Powering Africa's Future: The Drive for Skill and Innovation in E-mobility
Attaining the goal in the Paris Agreement depends on implementing mitigation actions by 2030 and reaching net-zero GHG emissions in the second half of this century. However, setting net-zero targets for individual countries involves equity and fairness considerations. Parties need to significantly increase the ambition level of NDCs -Nationally determined contribution- between now and 2030 to attain cost-optimal emission levels. In this vein, electric vehicles have emerged as one of the main options for decarbonising land transport GHG emissions and achieving a Net-Zero Energy Sector by 2050.
The electrification of vehicles is a promising pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing poor environmental conditions resulting from using low-quality fuels in developing countries. Electric vehicles in urban areas also have the potential to reduce other harmful vehicle emissions, such as NOx, SOx, and particulate matter (PM), which are detrimental to human health and can cause lung diseases and damage lung tissue.
Growth of Electric Mobility in Africa
Africa is a continent with a rapidly growing population and a burgeoning middle class. This growth is driving demand for transportation, but the continent's transportation sector is also a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, there is a growing interest in electric mobility (e-mobility) as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to transport people and goods.
The burgeoning e-mobility sector is catching on across Africa, with Ghana, Morocco, and Rwanda leading the charge toward sustainable transportation. Ghana's government has recognised the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported oil. The introduction of tax waivers on importing electric and hybrid vehicles demonstrates this interest. Furthermore, local company Solar Taxi is pioneering electric motorbikes and cars. However, to foster a broader adoption, Ghana needs to focus on infrastructure development, particularly installing charging stations, public awareness campaigns about the benefits of e-mobility, and strengthening its policy frameworks and incentives that support EV manufacturing and usage.
EV of Ghana based company "Solar Taxi"
On the other hand, Morocco is carving a niche for itself as an African leader in renewable energy and e-mobility. The country's large-scale renewable energy projects could provide ample clean energy for electric transportation. In addition, a deal with Chinese EV manufacturer BYD to set up an electric car plant in Morocco could serve as a critical African hub for EV production. Morocco must expand its EV charging infrastructure to support this growth, implement training programs for technicians and engineers in EV maintenance and repair, and advance government policies that incentivise domestic EV production and purchase.
SESA's Morocco Urban Living Lab launched on November 13, 2023, in Marrakech
With its aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050, Rwanda is also embracing e-mobility. Volkswagen's launch of an e-golf pilot project in Kigali has set a precedent for sustainable urban mobility. Additionally, e-mobility startup Ampersand is making strides with electric motorbike taxis. To accommodate this shift, Rwanda should invest in renewable energy sources to ensure a clean electricity supply for charging EVs, develop a robust network of charging stations in urban centres, and establish government policies that support e-mobility startups and innovation, including access to financing.
Swap station of the Startup Ampersand in Kigali, Rwanda.
The missing link
The world is changing, and the transportation sector is no exception. Ghana, Morocco, and Rwanda are on the brink of an e-mobility revolution that promises to revolutionise how people move. However, realising the full potential of e-mobility will require the collective efforts of public and private stakeholders. Investments in infrastructure, policy reforms, public awareness, and training are crucial to making the transition to e-mobility a success. By doing so, we can drive sustainable economic growth and reduce our environmental impact, paving the way for a brighter future for all. To develop the necessary skills for the e-mobility sector in Africa, various stakeholders, including companies, skills development institutes, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, and universities, need to collaborate.
Education and Training Programs: Governments, businesses, and educational institutions can work together to develop extensive e-mobility training programs that cover the entire value chain, from vehicle design and maintenance to the operation of charging infrastructure. By sharing their practical needs and expertise, businesses can help educational institutions structure this knowledge into a relevant and up-to-date curriculum. Accordingly, the institutions can ensure that the skills taught are practical and valuable.
Apprenticeship Opportunities: Companies must take the initiative and offer apprenticeship opportunities to those looking to gain practical skills and expertise in the e-mobility sector. These apprenticeships provide valuable hands-on experience, benefiting both the individual and the companies by creating a skilled workforce ready to contribute to the industry.
Collaboration between Businesses and Universities: Research and development is crucial in accelerating the e-mobility sector. Universities act as hubs of innovation, and by collaborating with businesses, they can focus their research on areas that will help accelerate the sector's growth. Companies, on the other hand, can benefit from the innovation and fresh thinking that universities provide. By working together, universities and businesses can create a dynamic ecosystem that fosters the development of new technologies and solutions to the challenges facing the e-mobility sector.
Skills Development Institutes and TVET Institutions are crucial in providing hands-on, practical education that focuses on skill development. These institutes need to integrate e-mobility into their curriculum and collaborate with businesses to ensure their training programs are relevant to the industry. Moreover, they can partner with universities to align their training programs with academic research.
International partnerships can accelerate the development of e-mobility sector skills by enhancing access to training resources and expertise through collaborations with international organisations and technology providers in Africa.
Summing it up
The future of e-mobility in Africa hinges on its ability to address the skills gap in the sector. To fully realise the benefits of e-mobility, Africa must prioritise the development of a skilled workforce that can drive innovation, manufacture, and maintain the new generation of electric vehicles and their supporting infrastructure.
Investing in skills development is essential for building the human capital necessary to underpin a thriving e-mobility ecosystem. Improved skills will help mitigate climate change and catalyse economic growth and social development across the continent. As African countries progress with their e-mobility ambitions, cultivating a knowledgeable and skilled workforce is a cornerstone of a sustainable and prosperous future.
By investing in skills development, Africa can create a new generation of professionals capable of ushering in a new era of e-mobility that will benefit the environment and accelerate economic progress and social development. The future is bright for e-mobility in Africa, but it will require the concerted efforts of individuals, organisations, and governments to make it a reality.
Sunny Kodukula is the Research and Capacity Building Director at the Urban Electric Mobility Initiative (UEMI). He has over 18 years of experience working on sustainable urban mobility in emerging economies. This article is drawn from his ongoing work on skills development in Africa: Ghana, Morocco and Rwanda. If there are any questions or queries, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org