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Turning African States from Exporters of Critical Minerals to Processing Hubs for EVs and Batteries

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) have signed a framework agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia for the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) to produce electric vehicles and batteries as the continent looks to add value to surging demand for its critical minerals. Both countries have major reserves of some of the critical minerals needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles and other technologies key to the green energy transition: the DRC accounts for approximately 70% of global cobalt supply and 88% of cobalt exports, and the two countries collectively contribute 11% of all copper supply globally. Both countries also possess reserves of lithium, a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. But until now both nations been relegated to the role of suppliers of unprocessed critical minerals to foreign manufacturers. In order to ensure that the countries move higher up in the value chain, Afreximbank and ECA will lead the establishment of an operating company in consortium with public and private investors and Afreximbank’s impact fund subsidiary, the Fund for Export Development in Africa. The new company will develop SEZs dedicated to the production of battery precursors, batteries, and electric vehicles, in both nations.