In recent years, the global push towards sustainable transportation has gained momentum, and Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception. With its unique challenges and opportunities, the region is witnessing the gradual but promising rise of electric mobility, commonly known as e-mobility.
This region of Africa is undergoing a remarkable transformation as it embraces the potential of electric mobility, reshaping transportation systems and paving the way for a more sustainable future. With increasing urbanization, a growing population, and a push for sustainability, the region is becoming a hotspot for innovative e-mobility solutions.
What we know
Rapid Urbanization: Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate, with over 60% of its population projected to live in cities by 2050. This shift necessitates efficient and sustainable transportation systems.
Vehicle Growth: The region has seen a significant increase in vehicle ownership, with a compound annual growth rate of around 7%. Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to play a crucial role in managing this surge while reducing emissions.
Charging Infrastructure: Investment in charging infrastructure is gaining momentum. Countries like Kenya are leading the way, with the installation of public and private charging stations across major cities.
Policy Initiatives: Governments across the region are implementing policies and incentives to promote EV adoption. Tax breaks, import incentives, and emissions reduction targets are some of the measures being taken.
Countries taking the lead
The country boosts of 35 e-mobility companies and 1,350 registered electric vehicles. The electric mobility sector has attracted $50 million in investments and offers significant potential for job creation and economic growth.
In Kenya over 90% of the electricity is generated mainly from geothermal, hydro and wind sources making electric vehicles an even better option if the electricity is produced from renewable energy sources.
Furthermore, Kenya Power is in talks with EPRA to have electric mobility charging stations operate on lower tariff rates compared to the usual household tariff.
If this proposal is implemented bus operators running electric fleets will only pay KES 10-12 per unit of electricity as opposed to the usual KES 22. With an even lower night tariff rate.
The Kenyan state has also been making deals and concessions and giving incentives to accelerate uptake of electric vehicles as it aims to increase the number of electric vehicles on its roads to at least 104,000 or five percent of all vehicles by 2025.
The rest of the East African Region
Tanzania currently has at least 5,000 electric vehicles yet it has only 11 e-mobility companies which so far have raised just about $1 million in investments.
Rwanda has about 900 EVs on its roads while Uganda has nine companies that have raised $5 million, also miles ahead of Kenya in the e-mobility journey.
Uganda’s transformation has been steered by the state-owned Kiira Motors, which produced some of the first electric public service long-distance buses on the continent.
Unlike Kenya, in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda their governments have played a central role in the electric mobility sector.
The Current State of the Industry
The shift toward e-mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa offers numerous benefits
including reduced air pollution, improved energy security, and job creation, however, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a unique set of challenges that influence the adoption of e-mobility.
Limited access to reliable electricity and the high cost of electric vehicles (EVs) have been significant barriers to entry. Additionally, concerns about the availability of charging infrastructure and the impact on local industries have posed challenges.
Nonetheless, these challenges are being met with innovative solutions which include:
- Solar-Powered Charging Stations: To overcome limited grid access, some areas are implementing solar-powered charging stations. These stations use solar panels to generate electricity for EV charging, making them independent of the main electricity grid.
- Battery Swapping: Given concerns about the cost and availability of EV batteries, some regions are exploring battery-swapping solutions. This involves setting up stations where depleted EV batteries can be quickly exchanged for fully charged ones, reducing downtime for charging.
- Local Manufacturing: To make electric vehicles more affordable, some countries are exploring local manufacturing or assembly of EV components. This then has snowball effects that reduce import costs and stimulate local job creation.
- Pay-As-You-Go Models: To address the high upfront cost of electric vehicles, innovative financing models have emerged. Some companies offer pay-as-you-go solutions, allowing individuals to use and pay for electric motorcycles and charging services on a more flexible basis, making these electric mobility solutions accessible to a broader range of people.
- Partnerships with Ride-Hailing Services: Collaborations between electric vehicle manufacturers and ride-hailing platforms have emerged. These partnerships not only introduces EVs to the transportation fleet but also offers valuable data on vehicle performance and user behavior.
- Adapting to Local Conditions: Startups and manufacturers are designing electric motorcycles, tuktuks and buses specifically suited to Sub-Saharan African conditions. This might involve vehicles with longer battery life to accommodate longer distances between charging points or vehicles that can handle rugged terrain.
- Innovative Payment Systems: Some charging station providers are implementing innovative payment methods to cater to communities without traditional banking infrastructure. Mobile money and pay-as-you-go systems allow users to pay for charging services using their mobile phones, bypassing the need for credit cards or physical currency. Bus companies are also using the Pay-As-You-Drive payment system. Pay-as-You-Drive enables owners to pay for an electric bus as they use it rather than paying the initial cost all upfront. Operators pay based on kilometers driven each day. In return, operators enjoy higher income, and complete peace of mind in operating a bus since Pay-As-You-Drive includes charging and maintenance provided free-of-charge.
- Public Transportation Electrification: Introducing electric buses and minibuses into public transportation fleets is a strategy being pursued by various cities. Electric buses not only reduce emissions but also provide a tangible example of the benefits of e-mobility to the public.