The first Investing in African Mining Indaba conference to take place in person in two years will be an opportunity for African countries to lure investment into the sector that has remained resilient during Covid-19 amid strong demand for mining commodities.
Headlining the event will be heads of state from Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa pitching opportunities in the continent’s rich precious metals and minerals seams.
President Hakainde Hichilema, who has wasted no time in targeting reforms and clamping down on corruption since taking office in August, is expected to make a “big announcement” in the run-up to the event.
In a keynote speech on Day 1 of the conference, dubbed “A New Dawn for Zambia’s Mining Sector”, he is expected to highlight the country’s huge mining potential as it moves away from his predecessor Edgar Lungu’s legacy of resource nationalism, says Tom Quinn, head of content for Mining Indaba.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to unveil plans to transform South Africa’s massive platinum belt into “hydrogen valley”, as he positions the country as a hub in a market expected to be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050.
Ramaphosa is also likely to discuss the country’s transition from coal, which supplies about 80% of its grid energy, to cleaner energy, a theme that will run deep throughout the conference, Quinn says.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is also poised to showcase Botswana’s rich manganese deposits, demonstrating that the country has more to offer than diamonds alone. Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa will roll-out the nation’s lithium mining opportunities, which could attract investors keen to ween themselves off Ukrainian lithium.
The critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries have seen burgeoning demand as consumers in the electric vehicle battery supply chain seek longer-term contracts with producers in Africa.
A shot at Covid-19
The pandemic and its effect on mining will be another important theme during the three-day conference, particularly on the final day when African nations will seek to capitalise on higher metals prices and the transition to green energy.
“I think a lot of these experiences through the pandemic are showing how operators and governments can successfully work together for the good of communities,” Quinn says.
Ukraine crisis fallout
The crisis in Ukraine and its impact on Africa is also on the agenda. Steven Fox, CEO of political risk consultancy Veracity Worldwide, will give a keynote about the fallout from the invasion and its impact on African commodities and metals.
Quinn noted that sanctions on Russian coal, diamonds and lithium could “present opportunities for Africa”, but that inflation driven by the conflict does not bode well for African debt.
US-Africa reset relations
In a shift from the last couple years, Jose Fernandez, US Department of State Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, will travel to the Indaba with a delegation in a bid to “reset relationships,” Quinn says.
The bid to re-engage with Africa’s mining sector reflects a growing US demand for the critical minerals which prompted the Biden administration to recently invoke Cold War powers to secure battery metals supplies.
Also up for discussion will be artisanal mining, women in mining, mining codes in different African regions and investing in communities as well as their mines.
The conference is expected to draw 5,000 attendees, including at least four heads of state, 40 ambassadors and ministers, and numerous CEOs, reflecting a thirst for information about the impact of the global energy transition, the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine crisis on the sector, according to Quinn.
“People are really relishing the opportunity to get back to the event,” says Quinn. “The appetite for the industry to get back to Cape Town is huge.”