Friday, May 24, 2024

Rising demand for transition metals in Africa could expand green job opportunities

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The transition to a net-zero carbon economy is one of the defining challenges of our time, demanding a departure from the status quo towards sustainable alternatives, including the embracing of green technology. 

This presents an opportunity for Africa, giving it a chance to leverage its abundant resources of transition metals. These metals—cobalt, lithium, nickel, and rare earth elements—are indispensable in crafting the core components of electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy technologies. This convergence of necessity and opportunity presents Africa with a unique advantage, allowing it not only to strengthen its economy but also to redefine its position on the world stage. 

Related: New sustainability reporting standard for mining industry launched.

Interestingly, around 30% of these transition metals are found in African soils. This places the continent at the forefront of the green energy transition, yet it also underscores a broader issue: the current dynamic of simply exporting raw materials without engaging in the value-added processes of manufacturing. The race to net zero presents Africa with a unique opportunity to not only harness its abundant mineral resources but also to leverage the entire value chain of manufacturing these green technologies. This way, African nations can create jobs, stimulate local economies, and establish themselves as key players in the global clean energy market. 

For a long time, Africa’s manufacturing industry has faced barriers such as inadequate infrastructure and a shortage of skilled labor. However, with the emergence of green technology as a global priority, the need for training and capacity building is becoming ubiquitous. Africa stands to benefit from this trend by investing in its workforce and infrastructure. Moreover, the continent boasts a significant pool of unemployed professionals who could readily transition into roles within the green technology sector if provided with sufficient investment and training opportunities. 

Regional value chains would also offer a promising solution to address the lack of infrastructure in Africa’s manufacturing sector. Exemplifying this, there was an agreement between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to collaborate on developing electric battery manufacturing capacity. By pooling resources and expertise, neighboring countries can overcome individual infrastructure challenges and create stronger and more efficient value chains. 

Local manufacturing would, in turn, create a ripple effect throughout the economy, generating additional employment opportunities across various related industries such as logistics, services, and research and development. It would also foster innovation and knowledge transfer, as local companies cultivate expertise in green technology production. 

Harnessing Africa’s mining resources to fuel the production of green technology represents a transformative opportunity to accelerate the continent’s transition towards sustainability. Africa can maximize the value of its mineral wealth and embrace responsible resource management practices, unlocking economic prosperity while contributing to global efforts to combat climate change and achieve a sustainable future for generations to come.

Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungaihttp://www.edwardmungai.com/
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via mailto:edward@edwardmungai.com

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