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Ed’s note: Removing ICE from our public transport equation

The public transport industry in Africa is at best a hodgepodge and hardly ever considers commuters’ needs. There are historical socio and political reasons for this, which I will not go into but instead, today I want to talk about this industry’s high carbon emitter status.

Carbon emissions aside, July this year marks the end of leaded petrol use worldwide. This achievement results from a global 19-year campaign led by the UN Environment Programme and partners that saw the last sale of leaded petrol in Algeria.

Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) aims to attain zero-emissions vehicles to address climate change and air pollution. The campaign must now focus on removing the internal combustion engine (ICE) from our roads.

Is the removal of ICE to the same degree as was accomplished with leaded petrol even possible? Perhaps it is but with a campaign addressed at a regional level as each country contends with unique challenges. 

According to Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP: “Overcoming a century of deaths and illnesses that affected hundreds of millions and degraded the environment worldwide, we are invigorated to change humanity’s trajectory for the better through an accelerated transition to clean vehicles and electric mobility.”

Andersen’s sentiment is well-founded.

In South Africa, the minibus taxi industry in Gauteng alone emits 23% of passenger-transport carbon emissions. Being such a high emitter makes it a focal point where change will have a significant positive result.

The former business manager of the South African National Taxi Council in Gauteng, Vuyi Majola, believes that across Africa, the taxi industry accounts for a large percentage of public transport. 

She attributes this to the socio-economic conditions, stressing that it is unlikely that this will change in the next 10 to 20 years. “It is therefore imperative that taxi bodies engage in conversations that seek to re-imagine, re-shape and where possible, rebuild efficient public transport with the mobility community on as many platforms as possible”.

It will not be an easy nor quick transition. As the adoption of electric vehicles progresses in developed countries, their ICE offcasts make their way to developing regions. The international policy must prevent Africa and other areas from becoming the dumping ground for old vehicles!

On a positive note, according to Ben Pullen, the Chairman of Smarter Mobility Africa, everything about transportation is in a phase of transition. “Changes are taking place in every mode of transport, from the types of vehicles we use transitioning from petrol or diesel to electric, and in many cases to smaller vehicles, all the way to how we plan our journeys, using mapping and ticketing apps which create a more seamless experience to get from A to B.”

As mobility in all its forms evolves and modernises, so too must our policy, regulation and supporting infrastructure make haste in travelling this road to a cleaner world. The quick wins will be in reviewing import taxes on electric vehicles, stopping the export of used ICE and slowing the global manufacture of new ICE. Another riskier step is investing in new infrastructure that supports the adoption of electric vehicles being the “in thing”.

Before you castigate the government for moving too slowly on the policy front, ask yourself – are you willing to refurbish your petrol station to accommodate electric vehicle charging without a strong market presence? ESI

Until next week.

Editor, ESI Africa 

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.