The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) participated in a signing ceremony ratifying a Framework Agreement for the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) for the production of Battery and Electric Vehicles (BEV) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Zambia.
Chaired by the Prime Minister of the DRC, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, the landmark ceremony saw the participation of Congolese and Zambian ministers, in addition to senior representatives from the African Union, the African Development Bank, Afreximbank, the ALSF, BADEA and ECA.
As producers of over 70% of the world’s cobalt, and 10% of global copper, experts agree that DRC and Zambia are in a unique position to move from exporters of raw materials to becoming regional and global manufacturers and suppliers of the battery precursors and reap the economic benefits.
Speaking at the Ceremony, Antonio Pedro, interim Executive Secretary of ECA hailed the agreement as “an important step in ensuring we have the right enabling policies in place for the region to benefit from the so-called green mineral boom.”
Seen in the context of the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Mr. Pedro underscored the agreement’s importance in the region’s path to achieving sustainable industrialization and economic diversification.
According to the agreement, ECA and Afreximbank will lead the establishment of an Operating Company (OpCo) in consortium with public and private investors from DRC and Zambia, as well as international investors such as Afreximbank’s FEDA investment platform. The Operating Company will develop a transboundary Special Economic Zone in the DRC and Zambia dedicated to the production of battery precursors, batteries, and eventually electric vehicles.
During the ceremony, ARISE Integrate Industrial Platform (ARISE IIP) – a pan-African infrastructure developer was nominated as the selected technical consultant to conduct the pre-feasibility study for the establishment of the SEZs in DRC and Zambia.
In parallel and moving forward, creating more value, and strengthening productive capabilities would have to take into account the need to create relevant skills and competences, including through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and national suppliers’ development programmes. With the support of ECA, a Centre of excellence was established in DRC as a joint effort of University of Lubumbashi (DRC), Steinbis Institute (Germany) in collaboration with University of Zambia and Copperbelt University (Zambia).
“ECA is proud to be a partner to governments of DRC and Zambia in support of building a value chain for battery and electric vehicles, and I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment in supporting you in this endeavour,” he said.
For her part, Ms. Oluranti Doherty, Afreximbank’s Director of Export Development said: “The execution of the framework agreement testifies to a strong commitment by the governments of the DRC and Zambia, Afreximbank and ECA, as well as other partners, to promote inclusive development of the Battery Electric Vehicle value chain, also rendering the DRC and Zambia globally competitive investment destinations.
She stressed Afreximbank’s conviction on Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones as “critical tools the continent can deploy to fast-track its industrial infrastructure development, promote Intra-African Trade, accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA and facilitate Export Development.”
This intervention also demonstrates Afreximbank’s commitment to promoting climate finance solutions that will reduce carbon footprints – in alignment with global decarbonization trends and a pan-African narrative around encouraging a just, sustainable, and responsible energy transition,” she added.
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