Africa Economy & Business Energy Transitions
Report July 1, 2024

From greenfield projects to green supply chains: Critical minerals in Africa as an investment challenge

By Aubrey Hruby

Africa is central to the global energy transition. The necessary resources for a low-carbon economy are abundant in Africa, with the continent possessing 30 percent of the world’s known mineral reserves—many of which are critical for the manufacturing of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies. Africa’s untapped potential is greater yet, with research suggesting that the continent holds 85 percent of manganese reserves, 80 percent of platinum and chromium reserves, 47 percent of cobalt reserves, and 21 percent of graphite reserves, much of which is unexplored or underexplored. Demand for these resources is also on the rise, expected to more than double between now and 2030.

While Africa is rich in minerals and strategically located, it risks losing out on a historic investment opportunity. The infrastructure investment problems that have hindered non-Chinese capital flows into African markets for decades are front and center as investors and governments assess the strategic role the continent could and should play in the global shift to cleaner energy sources. While infrastructure investment has shown growth in recent decades, a significant financing gap persists, estimated to be around $100 billion each and every year.

To counterbalance China’s dominance in battery supply chains, the United States must leverage its strengths in technology, education, and capital markets. Initiatives such as Prosper Africa need to be dynamically scaled and optimized to provide meaningful support, ensuring that US investors can more easily and rapidly navigate the complex landscape of Washington.

With this urgency in mind, this report provides a snapshot of Africa’s mineral wealth and the state of mining industries, draws out the similarities between the mining and infrastructure investment attraction challenges, describes the competitive landscape African nations find themselves in, and makes innovative recommendations—namely to the US government—to rapidly accelerate investment in sustainable mining industries in African markets.

This report is the first in a series on the critical minerals sector in Africa, and is part of the Africa Center’s Critical Mineral Task Force.

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The Africa Center works to promote dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities toward strengthening security and bolstering economic growth and prosperity on the continent.

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Image: A worker attends to machinery at a smelter plant at Anglo American Platinum's Unki mine in Shurugwi, Zimbabwe, May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo