Image: Background photo created by user6702303 – www.freepik.com“>user6702303 via Freepik

With the future of the global automotive industry looking increasingly electric, the mix of shifting consumer perception and improving renewable technology has ushered in a revolution in the motoring industry. By 2035, it is expected that the U.S., China, and the EU will have phased out the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles, while by 2050, over 60% of the world’s vehicles sales are expected to be electric.

While the full-scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is critical to achieving international sustainability goals, electric cars currently comprise a mere 1% of the global fleet, with Africa remaining on the backfoot. However, with improvements in charging infrastructure, lower costs for EVs and with increased investments in EV startups, many sustainable development scenarios give insight that 40% of Africa’s fleet of light vehicles are very likely to be electric by 2050.

For the African continent to participate in the electric vehicle revolution, however, African governments will need to work together with private stakeholders and development partners to support the adoption of innovative technologies, the implementation of regulatory mechanisms and the financing of both infrastructure and EV assets. With momentum rapidly building for a global energy transition, many governments in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Rwanda, with its recently announced tax exemptions for EV sales, and Kenya’s push for EVs through climate-friendly policies and focus on electric two-wheelers, have begun to implement incentives for EV adoption, as well as electrification targets for the motor industry.

Numerous initiatives have sprung up across the continent to promote the localization of vehicle electrification in Africa. In Uganda, state-owned vehicle manufacturer, Kiira Motors Corporation, has launched locally manufactured, electric buses. Meanwhile, in Kenya, the voluntary work and educational program, National Youth Society, has supported the development of electric three-wheeler vehicles as well as ongoing electric bus pilot projects in Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi, while the east African country’s utility, Kenya Power and Lighting Company, has announced plans to build charging points countrywide to support the import of electric cars. With plans to expand to other African countries, Rwandan electric motorcycle company, Ampersand, has introduced a new fleet of electric motorcycle taxis.

As urbanization and rising incomes across Africa continues, so too does the demand for vehicles, with the vehicle parc on the continent expected to move from 25 million vehicles today to an estimated 58 million by 2040. As such, a challenge for Africa is to avoid becoming a dumping ground for the developed world’s used internal combustion engine vehicles as larger automotive markets swap them out, in favor of EVs.

Therefore, for Africa to embark on the EV revolution and continue its momentum towards a sustainable future, the continent will need to focus on improvements in electricity access and reliability, implementing policies to promote the development of charging infrastructure to be built ahead of projected demand, and ensuring partnerships with various players in the private sector to accelerate the energy transition. Africa has prime opportunity to leverage its supply of vast natural resources and raw materials – such as lithium, cobalt, and copper – which are critical to the development of EV batteries. Additionally, EV companies already operating in Africa have scope to invest in local innovation for the domestic manufacturing of EV components, such as spare batteries, for local vehicle assemblers to source parts locally.