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- Watch Africa take its first steps towards green industrialisation
Watch Africa take its first steps towards green industrialisation
The continent is moving from just extracting stuff from the soil towards actually making things. With some detours and pitfalls.
1.🚁 Heli view: China’s changing role in Africa’s green economy
Across most of the continent, minerals are exported straight after extraction without local value-add.
But lithium mining in Zimbabwe is increasingly bucking that process.
First step: Chinese companies have started turning Zimbabwean lithium into concentrate on site before export, creating local jobs and expertise.
Why it matters: This marks a change for China’s investment in Africa as well as a significant step towards green African industrialisation.
Until now, much of the economic value had accrued in China.
But Beijing’s new external strategy targets batteries, vehicles and solar panels rather than furniture, clothing and home appliances.
Join the queue: Multiple investments are under way, accelerating the trend.
Zhejiang Huayou has opened a $300-million lithium concentrator with an annual capacity of 450,000 metric tons at the Arcadia mine acquired for $422 million.
Sinomine bought Bikita mine to produce 300,000 metric tons of spodumene concentrate.
Chengxin Lithium Group commissioned a 300,000 metric ton per year lithium concentrator at Sabi Star mine in eastern Zimbabwe.
In DRC, Chinese firms own or have stakes in 15 of the 19 cobalt producing mines. And they’re not done in Zimbabwe.
The driver: Hard economic calculations are behind these investments.
Global demand for minerals is skyrocketing due to growing battery use in vehicles.
Africa has a lot of the relevant minerals: Zimbabwe is the largest lithium miner, and DRC is the largest cobalt producer.
China is a leader in battery technology, controlling much of the supply chain.
The crux: Many African countries have banned unprocessed mineral exports – or are talking about it – to boost industrialisation.
But Zimbabwe is struggling with international sanctions due to human rights violations… which China chooses to sidestep.
China also employs looser loan and financing regimes as well as lower (or no) ESG standards.
Strategic plans: China started two decades ago investing and buying up mining and manufacturing companies related to electric vehicles, including Western ones in Africa. Today it is dominant.
The 1998 purchase of an 85% stake in Zambia’s Chambishi copper mine for $20 million was one of China’s earliest overseas mining investments.
However, Chinese overseas lenders and investors are becoming more careful due to bad debts, domestic needs and international pressure.
Trojan worries: Critics have warned against becoming overly reliant on China.
Most Chinese investors are private companies acting on commercial motives.
However, all sizeable Chinese firms have Communist Party cells.
The rest: China is not alone in taking an interest in African minerals and green industrialisation.
Bottom line: Africa is well positioned to benefit. But countless obstacles remain.
Moving from basic processing to full production requires better regulation and infrastructure.
Export bans fail to prevent the smuggling of raw materials.
2. Hopes for hydrogen could not be higher
The Saharan country of Mauritania has not been on many people’s list of future industrial giants.
Vital stats: Only about 30,000 Mauritanians work in industry, while 90,000 remain enslaved to this day.
Number of universities: Four
Number of coups in the past 50 years: Six
And yet: Mauritania is presenting itself to investors as the vanguard of African industrialisation thanks to green hydrogen.
Two of the top 10 biggest hydrogen projects in the world are in Mauritania.
With plans for 75 Gigawatts, it would contribute almost 60% of Africa's green hydrogen and nearly 30% of its solar initiatives.
Power generation capacity today is a puny 380 Megawatts, of which 117 Megawatts are renewable.
Big dollars: Planned hydrogen projects in Mauritania dwarf its GDP of $10 billion.
Gentle scepticism: A new report from the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) calls the plans “ambitious” and “disproportionate”.
The context: Mauritania has several things going for it with regards to green hydrogen.
The Sahara provides at least theoretical access to the large amounts of renewable energy required, thanks to available solar irradiation.
Demand for green hydrogen is rising in not-so-distant Europe, and with it investor interest.
Studying opportunity: McKinsey projects Africa needing $55 billion in green hydrogen investment by 2030 and $900 billion by 2050.
Route to market: The International Energy Agency says Mauritania has three options for benefitting from the gathering green hydrogen boom.
Use hydrogen to make ammonia and export it
Combine it with local iron ore and export iron
Export hydrogen to Europe via a pipeline to Spain
Government approach: Mauritanian leaders appear determined. They are signing up international experts and forming strategic partnerships.
Weather vane: If massive green industrialisation were to work in Mauritania, other laggards on the continent would be buoyed too.
Yet many observers remain sceptical the country can deliver, given its almost complete lack of infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and human capital. Welcome to the gold rush.
3.Q&A: Climate leaders with answers
Ayodeji Stephen is a clean energy adviser and project manager. He has been an Agora Energiewende fellow in Germany.
Q: What are the main challenges in adopting hydrogen in Africa? A: Public perception is a significant barrier. Many – wrongly – view hydrogen as unsafe. Skills training and infrastructure development are other crucial areas. Additionally, competition from battery storage systems could impede hydrogen's growth.
Q: What advice would you give those looking to invest in hydrogen? A: Developing a national hydrogen strategy is crucial, along with creating effective trade routes and fostering political will. Education and awareness are low-hanging fruits that can significantly boost the sector.
Q: What future developments do you foresee? A: We can expect a surge in MoUs, attracting new players to the sector. It's crucial for young people to engage in this field, as there's a significant skills gap waiting to be filled with innovative ideas.
4. Media monitoring
Italian ties: Rome unveils a $6 billion investment plan on energy and migration in Africa.
Carbon world: A new regional African alliance is launched to promote carbon markets in Central Africa.
Funding: Analysis shows one in every three dollars invested into startups in Africa went to climate tech in 2023.
Loss and damage: South Africa has been nominated to represent Africa on the UN fund.
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Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.