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

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

UN chief welcomes ‘positive steps’ towards peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia

Eurozone: GDP development heads to naught; the expensive euro serves only Germany

European Commission: Does Apple, Starbucks and Fiat really pay their taxes?

UN rights expert ‘strongly recommends’ probe by International Criminal Court into ‘decades of crimes’ in Myanmar

Austrian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

Does the Commission subsidise a forced labour scheme in Britain?

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Industrial products: Lifting the last impediments in the EU single market

Ukrainian civil war: Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

COP21 Breaking News: Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation Announced

Deutsche Bank: the next financial crisis is here and the lenders need €150 billion from taxpayers

Rural Bangladesh has already embraced renewable energy. Here’s what the rest of the world can learn

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

Why Microsoft is a regular to Almunia’s

ECB to people: Not responsible if you lose money on Bitcoin, your governments are

Oh, well, you are wrong, Google responds to the European Commission

Health Committee MEPs back plans to boost joint assessment of medicines

EU leads the torn away South Sudan to a new bloody civil war

JADE at European Business Summit 2015

10 Downing street: Another desperate attempt to unite Britain on Brexit


Re-thinking citizenship education: bringing young people back to the ballot box

Investing in working conditions and quality jobs

Free and secure access needed in DR Congo conflict zone to tackle Ebola – WHO

Indonesia: Psychological impact on earthquake survivors turns villages into ‘ghost towns’

The MH17 tragedy to put a tombstone on Ukrainian civil war

Uncovered liabilities of €5 billion may render EU insolvent

The G7 adopted dangerous views about Ukraine and Greece

Catalan Pro-Independence vote: how many hits can Brussels sustain at the same time?

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

Facts and prejudices about work

Young people are Europe’s biggest value and hope

ECB’s billions fortify south Eurozone except Greece; everybody rushes to invest in euro area bonds zeroing their yields

EU Ombudsman investigates the European Commission

“We need to use the momentum globally to ensure that corporations pay their fare share of taxation”, EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis outlines from the World Economic Forum 2017.

YOUTH RIGHTS AT RISK FROM RISE OF EXTREME-RIGHT AND POPULISTS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Changing the Face of Europe

Theresa May attempts to ease the EU stance as Britons request another EU referendum

Banks cannot die but can be fined

Draghi’s top new year resolution: Quantitative Easing

The Franco-German axis considers that all EU needs now is more armaments

GSMA head urges regulators to help Europe regain leadership

Commission’s Youth Initiative fails first hurdle by not sufficiently consulting young people

Eurostat confirms a dangerously fast falling inflation in Eurozone

My unlimited China

The Commission tells Berlin it is legally obliged to help Eurozone out of stagnation

Pakistan has just planted over a billion trees

ITU Telecom World 2016: it’s all about working together

Azerbaijan chooses Greek corridor for its natural gas flow to EU

Dark spots on EU humanitarian aid spending

The IMF overstates the risks for Eurozone and downgrades the threats for the US economy

4 reasons why women should lead the G7 agenda in 2018

UN rights chief calls for international inquiry into Kashmir violations

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

4 reasons cities should embrace Universal Basic Income

The New Year 2016 will not be benevolent to Europe

Eurozone officials play with people’s deposits and minds

ECB to buy corporate bonds: Will government financing be the next step?

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

Guinea President Alpha Condé: “We must tackle the root causes of migration”

Medicine and mental health: relax, the doctor is a lifelong learner

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