The green transition ‘might not be Africa’s panacea’

African nations counting on a windfall from mining minerals essential for the global clean energy transition might be disappointed, new research has found. In an upcoming executive brief of his Bellagio residency report, Bright Simons, a vice president of think tank IMANI AFRICA, says the conventional logic underpinning optimism about Africa’s mineral resources is based on flawed assumptions.

Simons argues that in recent years, international organizations have endorsed a consensus: Africa has abundant natural resources that will be critical to the clean energy transition, so the continent will become wealthier as that transition fuels demand for critical minerals.

Last year, for example, UN Secretary General António Guterres said progress in renewable energy could create “the African miracle,” and that Africa could become a “renewable energy superpower.” 

But the assertions behind this consensus are questionable, Simons says. Indeed, “Africa has less than 4.5% of the minerals essential to the green transition, with few prospects for increasing its reserves of production,” he told FMN. Countries around the world are focusing efforts on recycling, which is reducing demand for natural resources, he adds.

Even those African countries that are major mineral exporters might not benefit, he says, because “they lack the right mix of industrial minerals most connected to the transition such as lithium, nickel and rare earth metals.”

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