As an African business owner and lawyer, I've had the chance to see how much potential Africa has for the future. One such opportunity I’ve seen on our beautiful continent is the potential that Africa harbors for mining and exporting minerals that can be used in rapidly evolving technological advancements.
As global markets continue to adopt technologies that rely on precious minerals, there is a great opportunity for Africa to help meet this demand through its abundant cobalt, copper, lithium, and other rare earth metals.
Minerals like these are becoming more and more in demand because they are used in batteries for electric cars and other green technologies. Although Africa’s highly dense natural gas and oil reserves have a major role to play as well, there is great benefit for our continent to diversify the ways in which we can help the world build a brighter future.
However, in order for African nations to realize their true potential as key players in the market for electric minerals, we must first overcome a number of obstacles. These are the four most critical areas that the continent needs to concentrate on prior to realizing this opportunity.
1. Investing in Infrastructure
Nearly every mining company and exporter of mineral resources in Africa is up against the challenges posed by our continent’s general lack of developed infrastructure.
Africa’s mineral mining operations need smooth and seamless infrastructure in order to be cost-effective and competitive with other markets. Currently, inadequate road networks, transportation facilities, and even limited power supplies around the continent present obstacles to reducing our total logistics cost of mining and exporting minerals.
To overcome this challenge, the collective body of governments across Africa will need to see the potential before their very eyes. Seeing this potential and understanding its importance will help leaders justify the necessary investments in expanding Africa’s infrastructure.
The construction of new roads, rail networks, and ports will go a long way toward equipping the continent to be a key player. And, of course, improving our overall energy infrastructure through investment in diversified energy sources will help to improve the continent’s overall energy situation. Investing in modern infrastructure in support of mineral mining (among other exports) will help make African resources more competitive on the global market.
2. Mitigating Governance and Corruption Issues
It’s unfortunately true that there are some countries in Africa that regularly run up against governance issues or outright corruption. If African nations aim to successfully attract foreign investment in the mining industry, thoughtful governance and the squelching of corruption will be absolutely essential.
African nations will need to put regulatory frameworks in place that are crystal clear and transparent to the public. In doing so, we will be able to satisfy prospective investors’ needs for certainty around their interests, as well as build more public confidence in governments as a whole.
Achieving this requires Africa to ensure that its regulatory organizations are not only efficient and effective but also rally around the common goal of helping Africa develop itself into a key player in the global market. Establishing stable legal and monetary environments for mining activities will help guarantee that Africa’s mineral mining operations are carried out in an honest and open manner.
There are, of course, many other benefits to mitigating corruption and enhancing governance across African countries. Appealing to investors and gaining public confidence in mining operations just happens to be one large benefit that healthy governance unlocks.
3. Advocacy for Education and Training
African countries are only as strong as their populations. With this in mind, it is essential that investments be made in both education and training to cultivate the necessary labor force to support the growth and expansion of Africa’s mining industry.
While education and training can begin at the local level, the governments of Africa would benefit from helping to fund programs that advocate technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
These programs are designed to foster young individuals with the technical education and expertise required to be able to participate in the mining sector. As this industry is already rapidly growing, the time to develop a seasoned, knowledgeable labor force is upon us.
Governments can also encourage private investments in these initiatives so that the labor force is developed in such a manner that it meets the regulatory requirements of the mining industry.
4. Pioneering Sustainable Mining Practices
Sustainability will likely continue to be a theme in all ongoing exporting developments into the future. As such, developing mining methods that are friendly to the environment and the communities in which they are located will be essential to African minerals remaining competitive on the international market.
Sustainable mining practices need to take into consideration how minerals can be mined while causing the least amount of long-term damage possible to the environments they operate within. African governments would benefit from collaboration with mining firms to develop environmentally responsible mining methods.
Developing these practices would not only ensure the health and safety of skilled workers but would also advocate for the protection of both the environment and human rights. African countries can work to establish relationships within mining communities in order to guarantee that everyone will derive benefits from mining activity and that their local rights will be respected.
Actualizing Africa's Potential in the Mineral Market
Africa is blessed to sit atop an abundance of many versatile natural resources. Thanks to this, we’re posed with a unique opportunity to become a significant player in the global market for precious minerals.
But, in order for this potential to be realized, the governments of Africa will need to give due consideration to the prioritization and development of sustainable mining techniques, the enhancement of governance, the investment in skilled labor and training, and the modernization of existing infrastructure.
If African countries can pull together around these initiatives, they will be able to attract the requisite foreign investment to expand their mining industries. This, in turn, will yield economic advantages for the continent as a whole and contribute to the global, just transition toward a future that makes intelligent use of sustainable energy sources.