Forty-two African countries met at the UN Environment Headquarters this month for Africa Clean Mobility Week, in which participants explored opportunities for Africa to leapfrog to cleaner and more efficient mobility solutions. Documents and presentations are available at the link above, and recommendations focused on four main areas: 1) improving fuel economy, 2) regulating used vehicle imports, 3) improving transport infrastructure, and 4) advancing electrification on the continent.
Within the fuel economy regulations recommendations, it was noted that:
The electrification recommendations were interesting as well:
There are lots of challenges with electromobility in Africa, but a key issue I’ll highlight here from my own investigations that isn’t directly mentioned in the recommendations is the revenue that current fuel taxation generates for countries. As I’ve noted to Future Fuels Outlook members in a recent report on assessing future global EV markets, the more dependent a country is on fuel taxation revenue, the more difficult it may be to transition (at least very quickly) to electromobility. The involvement of a national oil company (NOC), of which there are a number on the continent, can further complicate such a transition. This is an area countries, not just those in Africa, will really have to contend with in the coming years.
On the other hand, studies have shown that without concerted action now air pollution could “explode” in the coming years and that could cost the continent hundreds of billions. “Air pollution in Africa increasingly hurts people and hinders economic development. Reducing it requires urgent action by governments to change the unsustainable course of urbanisation. Indeed, Africa urbanises at a very fast pace: today’s 472 million urban dwellers will be around a billion in 2050. Today’s investment choices will have decade-long impacts on urban infrastructure and the quality of life of urbanites,” the OECD has said.
With respect to the importation of used vehicles, it was recommended that countries not accept for importation vehicles that can’t at least meet Euro 4/IV emission standards. And of course, the improvement and harmonization of fuel quality standards, emissions standard and labeling was encouraged. A number of countries are now below 50 ppm sulfur in diesel, but a number are still above 2,000 ppm. Notably, there doesn’t appear to have been any discussion about biofuels, and I don’t think they’re viewed as clean mobility option for the continent.
For more insight on the future of fuels and vehicles in the African context, listen to my podcast interview with Henry Kamau of Sustainable Transport Africa.
Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.