Why parts of Africa might well jump ahead, but this time with EVs!

It is a huge continent with a very rich history, in some ways it has become the forgotten continent, but parts of it might once again skip to the next level of energy and transportation.


Mats-André Buraas

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Photo: Reisejournalist.no


The continent has a population of 1.275 billion people as of 2018 (and probably more now. More than most other continents there are very big differences between countries and regions that partly can be blamed on European manifest destiny sadly.

But it is so much happening on several places on the map, and like when the prices of mobile phones came down enough for everyone to afford them, they skipped the entire hardline thing and went straight to mobile.

Overseas Investments

Different markets have different needs, progress at different speeds, but it sees few countries have given the richer and more stable countries much attention at all except China.

Chinese companies have been investing all over the place for years, dam projects in Zimbabwe, new railroad lines in Kenya bought masses of land, and also telecommunication projects. No one believes Chinese companies offer state-of-the-art systems with full finance for the goodness of their heart after all, and many people call it new colonization by the backdoor.

But even so many parts of the continent still don’t have a very advanced energy grid everywhere and many people have lower energy consumption than we do in the west, but that’s no good when you have no power, of the grid operator is expensive and partly corrupt.

Because the cost of solar have fallen like a rock the last 10 years together with the price of batteries, that have given several companies (Mango-Solar is one) the idea of simply rent out a solar panel a small battery pack and a LED lightbulb or two if that’s what you need.

This have given many people in rural areas access to light and energy, even a TV and Radio for a monthly fee.

This doesn’t only apply to households, even industry and factories have started to generate their own energy, to such a degree that Kenya’s grid operator is losing out in the competition. 93% or the grid is from renewables, partly because they are expensive and partly because the grid is frequently unstable, with your own solar and battery you can work around that. It also gives women and small families a clean start in life without using candles and a diesel generator as a back-up, and they never have to buy petrol or diesel again.

The UN estimates that air pollution on the continent costs around 200 billion dollars every year in damages. Included in this are health damages, so even without stringent EU rules, several countries are taking matters into their own hands to solve this.

In my mind, Africa is an old Mercedes W123 kept together with strings but never stops running, and a lot of older cars and heavy machinery is sent from Europe and down to Africa every year. That’s partly because few can afford a new car, but also because Europe gets it out of their way. But now used E-Golfs are getting popular even there because their prices have fallen so much that many can afford them.

Here's why Rwanda has the eGolf and SA doesn't | celebzmagazine english
This is a picture of an e-Golf in Rwanda where this vehicle is quickly becoming one of the most popular electric vehicle on the continent.

There are several things happening at once, Opibus from Kenya started off by converting off-roaders to electric for use in national parks, now they do the same with small busses in Nairobi (Kuhudzai, Cleantechninca.com, 2021).

In Ghana the Ora R1 made by Great Wall, a small cheap Chinese car is available. The country currently generates around twice as much energy as it needs (5,000MW/2,612mW) and because they have to pay for the energy even though it isn’t used, because of contracts, it better than the energy that goes to transport than out the window. (Kuhudzai, www.Cleantechnica.com, 2021).

Kampala in Uganda is, on some days, the most polluted city in the world, and heavy transport, including busses, are a great contributor here.

15. Kampala, Uganda - The most polluted cities with the worst air quality  in the world, ranked - CBS News
This is a picture of Kampala, Uganda which is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

The government owned company Kiira Motors are setting up a factory to build the first electric busses here, creating thousands of jobs and giving people access to water and energy, and building locally makes them cheaper than importing from China, they aim to produce around 5,000 busses a year from the middle of next year.

Cape Town in South Africa has committed to using only zero-emissions vehicles by 2025, and Rwanda is aiming to eliminate taxis that use fossil fuels by around that time frame as well. (Keare, 2020)

These are new markets that are open to competition, so why are not for instance Citroén there with the Ami, Renault with the Dacia EV, or maybe VW group with one of their triplets. If you really want to get some scale to your production and broaden brand awareness there are worse things than looking to Afrika, Chinas presence here is part of a very long strategy, and others should dare to take up the gauntlet of affordable EVs to everyone.

Motor vehicles, second hand from abroad less efficient, regulate pollution, long term economics, ambient air pollution to cost 200 billion USD.

Important figures from Africa

There are a lot of exciting things which are taking place in Africa. As most of the continent is a coalition of 3rd world countries this leads to the never-ending positive feedback loop of high levels of smog and poverty. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the future we will see a massive influx in the amount of cheaper to manufacture electric vehicles which will hopefully reduce the smog we see on the streets. By reducing the amount of 2-stroke engines and cat-less diesel with far more efficient EVs we can see a huge improvement in the air quality and further advancement of Africa as a whole.

Change is happening now! Many new Instagrams have been started about the advancement of EVs all around the world. One of the great Instagrams, based out of Nairobi Kenya which is electric_drive_afirca which is a brand tailored to showing the future of electric e-bikes and cars which are making their way down all the way through the continent.

So what needs to be improved?

To start off with the simple answer, it is the grid and pricing. By improving the rigidity of the grid Africa as a whole continent can be more confident in stable sources of power. Considering much of the continent does have quite a lot of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydropower I definitely believe there’s a lot of potential in the harnessing of natural land for clean energy. We know that most nations in Africa do use quite a lot of non-renewable sources of energy but in quantities much less than western countries.

EVs have 100% potential to reverse a lot of the smog issues in major cities around the continent. This could vastly be reduced cancerous Gas is an increase in GDP by reducing externalities such as cleanups and healthcare.

Let us know how you liked this article down in the comments. Thank you for your read.


Keare, J. (2020, 11 18). borgernmagazine.com. Hentet fra www.borgernmagazine.com: https://www.borgenmagazine.com/electric-buses-in-africa/

Kuhudzai, R. J. (2021, 03 01). Cleantechninca.com. Hentet fra www.cleantechninca.com: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/03/01/opibus-scaling-electric-vehicle-conversions-for-mass-transit-vehicles-to-make-electric-mobility-more-accessible-in-africa/

Kuhudzai, R. J. (2021, 02 15). www.Cleantechnica.com. Hentet fra www.cleantechnica.com: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/02/15/you-can-now-get-the-ora-r1-in-ghana/ 

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