Africa - GreenTech: Are African Leaders Ready for World Powers Competing for Africa's Strategic Mineral Resources?

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Lithium, a critical component in electric vehicle batteries,  is in high demand.  The demand for lithium  has been rising, as the share of electric vehicles has been increasing.  In fact, major dominating technology companies in the last five years include those leveraging electric cars and new batteries. However, the market for battery-grade lithium is way larger, beyond Electric vehicles. In fact most of portable electronics, the laptops and tablets and smartphones depend lithium-ion batteries.  The key major player for Lithium production  is the African continent. Hence, the question iis whether Africans, especially leaders are ready?

 The increasing demand in Lithium has fueled a worldwide  scramble for African mineral resources. In fact, there is growing competition among world powers for  the African strategic mineral resources. More especially the US, China, Russia, Europe,  India, and Russia, and other powerful nations have pushed efforts to expand their investments in the African mining sector to better benefit from mineral resources. 

In recent years, both the US and China have expanded economic aid, loans, investments, infrastructural growth, and support for development projects in African countries, especially those with strategic mineral resources, including Coltan, Cobalt, and Lithium  Some African leaders have started to ready themselves by renegotiating the agreements with the super powers  or trying  to loot the mineral resources from other countries (DRC-China-USA-Rwanda: On a visit in China, DRC Felix Tshisekedi Evokes Getting Ready for Open War Against Rwandan Regime).

The high market demand of innovative batteries, based on storing solar energy power and the focus on and the fast momentum in cutting-edge battery development is being driven in most part by factors such as the desire of self-sufficiency, the lower buyback rates from energy companies, and heightened environmental concerns.  (AroniSmartIntelligence™ in Action: Electric Car and Battery Innovation Major Players).  Hence, it is projected that the global demand for Lithium will continue to increase, while oil will be replaced.

The key major player for Lithium production  is the African continent. In fact, among the World countries with the highest reserves of Lithium are the African countries, of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mali,  Namibia,  Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. However these countries, apart from Zimbabwe and DRC, do not appear among top World producers.  


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Africa: Largest Producer of Strategic Minerals including Lithium, Cobalt and Coltan

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is believed to be the largest lithium reserves in the world. Hence, Democratic Republic of the Congo  could soon become the leading global supplier of lithium, on top of Cobalt and Coltan. In Zimbabwe, Lithium has been a key exploited mineral, for almost 60 years, starting way before the independence.  Currently, Zimbabwe is the 6th largest producer of Lithium in the World, with an estimated projection of 20% of the world's demand if the exploitation is optimized. 
  One challenge is that the production companies of the strategic minerals in African countries are owned by foreign companies. 

The major company exploiting lithium in Zimbabwe is the Chinese-owned Bikita Minerals Mine, which exports the raw Lithium to be processed in China.  In December 2022, the government of Zimbabwe passed a law, known as  Base Mineral Export Control Act,  banning  the export of raw lithium. However, the law does not impact the exports of raw Lithium to China.

Below are top Lithium Mines in Africa,  owned, controlled or operated  by:

  • Arcadia Lithium Project, Zimbabwe,  by Chinese Zhejian Huayou Cobalt
  • Bikita Lithium Mine, Zimbabwe,   by Chinese mining conglomerate Sinomine Resource Group
  • Blesberg Lithium and Tantalum Project, South Africa, by South Africa's Marula Mining
  • Bougani Lithium Project, Mali, by  UK's Kodal Minerals
  • Ewoyaa Lithium Project, Ghana, by Australia's Atlantic Lithium
  • Goulamina Lithium Project, Mali,  by Australia's Leo Lithium and  Chiana's Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium
  • Karibib Lithium Project, Namibia, by Australia's Lepidico.
  • Manono Lihtium Project, Democratic Republic of the Congo by  Australia's AVZ Minerals. The Manono Lithium Mine is the third largest world lithium mine project and one of the top 5 world lithium mines in Africa.
  • Manono Tailings Project, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Zulu Lithium and Tantalum Project, Zimbabwe,  by Premier African Minerals and  China's Suzhou TA&A Ultra;

In 2021, the world produced 540 thousand metric tons of lithium and by 2030 the World Economic Forum projects the global demand will reach over 3 million metric tons.

Hence, powerful nations, such as US, China, Russia, Europe and others, are expected to intensify their competition over Africa’s strategic mineral resources, specifically  lithium, cobalt and coltan.

The question now: Are African countries, especially the leaders, ready for leveraging their Lithium reserves, the new source of world wealth?



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