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African Alliance: While Biden Pushes Electric Vehicles, China Leads The Race For Rare Earth Metals

Following his inauguration speech on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden announced that the “battle to save our planet by getting the climate under control” was a top priority during his tenure as president. One of the most significant aspects of his climate agenda is the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) to replace the gasoline-powered vehicles driven by millions of Americans. Biden and other officials have pushed for EVs, and incentives for EVs are included in major legislation.

The Inflation Reduction Act of August 2022 grants tax credits of up to $7,500 to Americans who purchase an electric vehicle. The White House has announced that the President’s infrastructure law has invested over $20 billion in EV-related infrastructure, including charging stations and battery components. Meanwhile, by the fall of 2022, the private sector, with the administration’s strong encouragement, had invested over $36 billion into electric vehicle manufacturing and $48 billion into domestic battery production.

The United States has made a massive investment in electric vehicles during Biden’s tenure, particularly in batteries. The administration’s strategy is to decrease the country’s reliance on China, which currently controls 75% of battery manufacturing capacity.

The United States will have to step up its acquisition of valuable and rare minerals used in battery production to achieve even a little industrial independence in the electric vehicle market. The US already mines some of these minerals, such as lithium, and has friendly relations with other countries like Australia who mine these minerals too. But the US will have to increase its mining of these minerals if it plans to transition completely to electric vehicles. Experts suggest that Africa may provide the supply the US needs in the coming decades. However, it seems that the Chinese Communist Party has already taken the lead in this race.

Lithium is a crucial component of lithium-ion batteries that power cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles. Australia currently produces over half of the World’s lithium supply. However, to meet the EV production demand from the US and other countries that are committing to clean energy, more lithium will be required.

China has a near-monopoly on utilizing mined lithium and manufacturing batteries. Although, African countries are sitting on a potential lithium bonanza, with Zimbabwe, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) potentially becoming major lithium producers, and Ghana, Ethiopia, and Namibia expected to become moderate producers, according to experts.

The issue for the US is that China has been investing in these countries for years, and China owns or partially owns many of the companies ready to exploit the coming lithium boom. China partially owns the top lithium-producing companies in both Mali and the DRC, and 3 out of the 4 major lithium mining companies in Zimbabwe are entirely owned by China. Zimbabwe’s president did not attend a summit with African leaders in December, where Biden reached an agreement with the leaders of the DRC and Zambia for further investment in the EV supply chain. As of 2023, China has already invested tens of billions in African nations, including Zimbabwe, the DRC, Mali, and Ghana, all locations where mining is expected to increase in the upcoming years.

Furthermore, the DRC produces an estimated 70% of the world’s cobalt, another essential mineral used in EV battery production. China has significant control over the mines in the DRC and Zambia that produce cobalt. In 2020, China held complete or partial ownership of 15 cobalt mines of the 19 operating in the DRC.

China outpaces the US in African trade. In 2021, China’s total trade with Africa stood at $254 billion, while the US’s trade was $64 billion.

The US has been taking steps to catch up with China. Biden announced billions in new investments on the African continent and created the Minerals Security Partnership in 2022. Biden also reached an agreement with the leaders of the DRC and Zambia for further investment in the EV supply chain. The Chinese government has already invested heavily in these African nations, taken control over various mines and companies, and is seen as being ahead in the race towards securing these valuable minerals for EV production.

" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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