ANGELA CHISHIMBA, Kinshasa
PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema was yesterday engaged in a high-level and thought-provoking debate at the ongoing DRC–Africa Business Forum in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The DRC-Africa Business Forum, which is being held in a hybrid format in Kinshasa and online, has been convened by the Democratic Republic of Congo, together with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Afreximbank, African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), and the UN Global Compact.
The prime objective of the event is to help change the fortunes of the Congo and those of other African countries by adding more value to their endowments in battery minerals, including cobalt and copper, to profit from the global transition towards green energy, electrification of transport systems and rapid decarbonisation.
The DRC supplies about 70 percent of the world’s cobalt used in the production of batteries, an essential component to power electric vehicles (EVs) and to store energy in solar and wind energy systems.
Zambia is Africa’s second largest producer of copper on the continent after DRC. However, it is also hoping to cash in on growing demand for electric vehicles by stepping up its production and refining of cobalt, a by-product of copper. But, unlike DRC, Zambia has the capacity to refine cobalt on a large scale for use in battery manufacturing.
President Hichilema said global revenue estimates for electric vehicles battery chain at extraction stands at US$11 billion, grows by 35 percent to US387 billion at battery production, and further by 600 percent to US$7 trillion for electric vehicle production.
The President said Africa is losing out on this mega revenue creating industry because it ends at extraction and no value is added.
President Hichilema said the forum has given Africa an opportunity to examine this loss, restrategise and ensure it repositions itself in this value chain.
He said of the top 15 global producers of battery minerals, eight are African countries – Zambia, DRC, Madagascar, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Gabon and Ghana.
However, President Hichilema said value addition such as top cell production, assembly and production of electric vehicles is in China, Korea, Japan, USA, France and Germany.
“The global transition towards green energy and rapid decarbonisation holds significant opportunities for Africa at large,” he said. “We must seize this opportunity as a continent and not allow the continued fragmentation of our regional mineral value chains.”
The President said to reap gains from value chain participation, African countries must put in place right incentives, economic conditions and policy environment that will support forward integration of the battery and renewable energy market.
He said this requires countries to strengthen collective productive capabilities through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and also improved coordination among government players and ensure involvement of the private sector.
President Hichilema also said there is need for countries to develop policies and implementation instruments that support transformation of the extractive sector to one of value-added battery products.
“We also need to facilitate investment in research and development for improved value chain development and we need to also develop export-led strategies focused on value addition to mineral products,” he added.
The President said in partnership with cooperating partners and development banks, there is need for countries to undertake reforms and actions necessary to enable the region to participate in regional and global value chains for the manufacturing of electric vehicle battery products.
And opening the business forum, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the DRC and Africa must take advantage of the electric vehicle battery value chain to transform economies.
He said there is need for stability on the African continent to attract the much-needed investors that will help grow economies and improve people’s lives.
Economic Commission for Africa executive director Vera Songwe said the DRC and the rest of the continent can extend their access from US$271 billion battery precursor segment to the more lucrative US$1.4 trillion combined battery cell production and assembly segments of the battery minerals global value chain.
ANGELA CHISHIMBA, Kinshasa