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Namibia Joins Resource Nationalism Trend as Demand for Battery Criticals Surges

Resource nationalism has arrived in Africa.

After Zimbabwe banned lithium ore exports last December in a move that only permits concentrates to be shipped out, Namibia has banned the export of unprocessed lithium and other critical minerals, according to Reuters.

The country is largely known as a source for uranium, but also has significant deposits of lithium and rare earth minerals.

With demand surging for the battery criticals — lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel and manganese — as well as other minerals underpinning the green energy transition like the rare earths, the Namibian government hopes to cash in on this development.

Under the plan approved by the Namibian government’s cabinet, only small quantities of the specified minerals —unprocessed crushed lithium ore, cobalt, manganese, graphite and rare earth minerals — would be allowed to leave the country, and their export would be subject to prior approval by the mines minister.

The Namibian announcement ties into a larger trend, which has been noticeable particularly in Latin America, a region with a historic penchant for nationalism, but has also reared its head in other parts of the globe.

ARPN has featured recent nationalist moves in Chile, Mexico and Bolivia, as well as in Myanmar, Indonesia, and China.

However, even in the Western world, government involvement in the critical minerals sector is on the rise. As ARPN previously outlined“while modern Western democracies are typically hesitant to embrace more state intervention in the critical minerals sector, many believe that in order to succeed, the United States and its allies need to learn ‘how to stomach more state intervention [themselves].‘ 

As such Namibia’s announcement is hardly surprising, but it also serves as another reminder that as the U.S. and the rest of the West continue the quest to decouple from China, we will have to carefully balance domestic and global policy approaches — as well as public and private sector roles with economic and security concerns to reflect the geopolitical realities of our times.  This can be best achieved within the context of a comprehensive all-of-the-above approach that focuses on domestic resource development where possible and leverages partnerships where needed.