CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — A top U.S. energy official says Russia's war on Ukraine has driven home the need to diversify supply chains, and that Africa can benefit from this. Jose Fernandez made the comment to VOA Wednesday at an annual conference on African mining in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jose Fernandez, the U.S. Undersecretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment, is the highest-ranking American official ever to attend the Investing in African Mining conference, or Indaba. Indaba is a Zulu word for discussions.
Speaking to VOA, Fernandez said the U.S. is very interested in working with African partners to make the kind of investments that will benefit both sides.
“That’s a message that I’m not sure has been made here in the last few years,” he said.
He said Russia’s attempts to weaponize its oil and gas exports to Europe highlights the fact that the U.S., and other countries, cannot depend on one, or two, or even three suppliers for important products.
“Something we need to diversity is our sources of energy. We need to invest more in renewables. That requires wind turbines, it requires solar panels, it requires electric batteries and other components that are going to be critical for the energy future,” he said.
Fernandez said the U.S. geological service has identified almost 40 critical minerals that are going to be needed for a clean energy future as well as in products like cars, computers and chips — noting that Africa has many of them.
How could the continent benefit?
“In order to do that, it’s going to require foreign investment and one way or the best way to attract foreign investment is to have clear rules and a transparent regulatory regime. What I am here to do, is to see how the U.S. can help Africa take advantage of the opportunity and create jobs,” said Fernandez.
Tony Carrol, executive advisor of the conference, says the importance of Fernandez’s attendance cannot be overstated.
“It’s the first truly high-ranking U.S. government official we’ve had at the mining indaba in the 28 years. He is responsible for the energy and natural resource portfolio within the State Department and reports directly to the secretary of state. His meetings here were meaningful and I think they were enthused about this event and looking forward to coming back,” he said.