The US is not opposed to China investing in Africa but wants to make sure “that it follows the highest standards”, says US Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose W Fernandez on the sidelines of the Investing in African Mining Indaba 2022.
Addressing journalists in a virtual press conference on Wednesday after his keynote address at the indaba, Fernandez said the US was not opposed to China investing in Africa as long as the investments centered on upholding human rights, democracy, and creating jobs for locals.
“Our policy is not to ask our partners to choose between the US and the People’s Republic of China.
“We’re not doing that. We believe that we offer an alternative vision for economic development that promotes democratic governance, respect for human rights, and transparency more sustainably – and we keep talking about the word ‘sustainable’ – more sustainably serving the long-term interests of the people here in Africa.
He said: “Our focus will always be on strengthening local capacity; creating African jobs, not imported jobs; and working with our partners to promote economic development that’s beneficial, sustainable, and inclusive.”
Fernandez emphasised the US was not “in a race to the bottom” to undercut China and other investors by sacrificing standards in areas such as quality, safety, and wages.
“What African governments want is for all investments, including Chinese investments, to respect local laws, and local interests, to follow human rights, including worker rights, and protection for the environment,” he said.
In Cape Town, Fernandez met with ministers of mining from numerous countries. But it was his meeting with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) mines minister, Antoinette N’Samba Kalambay, which stood out for him because she spoke about promoting transparency and environmental conservation in the DRC mining sector.
Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, the DRC, and Mali have significant lithium reserves to power the next generation of electric vehicles. As such, the US said in promoting clean energy use there would be more uptake of lithium.
“We also know that in the clean energy future, critical minerals will be an important part of the solution and that African nations have a lot of the critical minerals, be it cobalt, manganese, lithium, and others, a lot of the – a lot of the critical minerals that will be needed to power turbines, to power electric batteries. We need to multiply by six the amount of lithium that’s used in the automobile sector,” Fernandez said.
Investing in African Mining Indaba 2022 is running under the theme “Evolution of African Mining: Investing in the Energy Transition, ESG, and the Economies”.