Africa is establishing the foundation for an era of electric vehicles

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E-mobility encompasses electric vehicles, ideally powered by renewable energy, from two-wheelers to cars and buses. South Africa is witnessing significant progress in this direction, aligning with its carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Key initiatives include the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan, focusing on battery storage and renewables. Efforts are also underway to formulate an EV Masterplan and a Critical Minerals Masterplan with inputs from relevant government departments.

In the private sector, BMW announced plans to manufacture the BMW X3 as a plug-in hybrid for global export in Tshwane. Importantly, there has been a surge in the importation of electric and solar batteries, along with the growth of battery assembly, particularly in the Western Cape.

These local developments complement continent-wide initiatives, including the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), prioritising the automotive and transport/logistics sectors. The African Association of Automotive Manufacturers (AAAM) is collaborating with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on a comprehensive strategy, while Afreximbank supports automotive investments through various programmes. Critical minerals and renewable energy are set to become focal points across Africa.

Several African countries are actively incentivising electric vehicle and e-mobility adoption. For instance, Rwanda plans to introduce electric buses, cars, and motorcycles. Kenya has established an E-mobility Taskforce to develop a National Electric Mobility Policy covering all transport modes, fostering an enabling environment, and recommending incentives for import, local production, assembly, and more.

Initially, e-mobility is likely to gain traction in public transport and two- to three-wheelers before wider automotive adoption. The path of e-mobility will vary across African nations. Countries with a higher prevalence of two- and three-wheelers, like Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, will prioritise electrifying these modes. In South Africa, a significant opportunity lies in adopting e-mobility within the public transport and delivery sectors, addressing a pressing market need.

South Africa stands out as a potential leader in the African e-mobility revolution for several reasons. The continent urgently needs affordable and sustainable mobility solutions. South Africa’s local manufacturing capacity can meet the demand for lithium battery cells, thanks to abundant raw materials. With a mature automotive sector and various trade agreements facilitating exports, such as the European Partnership Agreement and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), South Africa can leverage the AfCFTA’s rules of origin.

By nurturing a diversified e-mobility manufacturing sector, South Africa can expedite its transition to a greener future, meet climate goals, promote industrialisation in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063, and create jobs. Beyond car assembly, South Africa can participate in manufacturing cells or batteries for EVs, stimulating regional economic growth and fostering engineering talent.

Compiled by Warren Hawkins