recommendations for the diversification of minerals supply.
This is likely to benefit African countries severely underrepresented in world markets.
What they say: The IEA, a Paris-based intergovernmental organisation established in 1974, unequivocally threw its weight beyond supply diversification, saying:
“The level of over-concentration in critical minerals markets today is unlike that for any other major commodity we have come to rely on."
"History has shown us that failing to properly diversify supplies and trade routes of essential resources comes with profound risks.”
This is undoubtedly a western perspective. Many Africans have associated resources with exploitation. Yet it could nonetheless benefit the continent in future.
The opportunity: Beyond increasing production, Africa has the chance to boost its share of minerals processing to generate more jobs.
Western governments signalled their support for increased African processing to counter China.
In 2022, Chinese companies accounted for 68% of global cobalt refining, and 72% of global lithium refining.
Big leap: Large-scale minerals processing in Africa would be lucrative.
According to projections for 2025, the battery raw minerals market is only worth $11 billion while battery precursors earn $271 billion and batteries $1.18 trillion.
A battery precursor is a material at the final step before becoming a cathode.
A study in 2021 suggested that a battery precursor plant in DRC would have 30% lower emissions, and cost 3x less than if in China and the US.
What’s needed: African minerals processing requires major investments. The first few taking shape are far from sufficient:
First results: Progress towards African minerals processing has so far been slow.
Ghana started planning its first lithium processing facility.
Afreximbank financed studies in DRC and Zambia for battery precursor plants.
Marit Kitaw, interim director of the African Minerals Development Center, said, “We now need to attract the technology owners - not only offtakers - and organise a transfer of knowledge.”
Next: The sector now appears to be gaining momentum.
South Africa will host a strategic minerals gathering.
The IEA convenes ministers in February to further diversify minerals supply.
2. Duelling in the green desert
The long-standing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates appears to be benefitting African climate goals.
The news: Saudis are this week hosting the UN-led Climate Week for the Middle East and North Africa, showcasing their latest green initiatives.
Among the announcements is a new project for Saudi companies to buy carbon credits from 2024.
While domestically focused for now, officials said the scheme "caters to the possibility or the potential for future international transfers."
Saudi companies purchased African carbon credits at an auction in Nairobi in June.
The rival: Meanwhile, the Emiratis, who are hosting the COP 28 event in Dubai starting in late November, announced an expansion of their investment plans for Africa.
Masdar, UAE's parastatal investment firm, committed $10 billion in African renewable energy by 2030.
The target of the combined investments is to deliver 10 GW, or 7% of total current installed capacity.
The UAE has declared an aim to provide 100 million Africans with clean electricity by 2035.
Competitive edge: Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the biggest populations and economies in the Gulf, are committed to net-zero by 2060 and 2050, respectively.
At the Africa Climate Summit last month, Saudi Arabia was poised to announce substantial African investments.
The announcement was pulled at the last minute but may be made at or after the Climate Week in Riyadh.
The context: The Saudi event is one of the last major international stepping stones to COP 28 in the climate calendar.
Among the topics under discussion in the heavily cemented desert capital are the construction sector.
Climate action focused on transportation and urbanisation are also on the agenda
3. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers
Oyugi Oloo-Aringo is the founder of Blue Economy Youth International as well as behind the Vijana Wajiweza Organization in Kenya
Q: What book do you recommend to grasp Africa's climate crisis? A: "Biopiracy" by Vandana Shiva, shedding light on patenting ecological materials and the climate crisis.
Q: What African country should outsiders visit to learn about climate? A: Kenya is experiencing intensified climate shocks, affecting food and water resources, with recent years showing dwindling rainfall and rising temperatures.
Q: What climate action have you taken recently? A: I led a tree-planting and waste management initiative in Kibera, known as "Penda Miti, Panda Miti." (Love trees, Plant trees)
Q: What is your earliest conscious memory of the climate crisis? A: I recall the El Nino floods in1997 — walls collapsing, cars destroyed.
Q: Who are your climate role models? A: Raphael Obonyo, a public policy analyst advocating youth involvement in climate action.
4. Media monitoring
Debt for climate: The AfDB head and other African leaders proclaim that tackling climate change depends on fixing Africa debts and call for an interest moratorium.
Big number: Ghana wants to invest seven times its current GDP, or $550 billion, in a planned energy transition. That’s by 2060, mind you.
How did you like today's edition?
📬 Did a friend send you this newsletter? Welcome, sign up here using their referral link.
Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.