Africa needs to learn from the past and benefit from its own minerals before they are exported, according to African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC) director Marit Kitaw.
Kitaw made the statement at a side event during Africa Climate Week in Kenya.
She and other experts have drafted policies and regulations for the Africa Green Minerals Strategy (AGMS), which was launched last week.
“[US special presidential envoy for climate John] Kerry made comments that America wants 30% of our minerals, and I think it is time for Africa to stand up and take care of itself before it can take care of others. We need to ensure we stabilise our electricity before the West can overtake us using our natural resources,” she said.
During the summit last week, Kerry said the US was looking at Africa’s “green” minerals to help it with its rise to renewable energy.
The International Energy Agency in its latest report found that there is a new scramble for
African minerals. It said China and the US companies have shown interest in the continent for its lithium. Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been earmarked to become processing and manufacturing hubs for batteries used in electric cars.
Kitaw and colleagues called for Africa to be ready and willing to use its mineral and energy resources, its agricultural potential and its natural capital to support the global decarbonisation agenda.
She said that the AGMS plan is designed to foster socio-economic development to tackle the disparities on the continent, despite its abundance of greener mineral resources. “The strategy seeks to reshape mineral value chains by utilising mineral resources for in-continent manufacturing of essential products, moving beyond raw material exports.”
She said Africa needs to put itself first to solve its “energy poverty” before exporting minerals as countries around the world transition from fossil fuels to greener energy.
Kitaw said the AGMS can use these resources to help Africans while keeping sight of the continent’s mining vision and ensure strong protection from climate change and a just energy transition.
The Global Fund for Women’s senior adviser, Ruth Nyumbura, said there were concerns that the interest shown by both China and the US will not translate into more widely shared benefits. She added that the energy transition will mainly boost domestic industry in the US.
Antonio Pedro, the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said Africa needed to know where the minerals are to ensure countries were protected from international explorers who fail to give back to the continent. He added that the AGMS could assist by using geological surveys.
Nyumburu said many US and Chinese companies were already in Africa, “benefiting from the land and minerals meant for Africans.”
“There needs to be policies to prevent what happened in the fossil fuel industry from happening again, unless we will be left with nothing and more poverty,” she said.
Kenya’s President William Ruto also urged African leaders to use its resources to improve their countries.
Mandisa Nyathi is a climate reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.