17 Feb 21

Africa needs EVs – and fast

With EVs still beyond the budget of most consumers even in mature markets, you could think Sub-Saharan Africa’s sluggish electrification efforts are only normal. Wrong, says a recent opinion in the FT: Africa stands to suffer more than most from climate change, so it has a vested interest to go electric fast.

In the article, Vome Aghoghovbia-Gafaar argues that recent catastrophic weather events across the continent may already be caused by climate change. EVs are part of the solution, but some conditions still need to be met. 

Cheap and reliable
For one: cheap and reliable electricity. This is still not the case across much of Africa. But progress is being made. Kenya, for example, produces 93% of its electricity from renewable sources.

Perhaps an even bigger hurdle than infrastructure is regulation – i.e. the complex puzzle of mutually reinforcing policies, subsidies and incentives. In a region still struggling to deliver more basic public services such as healthcare and utilities, this is not a priority. Importing EVs often attracts punitive import fees. This places a massive obstacle in the road to electrification. 

Yet Africa has some inherent advantages, such as a potentially very attractive differential between petrol prices and the cost of powering an EV. One leasing provider in Kenya says they save up to 70% on mileage cost with their EVs. That is one added reason why so-called cleantech is listed in a recent report by EY as one of the next wave of emerging sectors in Africa.

First pioneers
And Africa is already seeing the first pioneers in the EV ecosystem emerge. Take for instance uYilo, a South African scheme that allows excess EV battery energy to feed back into the grid, thus providing a buffer for power cuts. As the article points out, electricity-powered micro-mobility solutions such as e-bikes, e-scooters and so on, could be extremely well suited to empower the people of Lagos (pictured) and Africa’s other booming megacities.

The one crucial thing now missing for Africa’s EV revolution – a modern, capable electricity grid – could soon be within reach, if the right investments are made.  This would create the potential for Africa to carve out a pioneering niche in the global e-mobility ecosystem, for its own benefit and that of the entire world.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs