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Value Addition in Africa: A Strategic Approach to Mineral Processing and Local Development.

By Steve Chikengezha


Across the African continent, a transformative wave of policy changes is reshaping the mining sector. Nations such as Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Namibia are implementing bans on the export of unprocessed minerals, advocating for local processing prior to export. This strategic shift towards value addition, motivated by the aspiration to secure a larger portion of profits from their abundant resources, prompts an essential inquiry: Is Africa prepared for this transition?

Potential Advantages

The potential advantages of this shift are substantial. Local mineral processing can stimulate job creation, enhance skills development, and broaden economies beyond mere raw material extraction. For instance, Zimbabwe’s aspiration to establish a $30 billion mining industry is contingent on value addition. Similarly, the DRC, endowed with extensive cobalt reserves, aspires to evolve beyond being a mere raw material supplier in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market.

Existing Challenges

However, this transition is not without its challenges. Existing infrastructure often falls short of the intricate demands of processing plants. There is a scarcity of local skilled labour, necessitating substantial investment in education and training. Financing, especially for local entities, remains a significant obstacle. Moreover, foreign investors, frequently apprehensive of unstable policy environments and intricate regulations, may perceive these new prerequisites as disincentives.

Bridging the Empathy Gap

Investment and empathy are not guaranteed. While investors seek returns, African governments need partners who resonate with their developmental objectives. Bridging this empathy gap requires collaboration, facilitated by adaptable policies, transparent regulations, and dependable infrastructure.

A Journey with Steps

So, the question persists: Are we being too hasty? Perhaps not. Rather than viewing it as a race, it is more constructive to perceive it as a journey with well-defined steps. This journey commences with skills transfer. Collaborations with established producers on joint ventures or knowledge-sharing programs can expedite learning. Subsequently, infrastructure development is crucial, necessitating both public and private investment in energy, transportation, and industrial parks. Lastly, creating an enabling environment with competitive fiscal regimes, streamlined licensing processes, and political stability fosters trust and attracts investment.

Identifying the right sequence is crucial. Each mineral and industry presents unique challenges. For example, Zimbabwe, with its well-established ferrochrome industry, may be better equipped for immediate beneficiation of chrome than the DRC, where cobalt processing infrastructure is still in its infancy. Therefore, policies must be tailored to specific goals and contexts.

Lastly, financing local entities is of paramount importance. Innovative solutions such as blended finance, public-private partnerships, and development finance institutions can offer capital that is less risky and more affordable.


Constructing a robust value addition strategy demands courage, collaboration, and meticulous planning. While African nations may face a steep ascent, the potential rewards – economic diversification, job creation, and shared prosperity – are worth the struggle. The journey has commenced, and by addressing the challenges with a clear vision and strategic steps, Africa can metamorphose from a raw material exporter to a value-added producer, fully capitalizing on its mineral wealth.