The Lobito Corridor will considerably reduce the time and logistical costs involved in transporting production from copper and cobalt mines in Zambia and the DRC. This will make it easier to supply the USA and the EU with these minerals, which are essential to the energy transition.
After announcing a $250 million investment for the section of the Lobito Corridor between Angola and the DRC, the United States is set to release a similar amount to link the corridor to Zambia. This was announced this week by Amos Hochstein, Energy Advisor to US President Biden, on the sidelines of a summit in Lusaka.
Alongside Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema and Samaila Zubairu, CEO of the Africa Finance Corporation, Mr. Hochstein took part in an investor forum on the Lobito corridor on Thursday February 8.
This trade route, currently linking the mines of southern DRC to international markets via the port of Lobito in Angola, is set to play a crucial role in supplying European countries and the USA with copper and cobalt, two metals essential to the energy transition.
In October 2023, a memorandum of understanding was signed between AFC, the African Development Bank, the governments of Angola, Zambia and the Congo, as well as the United States and the European Union.
Together, these players have appointed the AFC to coordinate the mobilization of the financing needed to build an 800 km, multi-billion dollar railway line that will link up with the section of the Lobito Corridor coming into the DRC. One billion dollars has already been pledged by the United States and its partners.
"With AFC as the private sector lead for the development of the project, we aim to start work in 2026 and have an operational rail line between eastern Angola and northwestern Zambia by 2028," said Hochstein, quoted by Reuters.
According to the Zambian president, the Lobito corridor and its extension into Zambia represent a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity for his country. Zambia is looking to attract investors in order to triple its annual copper production by 2030, and the reduction in logistical costs associated with the corridor's development could be an added bonus for the country.
At present, Zambian and Congolese copper and cobalt mines are faced with long shipping times and the high cost of trucking their production to Tanzanian and South African ports.
According to Ivanhoe Mines, which operates the Kamoa-Kakula copper complex in the DRC, the distance between its mine and the Angolan port of Lobito is half that to the port of Durban in South Africa. In early February, Ivanhoe signed an agreement to export up to 290,000 tonnes of copper annually via the corridor.