Electric mobility is an opportunity for Africa to sidestep polluting internal combustion engines and leapfrog to eliminate toxic exposures and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles
There were reasons for cheer and excitement when I hopped from a newly assembled electric car to an electric mini bus to an electric commercial van in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, recently. One of them was Nigeria’s first locally assembled electric car, Hyundai Kona.
These vehicles clearly promise the possibility of zipping fast on clean and low carbon pathways to jump ahead of the ageing and polluting internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles, that are worsening the public health risk and energy guzzling in this region.
Even greater excitement has been around the deep policy interest to build an electric mobility programme in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria has considered a target of 30 per cent electrification of passenger vehicles by 2025.
Simplicity of the technology compared to ICE vehicles has enabled start-up based industry to emerge, mobilise resources to respond to the market.
Efforts are under full swing to frame a policy for implementation. The conversation with the officials of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), the technical automotive arm of the government, revealed in July 2023 that their Electric Vehicle Development Plan has entered the final stages for ratification and implementation. The NADDC has already issued licensing requirement and assessment data for the establishment of auto assembly plants in Nigeria.
Nigeria is developing policies and regulatory instruments and implementing pilot programmes, to promote local assembly capacity for electric vehicles (EV) and setting up charging infrastructure. Interest in research and development (R&D), capacity building and innovative business model is growing in Nigeria.
Quite aligned with the experience of the larger Global South, the focus here is also on public transport and para transit vehicles including mini bus (locally called Danfos), buses and commercial vehicles to maximise mobility and emissions gains. Two-wheelers (Okadas) and Tricycles (Keke Marwa) are also of interest even though these are not permitted in most city centres.
Several agreements are in place with global companies from Israel, Japan and others to start manufacturing of EVs in Nigeria. There are reports on start-ups, investors, and venture capitalists scaling up investments and their efforts to lead to launching of 1,000 e-vehicles in Nigeria.
There is also a growing interest to electrify the high mileage delivery fleet. The Jet Motor Company has partnered with GIG Logistics to provide EVs for both transport and logistics services. Companies are also targeting ride-sharing services that are becoming popular. Free license and authorisation will be provided for commercial EVs.
Charging infrastructure is still nascent but taking shape. Uniquely, in view of the constraints of electricity supply, the NADDC has developed and launched models for solar powered charging stations that have been set up in Lagos, Sokoto, etc.
The consumer interest can potentially grow as the costs of recharge of EVs is 50 per cent cheaper than refuelling cost of petrol engines in Nigeria.
However, this programme will require well-designed incentive programme that can help to overcome the challenges of upfront costs that according to reports remain out of range for the average African. The average cost of a new EV is about $55,600 which is much higher than the average annual salary of Lagos residents.
NADDC is now working on a demand incentive programme including possible reduction in vehicle registration and ownership taxes, toll charges and also providing non-fiscal incentives.
Nigeria, like any other country in Africa, is battling growing air pollution, energy security concerns and gradual increase in carbon emissions. Nigeria has the highest population-weighted annual average PM2.5 concentrations, as per the State of Global Air 2021.
The 2016 WHO database shows that its prominent cities including Lagos, Kaduna, Onitsha among others have very high PM2.5 levels. Nigeria is among the top five countries in the world where PM2.5 levels are rising. It also ranks second globally for highest number of newborn deaths from air pollution exposure.
Even though the level of motorisation and vehicle ownership level is low compared to the other regions of the world, it is rising rapidly based on very old, used and imported polluting vehicles.
The average age of 63 per cent of vehicles on road is more than 12 years. According to the IEA estimates of 2019, Nigeria has the second-largest vehicle stock in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of vehicles could grow from 14 to 37 million in Nigeria by 2040 — one of the largest growth in Africa.
Even though the Federal Government of Nigeria has issued a notification for low-sulphur diesel (50 ppm) and petrol (150 ppm) in April 2017, its implementation has been delayed.
Without the fuel, it is not possible to implement Euro III-IV standards for vehicles. Lack of improved local refining capacity and existence of very old refineries is hampering production of low-sulphur fuels.
Extremely slow progress on ICE trajectory can lock in enormous pollution, energy, and carbon as Nigeria — the largest economy in Africa — continues to grow and motorise.
They require a zero emissions pathways at the early stages of growth which if enabled with national policies, investments, funding strategy, and international financing can prevent massive lock in of carbon and pollution and also make the transition cost effective.
Opportunity in their industrial policy: The Federal Government of Nigeria has taken a conscious decision to build its local manufacturing capacity and reduce dependence on imports of vehicles.
The local manufacturing base is being targeted around the cleaner options of compressed natural gas-powered engines (given the abundant natural gas availability) and also EV assembly.
There has been progressive change in import tariff duty since 2014-15 to protect local assembly and make import of vehicles more expensive. These tax policies promote local assembly plants, encourage vehicle manufacturers to invest, encourage local content incorporation and attract content supplier.
The new tax law of June 1, 2023, has imposed additional Import Adjustment Tax on imported vehicles with engines ranging in size from 2000cc to 3999cc and above. This is in addition to the 35 per cent import duty and 35 per cent levy that car importers already pay. The NADDC is working on the possible R&D grant and elimination of import tariff on EV components, and provision of land for charging infrastructure.
Opportunity in energy mix in Nigeria: The win-win for electric mobility in Nigeria is the current mix of primary energy demand that virtually has no coal.
According to the IEA 2019 Energy Outlook for Nigeria, as much as 80 per cent of power generation is from natural gas and most of the remainder from oil. There is also a shift towards solar photovoltaic as the country starts to exploit its large solar potential.
There are of course challenges with respect to access to electricity — about 60 per cent of households are covered currently. Universal coverage is possible with further grid expansion and off-grid solutions.
More progressive fuel pricing policy: Alongside, several policy decisions on transport fuels can have a bearing on the polluting ICE technologies. Uniquely, Nigeria is among the very few countries in the world to have a fuel pricing policy that keeps price of diesel fuel higher than petrol.
In June this year, fuel prices were fully reformed and the subsidy was taken away. Even though the price of petrol has increased several fold, diesel prices are still more expensive.
This has effectively controlled dieselisation of cars and fenced against dumping of diesel cars from the advanced countries and avoided the toxic strap.
The comparative cost of electricity is also cheap and can make EV operations cost effective.
Electric mobility is the right move at the early stages of motorisation in Africa. Despite the challenges of high cost and investment barriers, emerging countries are finding their distinct ways to transition.
Electric mobility is an opportunity for Africa to sidestep the ICE curve and leapfrog to zero emission vehicles and eliminate toxic exposures and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. This cross learning can inform and empower the roadmap in the developing Global South.
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