Marrakech – Experts at the Africa Investment Forum 2023 (AIF 2023) have called for investment in infrastructure, innovation, sustainable practices, and local industrial development to harness the continent’s strategic mineral wealth.
Speaking at a panel session titled “Strategic Minerals: Financing a New Era of Global Prosperity,” the experts agreed that Africa is rich in strategic minerals, including rare earths, lithium, graphite, bauxite, manganese, and cobalt, all essential for modern technologies. However, they noted that adding value to these minerals by processing them before export is critical to unlocking their full potential.
Georgette Sakyi Barnes Addo, Executive Director of Georgette Barnes Limited and President of the Ghana Women in Mining Association said that governments need to create the conditions to facilitate prosperity from natural resources.
Amina Benkhadra, CEO of Morocco’s National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and Swazi Tshabalala, Senior Vice-President of the African Development Bank Group, also spoke on the panel on the second day of Africa Investment Forum.
They agreed that Africa’s strategic minerals need to be processed before export to create value chains and jobs for local populations.
The panellists cited the examples of Tanzania, which banned the export of non-value-added strategic minerals, and Indonesia, which banned the export of nickel to establish 13 domestic nickel ore refineries.
Benkhadra said that African countries should process their strategic minerals to produce metals close to their final value. Tshabalala agreed, adding that restrictions on exports must be imposed to take advantage of Africa’s minerals.
The panellists called on African countries to do more to share experiences and good practices, strengthen regional integration, and reduce risk to ensure that the private sector is able to invest with acceptable political risk.
Tshabalala said that Africa needs to truly unleash the value chains and identify companies with the capacities and products that can be manufactured on the continent.
Barnes Addo said that inter-African trade encounters huge barriers and there is a need to harmonize customs duties and set up common platforms for countries to attract investment. She also noted that access to finance, especially for women, is another challenge.
Tshabalala said that the African Development Bank has an ever-increasing number of agreements with banks to ask them to finance women-led companies at concessional rates. She added that innovative measures can be used to lower financing obstacles for companies, especially women-led enterprises.
Benkhadra concurred, adding that she is optimistic about the future of Africa’s strategic minerals sector, despite the challenges that lie ahead.
Africa Investment Forum: Continent’s Principal Investment Marketplace
The Africa Investment Forum is Africa’s principal investment marketplace, organized by the African Development Bank and seven partners to mobilize strategic project investments by involving the private sector.
At the opening of the Africa Investment Forum, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina cited a Bloomberg NEF study that noted the cost of manufacturing lithium-ion battery precursors is three times lower in Africa than in the United States, China or Poland.