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Battery manufacturing pact stimulant for decent jobs in Africa

26 January, 2023IndustriALL Global Union affiliated unions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia welcome the memorandum of understanding between their governments and the United States of America (US) on the creation of an electric vehicle value chain in the two countries. 

The agreement, signed late last year, is to promote the development of an electric vehicle value chain from mining, refinery, battery cell and battery pack manufacturing, up to the end user. Signatories will conduct feasibility studies, provide technical assistance, and the US will promote the initiative among the US private sector and investors.
Unions say the agreement is aligned to union campaigns for mineral resources to be used for industrialization and economic development which comes with opportunities for the creation of decent jobs. Through the African industrialization campaigns and mining network meetings, unions have repeatedly emphasized the need for the domestication of the African Mining Vision which calls for: “Transparent, equitable, and optimal exploitation of mineral resources to underpin broad-based sustainable growth and socio-economic development.”
The DRC produces over 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt, while Zambia is Africa’s second largest producer. In the DRC, cobalt is mined by large scale mining companies as well as artisanal small-scale miners. Other minerals found in the two countries that can be used in electric vehicle battery manufacturing include copper, lithium, manganese, and nickel.
The agreement aims to promote the “development of a cross-border integrated value chain for the production of EV batteries, leading to increased awareness of investment opportunities and the identification of potential co-financing opportunities for electric vehicle value chain-related investments.” 
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining says: 

“This agreement speaks to some of the envisaged decarbonisation pathways as the world shifts from fossil fuels to renewable energy. However, trade union demands on decent work remain. We want decent jobs to be created in the electric vehicle supply chain. Additionally, the rights at work must be protected according to international labour standards, and there must be social protection and social dialogue. The cooperation must include a human rights due diligence approach and the promotion of gender equality in the supply chain.”

The agreement promotes the development of the clean energy sector through reduction of carbon emissions and supports the Paris Agreement goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees. Further, the agreement commits to adhere to UN conventions against corruption as well as domestic laws and international standards.
At a meeting on battery supply chains in Johannesburg in 2022, unions from Botswana, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, and Zambia agreed to map companies that were part of the electric vehicle value chain in their countries as one of the ways to build union capacity on organizing and recruitment in this sector.