JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – There is “enormous potential” for South Africa, should the country pursue green industrialisation and its manufacturing sector invest in the beneficiation of battery metals and the manufacture of various green products, such as electric vehicles (EVs), Department of Trade, Industry and Competition green industries chief director Gerhard Fourie says.
Through green industrialisation and the subsequent increased use of EVs, the manufacturing industry is set to contribute to improving the livelihood of humans, while making major contributions to the sustainability revolution that is required.
Fourie says it is this potential that policymakers working on the Strategic Green Industrial Policy need to harness to unlock the new industrial and business opportunities that will contribute to economic growth, job creation and transformation in South Africa.
Linked to this are rapidly growing EVs, batteries and the “huge untapped segment” around the charging and billing infrastructure where energy, information technology (IT) and telecommunications converge, Fourie explains.
The move to EVs, presenting an opportunity to be “harnessed for industrial development in South Africa”, requires government to implement a supporting policy to ensure alignment across the necessary spheres of industry, emphasises Fourie.
This will then further present opportunities for beneficiation of battery metal minerals, in particular, which can then be used for automotive and fuel cell manufacturing.
At the moment, South Africa is twenty-second in the world in terms of automotive vehicle production, says nonprofit organisation Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS) sustainable growth senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair.
With just over 30% of the world’s manganese reserves, a key mineral used in the manufacture of batteries for products like EVs, on the country’s doorstep, he says "we are significantly behind in terms of patent development and there is no way we can catch up with leaders but we should rather focus on identifying the relevant niches where we have a competitive advantage and build skills to that effect. We have numerous companies being very successful in their respective niches. We should nurture such companies so that they expand and drive the development of the value chain."
Some of the other factors that South Africa would need to focus on include global market access and competitiveness, as well as building a domestic market while simultaneously improving access to funding and skills.
Testing and certification, particularly when manufacturers are looking to export, also presents a challenge locally, as local standards are not always recognised internationally, Montmasson-Clair laments.
Fourie and Montmasson-Clair delivered the keynote address during the virtual Battery Technologies Webinar, held on November 6.