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MODERATOR:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I welcome our participants logging in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion.  Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez, who is participating in the 2024 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.  Under Secretary Fernandez will discuss U.S. energy policy and priorities and the importance of the African mining sector as it links to the broader international economy.  He will also address the progress on the Minerals Security Partnership, or MSP, an initiative to bolster critical mineral supply chains.

We will begin today’s briefing with opening remarks from Under Secretary Fernandez, then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Under Secretary Fernandez for his opening remarks.

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Inaudible) in Cape Town, and now I understand why our colleagues here at the embassy fight to get trips to Cape Town.  It’s a beautiful, warm, and inviting place.  I’m delighted to be here.

We came to Cape Town to continue our engagement with Mining Indaba, particularly following Secretary Blinken’s recent trip to Angola, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria.  This was Secretary Blinken’s fourth trip to the region.

Over the past three years – the three years that I’ve been coming to Mining Indaba – I think we’ve made exciting progress.  During my first visit, I discussed the need to expand and diversify critical minerals supply chains.  Then last year, I followed up by explaining the value proposition of the Minerals Security Partnership, the MSP, and also our focus on identifying projects with high environmental, social, and governance standards.

Since the start of the MSP a little bit over a year and a half ago, it’s grown to 14 partner governments.  We just welcomed India.  And we now make up more than 50 percent of the global GDP, and we’re focusing on projects with high ESG standards that diversify critical minerals supply chains.  We’ve had over 200 projects that have been proposed to the MSP partners.  We’ve whittled them down to something in the neighborhood of 20 projects, and we will continue to review those projects and do what we can to help them become a reality.

This year, I’m able to announce concrete accomplishments, and actually it’s something I’m very proud of because last year when I gave the keynote speech at Mining Indaba, I said that I would be back and that it would be my hope to be able to announce concrete projects.

So we’re now beginning to deliver results in the form of projects, in the form of deals.  And today at Mining Indaba, the MSP announced the signing of an MOU between Gécamines, la Générale des Carrières et des Mines, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and also JOGMEC, the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security.  This is an MOU that will expedite European and Japanese investment in the mining sector in the DRC, and it’s also a powerful demonstration of the MSP’s efforts to secure and diversify critical mineral supply chains.

Last October, we announced that the MSP was working to announce 11 projects in mining and mineral extraction – four projects were in processing, two projects in recycling and recovery.  Seven of those projects are – in fact, are located in Africa.  We also reached important milestones last October in – on four key critical mineral projects, including USAID’s approved loan to Twigg Exploration and Mining for a graphite mining operation in Mozambique.

Separately, in addition to these projects – and we hope to continue announcing projects in the next few months – in support of the MSP, the U.S. Government’s Energy and Mineral Governance Program continues to strengthen the technical capacity and the legal regulatory frameworks of countries in Africa.  And this is the kind of support that enables our partners to develop mineral resources sustainable – sustainably and for economic growth.  And it’s also part of our strategy to engage in a race to the top, that we believe that our companies and our workers can benefit from higher standards that they can – that we can comply with and there can be competitive advantages going forward.

We have active technical capacity projects.  We could cite a number of them, but recently we’ve engaged the DRC, Kenya, Mauritania, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, to name a few.  Yesterday I announced a new partnership between the U.S. and Finland on capacity building for the mineral sector governance in Africa.  The Department of State in this project awarded a $1.2 million cooperative grant to the University of Oulu in Finland to create the Mining Innovation Exchange through Arctic Regional Collaboration – the acronym is MINEARC, M-I-N-E-A-R-C – program.  And we’re delighted to be able to work with Finland on this project, because something that we’ve learned as we’ve engaged with our partners in the Minerals Security Partnership is the level of – the high level that – of the – of the Finnish – the Finnish processing and smelting industry, value-added industry, and we felt that this is something that we ought to find ways of engaging with Africa on.

Recognizing the important role that the private sector must play in meeting the critical minerals challenge, in late 2023 we also launched another public-private partnership, this time called the Minerals Investment Network for Vital Energy Security and Transition.  The acronym here is MINVEST, M-I-N-V-E-S-T.  This is a new public-private partnership that we set up with the nonprofit SAFE’s Center for Critical Mineral Strategy.  MINVEST is going to promote public-private dialogue and will spur investment in strategic mining, processing, and recycling opportunities that adhere to high ESG standards.  This is our way of creating a line of communication with mining companies in order to be able to understand their needs and for us to be able to communicate opportunities that we hear about.

Finally, something that I always, always take – it’s a great pleasure of here in Cape Town when I come to Mining Indaba is the opportunity to meet with ministers and executives from the region.  And why am I here, and why do they want to talk to us?  Well, I believe that it’s because the U.S. has offered an alternative and a viable value proposition on critical mineral supply chains.

Our aim, our stated aim – and we’ve put this in black and white, and it’s on our website – our aim to adhere to the highest environmental, social, and governance standards is not just window dressing.  Investors answer to stockholders, they answer to customers, but every node of the supply chain and local partners that want to attract new investment know that local benefits will ensure the success of projects and will create growth-producing jobs in their communities.

So I’ve always called ESG and local benefits our calling card; they continue to be our calling card.  We continue to speak about a race to the top.

And with that, let me just turn it over to your questions.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Under Secretary Fernandez.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s briefing.  Once again, if you wish to ask a question live, please clearly identify yourself and your media outlet.  Please insert, if possible, your question into the Q&A box of the Zoom.  And once again, please make sure that we know what outlet you’re from.  We do ask yourself – we do ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing, which is the U.S. energy policy and priorities and the Mineral Security Partnership.

So for our first question, I’d like to go to Patrick Bomboka of Zoom-eco.net in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  And Patrick’s question is:  “Washington has expressed its willingness to support local transformation of minerals in Africa, in opposition to the extraction export model that is of little benefit to the continent’s producing countries.  How does the Biden administration intend to materialize this willingness?”  Mr. Under Secretary?

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Thank you.  Thank you for the question.  Look, a basic tenet of the MSP is the fact that we need African countries to be more than attractive countries.  This is an opportunity for African countries to become value-added producers as well, and that has a number of benefits.  One benefit that it has is that it keeps the supply chains close to each other to – obviously to – having processing next week’s ration shortens a lot of the shipping costs and the time.  So it helps the resilience of our supply chains.

But the other benefit that it has, and it – that – it’s one that it’s recognized by leaders when I speak to them – I mean, their eyes literally perk up when I talk about our desire to engage with African countries in that, in value-added production.  This creates jobs and it creates good jobs.  And not only does it create jobs, it also provides the kinds of technical upscaling that we want to do and that attracts countries and that attracts governments.  In – the history is full of projects, viable mining projects that didn’t see the light of day because communities were against it, because communities didn’t see the benefits that they provided.

What we’re aiming to do in the MSP is to bring those benefits to the communities, to the mining communities.  And we believe that this – again, I keep talking about our calling card.  This is one advantage that we aim to continue providing.  And then frankly, I think we’re pushing an open door.  This is what African countries want to see.  Right now in our MSP scorecard, we have 17, I think at last count, projects that we’re actively reviewing, and they span the supply chain.  They go from production to smelting to processing, and this is the kind of emphasis that we will continue to provide going forward.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Mr. Under Secretary.  So for our next question, we’d like to go to Ms. Kemi Osukoya of African Bazaar Magazine.  And Kemi asks:  “What are some of the successes and achievements you have made since you started attending the mining conference three years ago?  And how has it helped foster stronger ties between the U.S. and African nations?”

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  So this has been – this is a very enlightening evolution.  And the first time I was here, I was here to gather ideas as to how we could work with African countries so that they could take advantage of their mining resources.  The second time, last year, I told them that because of the conversations I’ve had here and also because of our engagement with our companies, we had decided to create the Mineral Security Partnership that at that time included about 11 countries.  Since then, it’s grown to 14 plus the EU.

And I also said in the keynote speech, as I mentioned at the beginning, that I would hope to come back next year and show that we had projects to announce, because this was not about philosophy – it was about doing deals, doing deals that brought benefits to African communities.

This year, frankly, it’s been an opportunity for us to show that, after a little bit over a year, we have results.  And in the mining world, to have projects that are actualized in the year or so is lightning speed.  Projects can – in the mining world, sometimes they could take as much as 20 years to come onstream.  So what I was able to do is to remind or mention the four projects that we had announced in London in October, that included four – that included one in Mozambique, a Twigg Exploration & Mining, where our DFC – our Development Finance Corporation – approved a loan of up to $150 million in financing and processing.

And then also to mention and to announce the agreement between Gécamines of the DRC and JOGMEC, which was an agreement that we were proud and we were happy to be able to facilitate by putting the two parties in place.  And this is an agreement that will expedite – will expediate production in the DRC, will diversify consumers for the DRC, and that will lead – and that will lead to a much more resilient supply chain going forward.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Under Secretary.  So for our third question, it comes from Basila Alain of KBS in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  And the question is:  “How will the United States contribute to the announced growth of the mining industry in Africa?”

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  (Inaudible) part of our company to participate in the mining opportunities in Africa.  We met with many of them.  We – I think we all understand that – just how important it is to ensure that the world has the critical minerals we need for the energy transition, which is why we’re bringing diversity and choices into this vital sector.

So we – while we’ve been here, we’ve met with companies.  We’ve also met and we’ve had joint meetings with many government officials, with Development Finance Corporation, our DFC, as well as our EXIM Bank, the Export-Import Bank of the United States.  Both of those institutions in the U.S. have made it a priority to help finance critical mineral projects in Africa and elsewhere.  And not only DFC and EXIM but also their counterparts in the other countries that are members of the MSP.  And this is something we will continue to leverage.

We have not only our official institutions, but we have a very vibrant private banking sector, private financial sector that wants to participate, and it’s our job as part of the MSP to be able to create the conditions, help create the conditions that make their investment viable, and also to provide them with the information that they need to make their own choices in whether to – to go forward.

And that’s why recognizing the important role that the private sector has to play in meeting the critical minerals challenge – last November, we launched MINVEST, the Mineral Investment Network for Vital Energy Security and Transition that I mentioned earlier.  And what we’re doing there is basically looking to engage the private sector to spur investment in mining, processing, and recycling.  We had – one of the things that we did while I was here is we cohosted a public-private dialogue with Prosper Africa through our MINVEST partnership.  And this – we had about 25 guests from the government officials to companies to corporate equity shops – all of which are looking to invest in this area.  So this is – I think part of what I go back with this – on this trip is a confirmation of the interest of our private sector, and that’s why I believe that there will be opportunities to invest and finance projects at all stages of the supply chain here in Africa.

MODERATOR:  All right.  So as you know, our time is running a bit short.  I think we have time for one more quick question, and the Under Secretary was just discussing the Minerals Security Partnership so we do have one question specifically: “What are the advantages of the Minerals Security Partnership for African countries?”

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  Look, there are many – there are many benefits.  The most obvious one is you’re talking about countries that comprise over 50 percent of the world’s GDP, that have a very strong private sector, that have various sectors that have very strong financing institutions.  And this is our way of galvanizing them to invest in Africa, which is why – which is why we have engaged them while we were here.

All of – I – this is a conference that I believe has as many – I’ve heard the number 8,000, but it’s got thousands of potential investors and financing institutions here, all of which are prepared to invest – and many of them come from the countries that are part of the MSP.  Would – in general the private sector and the MSP countries, which is why we’ve been very careful in our – in India – India must be the highlight.  This – they demand accountability.  They demand traceability.  They demand high ESG principles.  This is what their customers, what their shareholders insist on.  And so we feel good about facilitating contacts between our private sector and government institutions here with projects.  And those – those government institutions are keen to engage with our companies, so we will continue to do that.  And that is, in my mind, the one – probably the most – the single most important advantage that we are – that we have as part of the MSP.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much, Mr. Under Secretary.  I wanted to know if you have any final words or thoughts to share with us.

UNDER SECRETARY FERNANDEZ:  It’s been a very productive two days.  Let’s not also forget about our commercial relations and our other relations with Africa.  From the U.S. side, we continue to be proud – very proud – of the work that we’ve done in this continent through PEPFAR.  That’s saved 25 million lives plus – plus lives and enabled over five and a half million babies to be born HIV free.  The fact that our development aid is $13 billion in 2022 – was by far the largest amount of bilateral aid of any – of any country in the world.  The fact that our – and on food security, over half of our food security budget goes to African partners.  That’s – you’re talking over $9 billion worth of food security to Africa since the start of the Biden administration.  I could go on.

Our trade continues to grow with Africa.  It’s trade that is beneficial both to Africa and to the U.S. and that we will continue to promote as part of our – part of our job, and we think it will be beneficial for both – both sides.  So this is – this is fertile ground for the U.S.  We will continue coming back.  And the emphasis that we’ve shown in – on our relationship with Africa, both commercial and political and people‑to‑people, will continue.  And thank you all for taking the time.

MODERATOR:  All right.  That concludes today’s briefing.  I want to thank the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez for joining us and thank all the journalists for participating.  A recording and transcript of today’s briefing will be distributed to participating journalists as soon as we can produce them.  If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at AFMediaHub@state.gov.  I would also like to invite everyone to follow us on Twitter at our handle @AfricaMediaHub.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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