The market for Lithium in Middle-East and Africa is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 10% during the forecast period. Major factors driving the market studied are accelerating demand for electric vehicles and growing usage and demand from the portable consumer elctronics. On the flipside, high dependency on imports for consumption and unfavourable conditions arising due to COVID-19 outbreak, are the major restraints, which are expected to hinder the growth of market.
- Recycling of lithium and its batteries is expected to offer various lucrative opportunities for the growth of market.
- By application, battery segment is expected to account for the largest share owing to increasing usage of lithium for the production of lithium batteries.
- By Country, Saudi Arabia is expected to dominate the market during the forecast period.
Key Market Trends
Growing Demand from Battery Applications
- Lithium is majorly used in battery applications for the production of lithium batteries. The battery application segment accounted for the largest share of the Middle-East and North Africa lithium market in 2019.
- Lithium batteries can be categorized into two segments, namely, disposable and rechargeable. Disposable lithium batteries use lithium in the metallic form as an anode. These batteries have a long life (high charge density) when compared to other standard batteries. These batteries find applications in critical devices with long life, such as pacemakers and other electronic medical devices that are implanted for many years.
- Rechargeable lithium batteries are of two types: a lithium-ion battery and lithium-ion polymer battery. Both these batteries are almost the same but differ in packing (Li-ion battery is packed in a rigid case, whereas a Li-po battery comes in a flexible polymer casing), with Li-Po battery having a tad higher specific energy, when compared to Li-ion battery. In addition, Li-po battery uses a polymer as an electrolyte, instead of standard liquid electrolytes used in Li-ion battery.
- Lithium-ion batteries are employed in several applications, including telecommunication devices and consumer electronics. The lightweight characteristics of lithium-ion batteries, along with high energy density and rechargeability, makes them a good fit for portable electronics. Because of its energy density and lack of ‘memory effect,’ lithium-ion and lithium polymer rechargeable batteries are the most efficient power source for mobile telephones, laptops, and other electronic portable devices.
- The increasing usage of batteries can be attributed to the demand from markets, such as electric vehicles (EVs), cell phones, laptops, tablets, power tools, video games, toys, e-bikes, and other electronic devices.
- However, with the increasing production of lithium-ion batteries, coupled with the steady improvement of battery performance achieved through sustained R&D, lithium-ion batteries price has fallen steeply over the past ten years. The price is expected to decline to USD 100 per KWh in 2025.
- Hence, the aforementioned trends are expected to affect the demand for lithium in the market studied through the forecast period.
Saudi Arabia to Dominate the Market
- Saudi Arabia is an oil-based economy with a strong governmental control over all the major economic activities. In 2018, the annual GDP growth rate was 2.2%. The GDP reached around 2.4% by the end of 2019. The country has more than ~15% of global oil reserves and is one of the leading oil exporters, globally. However, the continuous decline in oil prices has affected the growth and restricted the government from formulating long-term fiscal recovery plans. Due to all these factors, the Saudi government is focusing on the diversification of the economy, to reduce dependency on the oil market.
- The companies are focusing toward the development of electric vehicles in the country. For instance, Lucid Motors, a U.S. based electric car manufacturer, announced that it would be entering select markets in the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia. The company is backed by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), and received a USD 1 billion investment from the SWF to get its first electric car model into production. Customers in Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates, can reserve their Lucid Air sports sedan for around USD 1,000, with deliveries of the car expected in late 2021.
- Moreover, in November 2019, a futuristic electric car known as “Car 2030” was unveiled at the Riyadh Car Show in Janadriyah, near Riyadh. The show is one of the events taking place under the Riyadh Season of entertainment events in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030 plan to develop the entertainment sector and diversify the economy.
- In 2019, Google announced its plans to build data centers in Saudi Arabia, as part of a cloud partnership with the nation and state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco.
- Also, the private sector companies are contributing toward the development of the flow battery market in country, which, in turn, is anticipated to drive the lithium market. For instance, in 2020, Schmid JV began building 3GWh flow battery factory in Saudi Arabia.
- However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in the country, the production and sales of electric vehicles have witnessed a vast decline. This, in turn, has a huge negative impact on the consumption of lithium.
- Hence, the above-mentioned factors are expected to affect the demand of lithium market in Saudi Arabia.
The Middle-East and Africa Lithium market is consolidated, with the top five players accounting for major share of the market. The key players in the market include, Albemarle Corporation, SQM S.A., Tianqi Lithium, Orocobre Limited Pty Ltd, and FMC Corporation.
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