South African Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has stressed the need for mining to be used to achieve wider economic development across Africa. He was delivering one of the keynote addresses on the first day of the Investing in African Mining Indaba 2022 conference in Cape Town.
“We must beneficiate our minerals here, in our continent,” he highlighted. Beneficiation would ensure that Africa achieved full ownership of the complete value chains of the minerals mined across the continent.
“Africa remains a key destination for mining investment,” he also stressed. And Africans had to continue to grow interest in investment in the continent’s mining sector. Part of that investment had to be devoted to exploration, to locate new mineral resources. Exploration and mitigation against climate change both had to be done.
Africa had an abundance of resources. These included the ‘minerals of the future’, such as copper, cobalt and lithium. No doubt, he said, the transition to zero-carbon energy would drive mining investment across the continent.
He also highlighted the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area. This would improve mining supply chains across the continent and reduce input costs.
But a key issue was the availability and price of electricity across the continent. High energy prices posed the risk of high inflation. They reduced the attractiveness of Africa as an investment area. And the continent suffered from serious energy poverty. The continent had the lowest rate of access to electricity of all the continents.
South Africa, he noted, had increased the proportion of its population with access to electricity to 87% (over the past 30 or so years), and that kind of percentage had to be achieved in other countries as well. South Africa believed that it was necessary to both increase access to electricity across the continent and undertake the transition to low-carbon energy sources.
Given the energy poverty in Africa, which he argued required immediate action, it was important that long-term sustainability be balanced with the continent’s short-term and medium-term needs for access to energy. As he put it, there was a need for “justice” as well as “transition”.
Mining, he stressed, was still a sunrise industry and definitely not a sunset industry. “Investors, come to Africa,” he affirmed. “That’s where the future is!”