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Mining energy's future? The temporal political economy of energy transition metals in Africa

This research explores the global rush for metals required for net zero transition, and its impact on mining-based development in Zambia and Zimbabwe.



Project status



1 Oct 2023 to 1 Sep 2026

An aerial view of a quarry with a blue pool of water in the middle of it.
Dr Barlow's research will focus on the economic and social impacts of mining energy transition metals like lithium, cobalt, and nickel in southern Africa.

Projected price rises of metals required for the energy transition, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, has led to a variety of promises by state actors for increased development in the countries they are extracted from.

Two potential mid-level producers of these metals are Zambia and Zimbabwe, who are currently in the process of exploring strategies to both accommodate demand and improve socio-economic development.

This study focuses on these temporalities of extraction, analysing how differing perceptions of the future influence actions of governments, businesses, and communities involved in the ETM value chains. The overall aim is to better understand the recent changes in the mining sector and the temporalities of the political economy of development.


This project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Project lead

Dr Aidan Barlow

Aidan's primary research focuses on the political economy of the extractives sector in Sub-Saharan Africa through a temporal lens. In particular, I focus on the hydrocarbon sector in East Africa, and the battery metals sector in Southern Africa.

Expected project outputs

Planned academic outputs

  • A monograph published in a highly regarded academic publishing series
  • At least three articles in leading journals in both African and development studies
  • Presentations in academic conferences

Planned policy outputs

  • Engagement with national policymakers in Europe and Southern Africa
  • Engagement with International Organisations relating to responsible mineral supply chains

Contact us

If you have any questions about this project, please contact us.