Africa Day and the AfCFTA: Trailblazing Sustainable Mining

Lucy Pilgrim
Lucy Pilgrim - Senior Editor

This Africa Day, Field Product Manager at Eaton Electric South Africa, Devan Reddy, shines a light on the urgent need for reliable and sustainable power solutions within the African mining landscape, as achieved by the work of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Initiative.

INTRODUCTION

Each year, Africa Day celebrates the remarkable progress in economic and social development that countries across the continent have made. Since many of these efforts can be overlooked, Devan Reddy, Field Product Manager at Eaton Electric South Africa, strongly believes in spreading awareness of Africa’s socioeconomic strength.  

“Africa Day serves as a reminder to have a hard look at the challenges that lay before us. It moves the perception away from an Africa waiting for handouts to an Africa full of potential of opportunities,” he introduces.  

Reddy’s background lies in the electrical and electronic manufacturing industry, having 13 years’ experience in the sector. In 2012, he was appointed as Field Product Manager of the Industrial Control and Protection Division and Power Distribution Components at Eaton Electric South Africa – a global diversified power management company and technology leader in electrical systems.    

“Being employed at Eaton Electric has given me unique insights into the challenges many mining companies have. The topic of sustainability versus productivity in particular has intrigued me as the solutions available in the market moved from one of a balancing act between the two objectives to one where the provision of recent technologically advanced products can help achieve sustainable growth,” Reddy tells us.

The changing attitudes towards the productivity of the mining sector are of paramount importance, especially since the post COVID-19 era has seen several African countries experience drastic negative economic effects, indicated by high inflation and unemployment rates, causing great concern.  

To help tackle such issues, the acceleration of the AfCFTA initiative can be instrumental. “African economies can grow and become a valuable source of not only natural resources but of skills and labour as well, enabling the continent to take its place in the global market as a key player,” Reddy comments.

ENACTING INDUSTRIAL CHANGE  

The AfCFTA’s purpose lies in bringing to the fore the significant reserves of materials required for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The initiative seeks to not purely export the precious raw materials but process and produce final products to supply markets directly. As a result, Africa’s growing youth demographics will be equipped with technologically advanced employment opportunities.  

“A prime example of this would be the mining of lithium,” Reddy explains.  

“Having the capabilities within Africa to process and produce lithium based battery technologies will greatly impact the unemployment rate in a positive direction. This will empower the youth with a higher skill level and thus greater professional employment opportunities.” 

Turning to infrastructure, the development of the road, maritime, and rail supply chain is integral in supporting the African mining sector. Currently, much of this infrastructure is lacking in Africa, which could result in slow progress in cross-border trading, thus negating the substantial development already made.  

Additionally, electricity and communication networks are crucial to an increasingly technologically advanced mining sector across Africa. This has a detrimental effect on industrial opportunities, which need a solid infrastructure in place to encourage investment. “Having good transport infrastructure that could link mines and refineries throughout Africa would create value by having closer refineries working at optimum capacity.”  

Furthermore, Reddy wishes to bring attention to the role of the government in developing a nation that is prepared for sustainable mining.  

“Collaboration between the mining sector and government in developing this infrastructure would not only enable supply chain improvement to the benefit of the private sector but also increase employment opportunities within local communities.”  

Therefore, through the aid of the government, both the private and public sectors could witness substantial advantages in the long-term.

REDEFINING MINING  

Finally, the introduction of renewable energy resources in the mining sector cannot be missed. Specifically, the use of power management companies and sustainable power solutions could be critical in supporting African mining operations. Through the collaborative efforts of mining companies, energy providers, and the government, the production of energy can be drastically optimised, which can have trickle down effects on energy efficiency in mining.  

“With government incentives and investment from the mining industry, it can lead to lower emissions, cleaner mining operations, and lower energy bills in the future,” expresses Reddy.    

Fundamentally, Reddy highlights the urgency of restructuring the African mining sector and rethinking its operations in line with the essential work of the AfCFTA initiative. AfCFTA has proved itself indispensable to economic growth, the enhancement of regional cooperation, and overcoming barriers to domestic and international trade and development, all within the important context of Africa Day.

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By Lucy Pilgrim Senior Editor
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Lucy Pilgrim is an in-house writer for Africa Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.