EVs show why Africa needs different climate solutions
Tech is the same the world over. But how it’s used and sold varies greatly. Here is how things (should) work on the continent.
1. How to win in Africa’s EV race
The Rwandan capital Kigali will this month receive its first electric buses from BasiGo, the Kenya-based startup omnibus purveyor.
This comes weeks after Kenya welcomed its first locally-made e-bus introduced by Roam.
Why it matters: Electric buses and motorcycles have found a winning formula in Africa, while electric personal cars and battery-aided pedal bikes are stuck in the slow lane.
Notable examples: EV infrastructure is growing especially fast in the motorcycle space.
Kofa & TAILG aim to build 200,000 e-motorcycles and 5,000 battery swap stations.
CrossBoundary Access and Mobile Power announced a $10 million partnership to scale battery swapping in Nigeria.
By contrast: Few Teslas are parked by the side of Saharan roads, and almost nobody pedals a bike uphill supported by a battery. Why is that?
The landscape: It helps to grasp how Africa differs from wealthier continents.
Ubiquitous battery-charging infrastructure has so far proven too expensive.
African buyers are even more price-sensitive than in the rest of the world.
Public transport, including motorcycle taxis, vastly outweighs car ownership.
The winners: African EV companies that are gaining investor interest and market share have managed to finesse these tough conditions.
They’ve chosen a battery-charging model that adapts to local circumstances.
Sought out buyers who are attractive for leasing and other financing models.
Focused on the largest segments in public transport – buses & two-wheel taxis.
Clever charging: Infrastructure for topping up batteries will remain limited. And charging times at mostly low-voltage stations will remain long.
Successful EV companies responded by reducing complexity. They focused on vehicles operating on fixed routes (ie public transport).
They offered either charging only at end points such as bus depots. Or they created stations to swap out rather than charge batteries (practical for motorbikes but not cars).
Smart financing: EV upfront costs can be high. That inspired new financing models such as pay-as-you-drive. Again this favours public transport with its recurring income streams.
BasiGo CEO Jit Bhattacharya said, “The secret is combining financing, charging and maintenance, which allows us to offer a superior product and return on investment."
Climate impact: The continent’s transition to EVs matters beyond what most realise.
A majority of AU nations use low-quality fuel standards predating 1992.
That makes transport a disproportionate contributor to emissions in Africa.
About 1.1 million die annually as a result, ranking second only to malnutrition.
Rising tide: There is hope. The EV sector is enjoying favourable winds.
Rising fossil fuel prices (due to Ukraine & Israel) boost EV attractiveness.
A number of African countries have also started phasing out fuel subsidies.
Government policies including tax & import duties are becoming more EV friendly.
Reality check: Significant challenges still lie ahead though.
Electricity prices have recently risen in many African countries due to dire public finances. That impacts the cost-effectiveness of electric vehicles.
The international price of used petrol vehicles will drop as the rest of the world phases them out. That makes EVs less attractive.
Car catch-up: One day, says Fred Mutitika at BasiGo, the growing prominence of electric buses and motorcycles might enable electric cars and bikes to overtake.
If public transport proves EVs dependable and affordable, individual consumers may be tempted to follow suit and hang up the fuel pump forever.
2. What bio-credits can learn from carbon markets
The role of Africa’s biodiversity in climate action has been under the spotlight in Brazzaville where top political leaders met for the Three Basins Summit.
Few concrete steps were agreed – but the meeting catalysed plans for a new generation of biodiversity credits.
Why it matters: Sustaining diversity is key to the health of Africa’s carbon sinks, such as tropical forests.
Bio-credits are financial instruments designed to support biodiversity.
They put a monetary value on, say, the wildlife in an area over a period.
The landowner can sell the resulting bio-credits, verified by third parties.
The idea: Biodiversity was once seen as an add-on to carbon markets. But in the future, bio-credits may well be traded separately.
The reason is a growing understanding of their specific dynamics as well as a need for more funding.
Biodiversity doesn’t lend itself to a single unit of measurement such as CO2, which makes it harder to evaluate impact.
Carbon is ubiquitous on the planet but biodiversity is specific to a place. That makes it trickier to trade globally.
Despite the differences: Lessons from the carbon markets are central to current biodiversity debates. Four stand out:
The role and compensation of local stakeholders as stewards of the land has long been neglected and still needs addressing in many cases.
The importance of third parties is widely accepted. Certification organisations are already designing standards for biodiversity.
Wide public engagement is necessary to build trust. Carbon markets showed how dependent they are on the presumption of integrity, especially if they require corporate funding.
Regulatory frameworks and governance matter. Industry bodies focused on integrity only appeared in the carbon markets in the past few years and struggled to align with existing practice. It’s critical to set them up prior to market formation, says the Compensate Foundation.
The value: Forests globally are estimated to be worth $150 trillion or double of all stock markets.
That includes Africa’s top carbon sinks – the rainforests in the Congo river basin outrank even the Amazon.
Reality check: Who will pay to maintain them? Bio-credits are one option but it requires scale.
Managing Africa’s 1,802 African national parks alone takes $10 billion.
Only 19% of Africa's land and 17% of the seas around the continent are protected. At least $20 billion is needed to align with objectives of the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Diversity Framework.
Urgent, urgent: Last year, the planet lost 6.6 million hectares of forest, an area larger than Sri Lanka, and deforestation rates increased by 4%.
3. Q&A: Climate leader with answers
Cynthia Makunganya is a regional business director at Burn Manufacturing in charge of marketing and operations for electric pressure and induction cookers.
Q: What media best describes Africa’s climate crisis? A: The movie ‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’. No spoiler alert, but basically inventiveness and youth can create change.
Q: What country in Africa should outsiders visit to learn about its climate? A: I am from Malawi but have lived in Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. We feel the effects of deforestation everywhere.
Q: What climate action have you taken recently? A: We started a reforestation project in my home village Mulanje and have since planted a thousand trees. They have a 70-80% survival rate, which has been really promising and we intend to plant more each year.
Q: Who is your greatest role model in climate action? A: Collectively, my family. We were able to get a majority of the youth in our clan involved in the reforestation project.
Q: What is your earliest memory of the climate crisis? A: The floods of December 2005 and January 2006 in Malawi when more than 40,000 households were affected or destroyed.
4. Media monitoring
Green cash: Egypt issued the continent’s first green Panda bond (denominated in Chinese currency) for $478.7m.
COP28: African climate stakeholders meet to strategise ahead of the Dubai shindig in November.
Big money: Standard Bank of South Africa launches $1 billion fund for renewable energy transition.
How did you like today's edition?
📬 Did a friend send you this newsletter? Welcome, sign up here using their referral link.
Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.