Africa’s Role in the Critical Minerals Market: Assessing the Potential of DRC, Gabon, Morocco, and More

Africa’s Role in the Critical Minerals Market: Assessing the Potential of DRC, Gabon, Morocco, and More

Africa’s abundant reserves of critical minerals position it as a key player in the global energy transition. The continent is rich in metals used in batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and other electrical networks. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) leads in cobalt production, South Africa in platinum and manganese, and Mozambique and Madagascar are significant producers of graphite. These countries contribute substantially to global production of these essential minerals.

According to Jeune Afrique’s latest ranking, production of critical minerals in these African countries increased from 2017 to 2021, vital for both boosting government revenues and meeting the growing demand for transition minerals. Africa holds immense reserves of these minerals, with the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) estimating significant percentages of global reserves in manganese, platinum, chromium, cobalt, and graphite.

Currently, Zimbabwe is a significant producer of lithium, with Nigeria and Namibia also entering the market. Mali and Ghana show potential for future lithium production. The Kabanga nickel project in Tanzania and the Enterprise nickel project in Zambia are expected to enhance Africa’s role in the nickel market, with Namibia and Botswana potentially climbing the ranks due to their reserves in graphite, copper, lithium, manganese, and other minerals.

Exploration and Quality of Deposits

Africa’s mineral wealth is largely untapped and ripe for discovery, with both new and historic mining regions offering high-grade deposits. Notably, the DRC, Zambia, and West Africa are prominent for their rich mineral reserves.

Cobalt, essential for battery production, is predominantly sourced from the DRC. The high quality of African mineral deposits presents a significant investment opportunity.

Africa’s proximity to Europe and Asia, combined with major export routes, positions it strategically for the trade and transport of critical minerals. Non-African governments and corporations are increasingly investing in the continent’s mineral sector, with companies like Barrick and Ivanhoe Mines expanding their operations.

Despite its potential, Africa faces challenges such as insecurity, political instability, and infrastructural deficits, which can deter investment. Chinese operators, backed by state support, are likely to remain major investors in African minerals.

Good governance, including transparent sector management and balanced contract negotiations, is crucial for attracting investment and ensuring socio-economic benefits at local and national levels. Involving local populations and addressing their socio-environmental concerns is also vital. icon

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