Africa’s mined lithium production output is set to increase more than ten-fold this decade, according to Benchmark’s Lithium Forecast. This will increase the region’s strength in the supply of critical minerals beyond cobalt, which the continent has historically dominated. Benchmark’s Lithium Forecast shows that the region is expected to account for just 4% of global mined lithium supply this year. However, by 2033 its market share is forecast to triple to 12% of global supply.
China has invested heavily across Africa to help secure access to its critical mineral deposits, potentially putting Western countries on the back foot when it comes to operating in the region, Benchmark said.
A total of 83% of forecast lithium supply is set to come from projects with some form of Chinese involvement, according to Benchmark.
Of the critical battery minerals, cobalt is the one with which Africa captures the largest share of the upstream mining. Benchmark’s Cobalt Forecast shows that 75% of mined cobalt comes from the continent, with the vast majority of this coming from the DRC.
Although Indonesian cobalt will eat into this market share, the region will maintain a strong 69% of the market in 2030,, Benchmark said.
Africa has rich flake graphite reserves, too, and is expected to grow production from 19% of global supply this year to 39% in 2030, according to Benchmark’s Natural Graphite Forecast.
In graphite—unlike in cobalt and lithium—non-Chinese companies are the dominant investors on the continent.
Some African countries want to increase the amount of value they extract from these minerals before they get exported, Benchmark noted. Namibia recently banned exports of non-beneficiated ores of critical minerals including lithium following in the footsteps of Zimbabwe, which passed similar legislation in December last year.
Last month, Namibia banned the export of unprocessed lithium, cobalt, manganese, graphite and rare earth minerals.
Despite Africa’s growing presence in the mining of critical raw materials, it remains a bit player in the value chain further downstream. The continent is forecast by Benchmark to produce just 0.1% of lithium chemicals in 2030 and 0.2% of spherical graphite.
Africa has a greater share of the refining of cobalt than the other critical minerals, but even so, is forecast by Benchmark to capture just 4.9% of this market in 2030 despite 69% of mined cobalt coming from the continent in that year.