Sub-Saharan Africa
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Environmentalist Urges Africa to Process Raw Materials Locally for Economic Growth

© AP Photo / JOSEPH SCHATZZambian workers constructing a new $300 million copper smelter in Chingola, Zambia, Dec. 13, 2006.
Zambian workers constructing a new $300 million copper smelter in Chingola, Zambia, Dec. 13, 2006. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 25.04.2024
In late February, at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, a resolution on structural reforms to equitably share the benefits of mining was tabled by a group of mostly African countries, including Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad.
African nations should process raw materials locally, which is not only crucial for economic empowerment but is also a critical step in putting the continent on a low-carbon trajectory, Wanjira Mathai, the managing director for Africa and global partnerships at the World Resources Institute thinktank, told the media.
She noted that if almost all of Africa's resource processing is done abroad, few economic and social benefits will accrue to Africans themselves.
The environmentalist suggested, for example, that cocoa beans could be processed into cocoa butter in the African countries where they are grown rather than being exported in their raw form.
"By moving up the value chain, we will be able to generate much more income," she said.
Gold miners pan for gold in the Eastern Congo mining town of Kamituga March 13, 2021. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 29.02.2024
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In addition, localizing processing will reduce the carbon footprint, as transporting raw materials around the world is much more carbon intensive than transporting a more processed product, as Mathai pointed out.

"And what it does is create an economy that is much greater than depending on the charity of others," she opined.

Mathai also said that rich countries should channel the climate finance they have promised to poorer countries into projects like clean energy; otherwise, African countries will turn to fossil fuels, where investors are looking to expand.
It is also important to help people prepare for the effects of the climate crisis, and the best way to do that is to make Africans more financially resilient, she concluded.