Is sub-Saharan Africa ready for the electric vehicle revolution?

Sub Saharan AfricaThis article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Katie Hill, Advisor, Omidyar Network & Rose Mutiso, Co-founder and CEO, Mawazo Institute & Rebekah Shirley, Director of Research, Power for All

Africa is urbanizing faster than any other continent, at a rate of 4% every year, compared to the global average of 2%. Its rapidly growing urban population continues to strain existing infrastructure – transport and energy, in particular.

Firstly, sub-Saharan Africa’s transport is almost entirely fuel-based. This creates a cost burden for citizens and a fiscal burden for countries. In Nairobi, residents spend 14-30% of their income on transport. To protect consumers from ever increasing fuel prices, African governments heavily subsidize fuels, at an average cost of 1.4% GDP.

However, these subsidies disproportionately benefit higher-income households. As cities expand, oil demand grows and the problems of fuel scarcity and cost loom larger. Pollution from fuel-based transport is also a major contributor to growing air quality concerns in African cities.

Secondly, demand for electricity in Africa is increasing rapidly. It is anticipated to quadruple by 2040. It is often overlooked that many African countries already rely on low-carbon technologies such as geothermal energy and hydropower. In 2017, 77% of Kenya’s energy demand was met through renewable energy. Many African countries are looking to low-cost renewables with abundant potential, such as solar and wind, to grow grid capacity. One critical challenge is that these sources are inherently variable (or “intermittent”) and often do not coincide with times of highest electricity demand from consumers. Energy storage that allows electricity to be saved and used at different times of day is a key component for ensuring the viability of renewables in Africa.

This is where electric vehicles (EVs) come in. Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries urgently need a transport alternative to stave off the growing burden of fuel dependency and subsidies, as well as an electricity storage solution to leverage their abundant renewable energy resources. EVs, powered by electricity and running on battery storage, offer a potential solution to both these problems. Furthermore, as EVs produce no direct emissions through the exhaust pipe, they can improve the air quality of Africa’s congested cities.

Internationally, the EV market is already growing at exponential rates, with more than 3 million vehicles sold globally. Every major automobile manufacturer now has hybrid and full plug-in EVs in commercial production. By 2040, 54% of new global car sales and 33% of the world’s car fleet will be electric, according to experts.

Annual global electric vehicle sales, by market

Annual global electric vehicle sales, by market
Image: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

China and India – the world’s largest and fifth-largest automobile markets, respectively – are great examples of what is possible in emerging markets with the right policy interventions. Both aim to switch to EVs to improve their energy security, reducing long-term dependency on imported oil (in 2016, this stood at around 66% of crude oil consumption in China and 80% in India).

Another key driver for their adoption of EVs has been both countries’ rapidly worsening urban air quality. India is seeking a completely electrified vehicle fleet by 2030. China’s government anticipates that ‘New Energy Vehicles’ (NEVs) will reach 5% of total vehicle market demand by 2020 and 20% by 2025. Both countries are implementing policies and subsidies to realise these goals. The Chinese government has already spent $3 billion on promoting EVs.

This is the perfect time for African countries to explore the potential of EVs. Many SSA countries will be making large investments in power capacity in the next decade. Vehicle ownership will rise dramatically over that period, given population growth, increased urbanization and a rising middle class. SSA countries have the opportunity to pursue an energy-secure and lower-cost path, taking advantage of the strong global EV trend, before locking themselves into greater dependency on imported fuel and a carbon-intensive energy grid.

That said, there are challenges that affect the industry globally, as well as obstacles specific to SSA countries. Global issues include the need for significant infrastructure investments (such as dedicated charging stations), grid integration and planning requirements, as well as change in consumer attitudes and behaviour.

The unique challenges to viability in the SSA region are exemplified by the recent debate around electrifying Kenya’s new rail system. Firstly, a large EV fleet would require a reliable power supply and reasonably low electricity prices, both of which could be an issue in SSA countries. Electricity blackouts occur on a daily basis in 30 out of the 48 countries, and electricity prices can be more than double those in the US and China.

There is also the environmental issue of battery manufacture and disposal, which could be more challenging in SSA due to often relatively informal waste management systems. Lastly, international examples demonstrate that rapid EV adoption requires strong enabling policies, including tax incentives and subsidies, which is tricky given many competing priorities for limited government funding in SSA.

Further data and research are vital

So, what next? There are unique conditions in SSA that indicate EVs could help solve two fundamental infrastructure challenges, around transport and energy. There are also big question marks around viability and relevance. One thing is clear: this topic warrants further study. There is essentially no data or research on EV potential in SSA. The two major annual EV publications (International Energy Agency and Bloomberg New Energy Finance) do not feature any data specific to Africa. There should be dedicated and objective policy analysis by domestic energy and transport ministries, as well as an increased effort to integrate Africa into international EV research.

We know that Africans will continue to experiment and push boundaries. When Romano drives his Nissan Leaf around Nairobi, he is constantly stopped and asked questions by curious passers-by.

“Does the vehicle have an exhaust pipe?”

“Can I get up-country to visit my family on one charge?”

“Will I get electrocuted if I drive in water?”

Expect to see more EVs on the streets of Nairobi and across the continent, as Romano and other first-movers continue to break ground, until policy-makers follow suit.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU Youth Conference in Amsterdam: enabling young people to engage in a diverse, connected and inclusive Europe

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

The four top Americans who flew to Europe perplexed things about Trump’s intentions

Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Guterres in Kenya, Prisoners sick in Iran, #GlobalGoals, Myanmar, Ukraine updates, and new space partnership

Iraqis paying an ‘unthinkable price’ to be heard, UN envoy tells politicians in Baghdad

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

Migration: Better travel safe than sorry

Myanmar military target civilians in deadly helicopter attack, UN rights office issues war crimes warning

European Youth Forum welcomes the European Commission’s proposed revision of the Union Code on Visas, however it does not go far enough

Innovation can transform the way we solve the world’s water challenges

Effective multilateralism the antidote to today’s ‘divisions’, Holy See tells UN Assembly

How building renovations can speed up the electric vehicle revolution

Online shopping across the EU to be easier from 3 December

Key economic forum in Russia: New technology a ‘vector of hope’ but also ‘a source of fear’ says Guterres

Canada has the most comprehensive and elaborate migration system, but some challenges remain

Nuclear non-proliferation treaty an ‘essential pillar’ of international peace, says UN chief

Food safety: more transparency, better risk prevention

Number of members in Parliament’s committees to change after Brexit

Worldwide UN family celebrates enduring universal values of human rights

UN chief hopeful for Libya, after Quartet meeting in Tunis

‘Dangerous nationalism’ seriously threatens efforts to tackle statelessness: UNHCR chief

Why do medical students need to go abroad to become a doctor in 2017?

State aid: France to recover €8.5 million of illegal aid to Ryanair at Montpellier airport

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe needs decisive progress for stronger cybersecurity”, EU Commissioner Gabriel highlights from Brussels

Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €127 million to boost EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme

Employment: Commission proposes €1.6 million from Globalisation Adjustment Fund to help 400 workers made redundant in Carrefour Belgique

Tiny Iceland teaches the West how to treat bankers

Yanis Varoufakis: “Unsustainable debt turns the creditor into Leviathan; Life under it is becoming nasty, brutish and short”

Following the World Cup? Then you’re watching high-performing migrants at work

EU cross-border payments outside Eurozone: MEPs scrap excessive fees

UN urges protection of indigenous peoples’ rights during migration

This incredibly detailed map of Africa could help aid and development

The movement of anti-vaccers: taking humanity back 200 years

The city of Quito just made commuting quicker and safer

Mind control using sound waves? We ask a scientist how it works

Tech companies are changing, for the better

MARKUP initiative to boost market access to Europe for East African SMEs

Tourism offers much to the EU gets a little

Why India can show us how to achieve growth with purpose

Gender equality in STEM is possible. These countries prove it

3 ways to use digital identity systems in global supply chains

Chinese economy to raise speed and help the world grow

How India is harnessing technology to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution

After swallowing effortlessly the right to be forgotten time for Google Ads now to behave

EU Youth Conference in Riga concludes with recommendations for ministers

Ozone on track to heal completely in our lifetime, UN environment agency declares on World Day.

With half of Somaliland children not in school, UNICEF and partners launch education access programme

Security Council calls for dialogue in Haiti

Spain will soon overtake Japan in life expectancy rankings. Here’s why

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Press Freedom Day, Tuna Day, cultural dialogue, #GlobalGoals awards, updates on Syria, Somalia, Mali

The Irish Presidency bullies the Parliament over EU budget

Multilateralism must weather ‘challenges of today and tomorrow’ Guterres tells Paris Peace Forum

Friday’s Daily Brief: human rights in Sudan, sombre anniversaries for Rwanda and Nigeria, and fears of ‘chaos’ in Libya

European Youth Forum demands immediate action & binding agreement on climate change

Economic sentiment and business climate stagnate in miserable euro area

Climate change recognized as ‘threat multiplier’, UN Security Council debates its impact on peace

Easier Schengen Visas for non-EU holiday makers: A crucial issue for south Eurozone countries

Here’s how to rebut the climate doom-mongers

Backed by UN, Asia-Pacific countries to advance space technology for ‘development transformation’

Rural women a ‘powerful force’ for global climate action: UN Secretary-General

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s