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HomeNewsDRC, Zambia CSOs call for transparency on EVs 

DRC, Zambia CSOs call for transparency on EVs 

By Derrick Silimina

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia have urged their governments to be transparent over the recently signed cooperation agreements to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

Many Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) have recently been signed to support the cooperation agreement including the USA, DRC and Zambia tripartite MoU concerning support for the development of a value chain in the EV battery sector, the European Union (EU)-Zambia MoU on a partnership on sustainable raw materials value chains, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Afrexim Bank framework agreement with the DRC and Zambia for the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) to produce battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and related services.

In a joint statement, the CSOs have acknowledged that the initiative is very important, not just for the DRC and Zambia but for the entire African continent as well as for civil society to constructively support the two governments to ensure that the project is successfully implemented for the benefit of the people of the two nations.

“However, it is unfortunate that none of these documents have been made publicly available to citizens in both affected countries despite declarations that CSOs remain important players in the development agenda,” read the statement.

The joint meeting held at Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka recently comprised of the Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA), Mine Workers Union of Zambia (MUZ), Publish What you Pay Zambia, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) Femmes Entrepreneurs dans les Mines, de l’Agropastoral et divers secteurs au Congo, Norwegian Church Aid-Joint country Programme ,Sustainable Natural Resource Empowerment Initiative, Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates, FuturePreneurs Zambia, Association of Mine Suppliers And Contractors, and Civil Society for Poverty Reduction among others agreed to establish a forum to be called “Pamoja Critical Minerals Forum” whose main objective is to monitor and engage with the implementation of EVs cooperation agreement, and to mobilise communities to hold both governments to account.

They observed that for the battery initiative to be sustainable, it requires meaningful and effective citizenship participation as leaders need to ensure that they serve the interests of their people first and show a level of transparency that earns the respect and trust of the communities they represent

“Our leaders have not demonstrated a genuine commitment to put their citizens first (especially youth and women) in the development of the joint battery manufacturing initiative,” the statement read in part.

The CSOs further stressed that good mineral resource governance means placing the right of every citizen to participate in all decisions that affect them, and that right must be at the centre of this battery initiative from project design, implementation to operations and decommissioning.

“We cannot repeat the same historical mistakes of irresponsible extraction and use of our resources. As the battery initiative gathers momentum, our governments must develop comprehensive policies on critical minerals extraction and beneficiation that must be aligned to industrial and economic transformation,” the CSOs stated.

They have since urged the governments of the DRC and Zambia to put in place a deliberate skills policy to train the Congolese and Zambian youth in skills and technology in preparation for the takeoff of the battery industry to avoid importing specialised labour, the need for governments to make use of the already existing higher learning institutions such as the University of Zambia (UNZA), University of Lubumbashi (UNILU) which hosts the African Center of Excellence on Batteries, the Copperbelt University (CBU) and the Technical Education, Vocation and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) and introduce, in partnership with international technical experts, special skills on EV Battery manufacturing in the wake of the planned establishment of the industry as well as the need to be more transparent when coming up with MoUs rather than excluding the communities that will be affected by decisions made.

Other recommendations made includes to establish an inclusive bottom-up approach that needs to be implemented, an urgent need for the governments to engage in a wide consultative process on the planned establishment of the EV battery manufacturing industry in the DRC and Zambia, the need for the two governments to create enough space for consultation and engagement before putting ink to any document, especially regarding anything that is in the interest of citizens of the two countries and also the two governments should respect the land rights of the local people where the factories for EVs are to be set, and proper resettlement procedures in line with applicable policies and legislation among others.

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