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Investors, partners rally behind initiative to build battery-electric vehicles

By Fatou Dahaba
As the global transition towards renewable energy and carbon neutrality spurs demand for electric vehicles to replace fossil fuel engines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has embarked on a project to build a cathode precursor plant.
This will enable the country to harness its mineral resource wealth to sustainably commence low-emissions-production of battery precursors an input of lithium-ion batteries, used in electric vehicles, as explained by Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA):
“The DRC is at the heart of the battery value chain, as it is home to about 70% of world’s cobalt reserves. The country’s mining sector currently accounts for 98% of exports, 18% of GDP, and 11% of jobs. If the DRC captures 20% of the market share for battery production, it will add around US$54 billion to its income and raise its GDP tremendously.”
Ms Songwe was speaking at the opening of the DRC-Africa Business Forum held on 24-25 November in Kinshasa under the theme, “Fostering the development of a battery electric vehicle (BEV) and renewable energy industrial value chain and market in Africa.”
A new study by BloombergNEF shows that building a 10,000 metric-ton battery precursor plant in the DRC would cost $39 million. A similar plant in the US, China and Poland would cost an estimated US$ 120 million, $112 million and $65 million, respectively. The study indicates that a precursor plant in the DRC would produce almost 30% lower emissions than in China, given proximity to the mineral resources needed to produce the precursors
The current political economy of mining has created an unbalanced dynamic whereby minerals constitute 98% of the DRC’s exports yet only contribute to 18% of the country’s GDP, 18% of Government’s revenue and 11% of jobs, observed Marit Kitaw, economist in the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division (TCND) of ECA.
The DRC-Africa Business Forum featured a policy dialogue with the presidents of DRC and Zambia, and high-level representatives from Tanzania, Morocco, ECA, Afreximbank, Africa Finance Cooperation, African Development Bank Group, Bosch Africa, African Union Commission, The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, and AVZ Minerals Ltd.
The dialogue focused on “Fashioning the policy space and business climate for a battery, electric vehicle and renewable energy value chain and market in Africa.” Panelists were unanimous in their support for DRC’s plans for a cathode precursor plant, especially given the ease of access to minerals, which in turn reduces cost of production and curbs carbon footprint while maximizing yields for investors and the people of the DRC and Africa at large.

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