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Forging partnerships in Africa’s critical raw materials race: Europe’s role and challenges

As global supply chains face increasing competition, securing access to critical raw materials (CRMs) has become a top priority for European stakeholders. Concurrently, some African governments are imposing restrictions on raw material exports to promote local value addition, presenting both challenges and opportunities for European engagement.

The EU must clarify its role in the African CRM value chain, whether focusing on upstream mining, midstream processing, or downstream manufacturing. By providing financing instruments to de-risk private sector investments, Europe can support African efforts to enhance local production and value addition.

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A regional approach, exemplified by projects like the Lobito corridor, offers opportunities for connectivity and collaboration across borders. Moreover, Europe can differentiate itself by advocating for stricter environmental and social standards in mineral extraction and processing, contrasting with lower standards from other global players.

In the context of the energy transition, CRMs are vital for technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles. The EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) aims to encourage cleaner industrial production but has sparked debate over fairness and its impact on developing economies.

Africa, rich in mineral resources, sees the energy transition as an opportunity for industrialization and economic sovereignty. By promoting beneficiation and value addition, African policymakers aim to break the cycle of resource dependency and create sustainable jobs.

However, Africa faces challenges in diversifying its economy and adding value to its raw materials. While some countries have imposed export restrictions to encourage local processing, others are seeking partnerships to develop downstream industries.

European engagement with Africa must navigate complex geopolitical dynamics, including competition with Chinese investments across the CRM supply chain. Collaboration with European institutions and the private sector, alongside strategic partnerships and financial support, can help Europe establish a foothold in Africa’s CRM sector.

In conclusion, Europe and Africa share common interests in securing CRMs for the energy transition while promoting sustainable development. By fostering cooperation, enhancing value addition, and upholding environmental and social standards, both regions can benefit from a mutually beneficial partnership in the race for critical raw materials.

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