23 November 2023

The US is racing to help develop a new railway line linking a key source of critical minerals in central Africa with a port on the continent’s Atlantic coast, aiming to establish a trade route for materials used to produce electric vehicles.

This represents the most significant transport infrastructure that the US has helped develop on the African continent in a generation.

The so-called Lobito Corridor project — which involves laying hundreds of miles of track from Zambia’s Copperbelt to an existing line in neighbouring Angola — also serves as a flagship of the Biden administration’s efforts to take on China.

Metals including copper and cobalt that are crucial to EVs and the batteries that power them will be among the main cargo.

The journey for African minerals to global markets is fraught with delays.

Beijing has dominated infrastructure investment in Africa for the past two decades, and now the US is trying to catch up.

That competition is playing out as concerns grow about access to raw materials that will power the energy transition.

A feasibility study for the new line will start by year-end and take six months. The project should be complete within five years.

Last week, the US signed a memorandum of understanding with Angola, the DRC, Zambia and the European Commission to kickstart the Lobito project.

The African Development Bank signed on, and said it would help raise USD1.6 billion in financing, while contributing about USD500 million itself.

The Africa Finance Corp. also joined the effort and will be the overall project developer.


Related articles

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue