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Lobito Corridor and Sonangol Could Create New Opportunities For Efficient Cobalt Mining

Access to charging stations is not the only factor limiting the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the United States. Experts are concerned that, in the coming years, EV sales could be further dampened by the diminishing supplies of a material most Americans have thought little about since high school chemistry: cobalt.

A heavy metal found primarily in central Africa, cobalt is an essential component of the batteries used to power electric vehicles. And for EV manufacturers and consumers focused on reducing their carbon footprint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to procure.

The United States is seeking to ameliorate this challenge and bolster the world’s supply of cobalt and other critical minerals by investing heavily in a new infrastructure project in Africa.

In November, the United States signed a multilateral memorandum of understanding to explore building railroads that would connect mineral-rich zones in Africa’s interior with easily accessible ports along its Atlantic coast.

Under this initiative, known as the Lobito Corridor Project, partners including the United States, European Union, and African Development Bank would fund the construction of new railroads from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—where much of the world’s cobalt and copper are mined—to Angola, home to a deep-water Atlantic port at Lobito.

The Lobito Corridor Project would facilitate regional trade and development and reduce the environmental impacts of resource extraction, according to a recent press release issued by the White House. Once construction begins, the project is expected to be completed within five years, a significant show of economic investment in central Africa.

Angola, which will export copper and cobalt from Lobito to markets in the United States and Europe, has sought to distinguish itself as a regional leader in sustainability even before the signing of the Lobito Corridor MOU.

Sonangol, Angola's state-owned oil company, is poised to open next year a new facility in Barro do Dande that will produce green ammonia and hydrogen, two sources of clean energy, that will be exported directly to markets in Germany and central Europe, creating a new locus of sustainable power in a continent roiled by energy shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Sonangol has invested in a new refinery in Lobito that will enhance Angola’s energy self-sufficiency, reducing its need to import power.

The Lobito Corridor Project could help solidify these efforts to make resource extraction a more efficient and sustainable practice across the region. It also could represent more than merely an attempt to support the still nascent EV market and enhance local economies. With Africa predicted to become one of the world’s most populous regions by the end of the coming century, the Lobito Corridor Project could equally be seen as an attempt to countervail China's sizable influence. Under President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative Policy, China has been responsible many of Africa’s largest infrastructure investments over the last two decades. From powerplants in Zimbabwe to railways in Kenya, Beijing’s fingerprints are writ large across Africa’s most innovative projects.

While perhaps a play in the game of great power politics, experts say the Lobito Corridor Project could give the United States and European Union a greater foothold in central Africa, improving lives across the region and making EVs more accessible in the process.

Source: United Business Journal article dated December 21, 2023




Image by katsuma tanaka

Lobito Corridor IPA


Lobito Intro Report

The Lobito Corridor Investment Promotion Authority ("LCIPA" or "the IPA") is a permanent multi-stakeholder engagement agency tasked to link all public and private entities interested in advancing and participating in the Lobito Corridor. Its main goals are to maximize and promote trade, investment, and economic integration among and between the three African nations of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia. 

Download our official Lobito Corridor report to learn more about the initiative and why it matters. Follow our social media and subscribe to the newsletter to stay up-to-date and join the community.

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