The African continent is home to 30% of the planet’s cobalt, lithium, manganese and other critical resources needed for the clean energy transition, with Dr. Richard Muneng of the United Nations Environment Program detailing why the minerals are key to Africa’s future and its leadership in the climate transition.
Muneng led the “Critical Minerals” discussion on Thursday at Africa Climate Week in Nairobi. He says the critical minerals “represent a future that’s already unfolding” because of their key role in renewable energy technologies, electric vehicles, and reducing the massive carbon footprint associated with energy and transportation.
Zimbabwe, for example, is poised to deliver 20% of the lithium needed but currently accounts for just 1% of the global supply. And Democratic Republic of Congo leads the world in cobalt production, though there are longstanding environmental and ethical issues, such as child labor, that surround cobalt mining.
“The extraction of these critical minerals does come with environmental concerns—deforestation, land degradation, and water stress among others,” says Munang. “Addressing these social and environmental risks calls for enhanced transparency and traceability in the mines supply chain.”
And it’s urgent that Africa advance a just energy transition, he said. Demand for the minerals is projected to increase by nearly 500% by 2050, and that presents significant opportunity for African nations and their young and talented populations.
“Africa’s rich resources could drive a global US$10.3 trillion opportunity and create 15 million jobs by 2030,” he said. “As we work towards a greener future, let’s embrace technology, foster partnerships and ensure transparency for a sustainable and prosperous Africa.”
Image: Dr. Richard Muneng