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Whisper it quietly but Africa is starting to manufacture electric vehicles

21 countries have EV plants or are about to get them. Is the continent wisely attuned to a strategic opportunity -- or getting ahead of itself?

Hello – the mobility sector has had a good year in Africa so far. Adoption of electric vehicles is accelerating. 

Consumer interest is highest around electric motorbikes, the vehicle category furthest advanced. 

But industry insider conversations more often focus on production and whether to base it locally. 

We have all watched Asia industrialise over the past generation, thanks in part to localised vehicle manufacture. 

Africa missed out. But electric mobility could be a chance to catch up now. 

It’s a major gamble though. It could pay off. But much would have to go right, as we report this week. 

Today’s reading time: 4 mins

LOGISTICS UPDATE | Thursday 13 June


📆 Nigeria hosts NOG Energy Week (June 30)

📆 Kenya to host Global Off-Grid Solar Forum (Oct 8)

📆 New & Renewable Energy conference held in Egypt (July 2)


💼 Sistem.bio is looking for global head of carbon sales 

💼 Palladium seeks a consultant in green jobs (Uganda)

💼 Climate finance consultancy at Global Green Growth Institute

1.🚁 Heli view: The road to green industrialisation is long but hardly unpaved

Africa only has a few ten thousand electric vehicles rolling on tarmac so far and less than a thousand charging stations. 

  • But that has not deterred EV manufacturers from setting up locally. 

  • Production plants are already in or coming to 21 countries on the continent. 

Why it matters: Africa’s green economy must offer prosperity to local people as much as climate relief for the planet. 

  • Without green jobs such as in local manufacturing, popular support for costly new green infrastructure will be limited. 

The granddad: South Africa has long been a manufacturing site for fuel cars on the continent, making more than 500,000 a year, employing 100,000 people and contributing 5% to GDP.

  • It is now pivoting away from internal-combustion engines to a greener variety.

  • Ford invested $281 million in a hybrid vehicle facility to make 44,000 cars from this year. 

  • Stellantis put $158 million into an electric Jeep plant starting this month. 

New entrant: Nigeria has been mostly absent from the global vehicle industry despite the size of its market. That is changing. 

  • Innoson, a local champion, plans to set up an EV manufacturing plant in Nigeria.

  • The company said, “It doesn’t make sense to import batteries and major components.”

  • The Nigerian government also mooted an EV production deal with partners in Korea.

Supply chain: Beyond manufacturing vehicles, operators are also aiming to make parts onshore in Africa. 

  • A Chinese company is spending $1.3 billion on an EV gigafactory in Morocco.

  • Botswana’s Giyani is investing $26 million in producing EV batteries.

Zoom out: Critics suggest Africa is not engaged in “real” manufacturing but mostly “assembly”. 

  • The critics misunderstand how modern manufacturing works.

  • Nobody builds from scratch. All production is a form of (more or less) assembly. 

First step: Some assembly means low-skill labour fitting together a few parts of a standard kit. 

  • The immediate value-add is small. But this is a stepping stone to full manufacturing. 

  • The difference between the steps is often fluid. It’s a progression on a value curve.

  • One leads to the next. Once demand is proven, assembly can be upgraded.

Explosive growth: Assembly has popped up all over the continent in the past year.

  • Roam created an East African assembly plant for 50,000 e-motorbikes annually.

  • Spiro plans to assemble 1,000 e-bikes daily in Togo and Benin later this year.

  • Siltech and Orbit are two West African competitors, sourcing up to 80% of parts locally. 

The big five: It’s not only motorbikes but also buses, cars, lorries and bicycles.

  • BasiGo unveiled an e-bus assembled in Kenya, the fist of a thousand by 2027. 

  • Kiira Motors is set up for assembling 20 buses per day in Uganda. 

  • Ethiopia inaugurated its biggest electric car & lorry plant in Debre Berhan this month.

Business levers: The size of assembly projects is growing and consumer prices are tumbling. 

  • Egyptian investors partnered with FAW, the Shanghai auto giant, to assemble and then manufacture the Bestune E05, among the world’s most affordable electric cars ($17,500).

Undisputed champion: None of this compares to Morocco. It has become a fully fledged manufacturer, overtaking South Africa. 

  • With 220,000 jobs, its auto industry accounts for 22% of GDP and $14 billion in exports.

  • Infrastructure investments and proximity to Spain allowed it to overtake car exports to Europe from China, India or Japan. 

  • “We didn’t export one car 15 years ago,” said Ryad Mezzour, the industry minister.

  • By 2030, he aims for 60% of the annual vehicle production capacity of currently 700,000 cars to be electric. 

Industrial policy: Can other African nations follow this path to industrialisation? 

  • Most answers focus on investment, infrastructure & policy frameworks. 

  • They’re all vital – and tricky. But an even higher hurdle looms.

Free trade: Most national markets are too small to manufacture only for themselves. Vehicles plants need to export to neighbours to be viable. 

  • But that requires open African borders and collaborative industrial policies. 

  • If every country tries to get to the head of the queue, none will. 

  • Europe has struggled with similar problems for decades.

  • Too many national champions could stall the entire mobility transition. 

Good news: How this can work well was shown by Tanzania this year. Its capital Dar es Salam may order electric buses assembled in Uganda for rapid transit. 

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