Africa in Business: BRICS and batteries

STORY: Here are five business stories making headlines in sub-Saharan Africa this week.

1. BRICS foreign ministers asserted their bloc's ambition to rival Western powers.

But talks in South Africa were overshadowed by the question of whether Russia's president would be arrested if he attended a summit in August.

Foreign minister Naledi Pandor said on Thursday (June 1) South Africa was considering options if Vladimir Putin turned up in Johannesburg.

He's the subject of a war crimes arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, and as a member of the ICC, South Africa would theoretically be required to arrest him.

2. Zimbabwe wants its lithium miners to work towards producing battery-grade lithium locally.

And could impose a tax on exports of lithium concentrate in future, Mines Minister Winston Chitando said on Wednesday (May 31).

Zimbabwe hopes its significant reserves of lithium, a battery mineral that's vital to the global drive for cleaner energy, will help revive its ailing economy.

3. Gambia has hired an unnamed U.S. law firm to explore legal action over toxic cough syrups imported from India, according to the justice minister.

At least 70 children in Gambia, most under 5 years old, died from acute kidney injury last year.

A government-backed investigation found the contaminated medicines were "very likely" to have caused their deaths.

Indian drug maker Maiden Pharmaceuticals made the cough syrup and has denied wrongdoing.

4. Long fuel queues returned to Nigerian cities as uncertainty over the fuel subsidy prompted panic-buying.

New President Bola Tinubu has vowed to scrap the subsidy.

And on Wednesday, the NNPC - Nigeria’s state oil firm - hiked petrol prices to $1.21 a liter from about 40 cents.

There are fears that will hurt businesses that rely on generators and push up transport fares.

5. And finally, good news for African farmers as consumer goods giants like Unilever say they're sourcing more of their raw materials on the continent.

Various factors are making it hard to import goods to Africa, including rising energy and raw material costs as well as supply disruptions and currency volatility.

That's why Unilever says it's pivoting to locally sourcing for products sold on the continent even if they aren't cheaper.