DR Congo stands to gain if interest in electric cars surges

05 August 2019, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: A car is parked at an electric charging station in downtown Stuttgart. (for dpa: "EnBW: Power is sufficient for many electric cars").Photo by Edith Geuppert/picture alliance via Getty Images
23 August 2019, Saxony, Dresden: A VW e-Golf hangs on an electric suspension railway in the Transparent VW Factory. Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Demand for metals used in battery electric vehicles could go higher if electric cars reach 8% of road traffic by the mid-2020s, delivering huge dividends for producing countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The credit rating agency, Moody’s, said a worldwide shift to electric vehicles would likely drive up demand for cobalt, of which DR Congo is the world’s number one producer, as well as lithium, nickel and copper.

However, weak governance in the central African country could dissuade investors and scupper its potential, it added in a research note.

Other economies that would reap the benefits of the push toward electric cars include Chile, and the Philippines, followed by Peru, Indonesia, and Australia, it said.

Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit at Tenke Fungurume, a copper and cobalt mine northwest of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jonny Hogg/File Photo

The battery boom has the greatest potential to boost Congo’s sovereign credit rating because the production value of these metals would be “extremely large” relative to its economy.

By 2030 cobalt production could be equivalent to nearly 16% of DR Congo’s total GDP last year, more than half of its goods exports and 133% of its government revenue, and significantly boost its fiscal and current account balances, Moody’s wrote.

But “very weak governance, poor infrastructure and persistent pockets of social instability” remain key obstacles to foreign investment, slowing the country’s ramp-up of production, they said.

An increased focus on environmental and social issues and the traceability of metals adds another risk for the country, Moody’s added.

DR Congo’s economy is already in thrall to volatile battery metal prices. It is expected to grow 4.3% this year versus 5.8% in 2018 due to lower copper and cobalt prices, the International Monetary Fund forecast.

Among other battery metal producers, Chile will likely see a more moderate impact, with production of battery metals likely accounting for more than 5% of 2018 merchandise exports and total government revenue by 2030, according to Moody’s.

Peru will likely increase its share of the metals market through new exploration projects, while the Philippines should also see economic gains and increased revenue collection.



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