Electric Vehicles Could be the Solution to West Africa’s Fuel Crisis

Electric Vehicles Could be the Solution to West Africa’s Fuel Crisis
Electric Vehicles Could be the Solution to West Africa’s Fuel Crisis

Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. In the past 12 months, every nation of west Africa’s MSGBC sub-region has experienced fuel supply disruptions largely due to the pandemic aftermath, the war in Ukraine, unprecedented oil price highs and civic unrest, termed by some the worst fuel supply crisis in 40 years.

However, such fuel crises may soon become a fact of the past, as Senegal delivers $9 billion in oil and gas developments next year and Mauritania with $43.5 billion of green hydrogen works in the pipeline.

Downstream sectors are expanding their domestic capacity whilst policy reforms write a new future for transport in the form of electric vehicles.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, refined fuel products are predominantly imported, and with west Africa holding the fastest growing population globally, this reliance exerts an unsustainable burden upon economies, leaving them open to outside factors. Swiss firm Addax notably supplies one million tons per annum (mtpa) of fuel oil, kerosene, diesel and gasoline to Mauritania on an exclusive contract, performing similar services in The Gambia, however, both relationships have been fraught of late, contributing to cuts in fuel supply. Senegal, a nation with triple Mauritania’s market, is leading the sub-region with the simple solution of domestic oil refinery facilities at Dakar’s Société Africain de Raffinage (SAR).

Following five months of planned closures for upgrades, the SAR refinery re-opened in late April to wide acclaim, the new $77.4 million facility upgrades including a new preflash unit, expanded catalytic reformer and diesel desulphurization unit increasing its processing capacity by 20% to 1.5 mtpa whilst future-fitting it to run on cleaner AFRI4 and AFRI5 fuels. SAR serves as a backbone of Senegal’s transportation industry, meeting 70-75% of the domestic market’s needs.

Meanwhile, the past five years have seen a rise in the adoption of electric vehicles, from 2.5% of car sales in 2019 to 9% in 2021 and projected to keep on climbing. Considering that the decade between 2010 and 2020 saw Africa’s demand for transport fuels rise 50% and a further two thirds growth is expected by 2040, a clean transition to electric vehicles would remove unreliable fuel supplies from the equation entirely. Already, batteries at 4-6kWh capacity can cover 100-120 kms of daily driving distances, rechargeable through solar and wind at under 4 cents per kWh. The UNEP Global Electric Mobility Program is pushing adaption of electric vehicles across 40 low- and middle-income countries including Senegal along with Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, but MSGBC nations themselves are also taking a lead.

In an MoU signed with the Mauritanian government last year and subsequent agreement, CWP Global have agreed to push the country’s electric vehicles markets, providing public vehicles of its own to accompany the 30 GW of renewable power generated for its $40 billion Aman project. In Senegal, a $212.7 million contract signed last month introduced the country’s Bus Rapid Transfer Project, Africa’s first electric bus fleet with 121 vehicles. This landmark public-private partnership joins the forces of French infrastructure specialists Meridiam with transport firm Keolis via the Senegalese Transport Ministry, revolutionizing transport in the nation’s congested capital with its 3.33 million inhabitants. The electric buses hit the streets next year.

Each one of these developments signals a move towards transportation growth for west Africa’s MSGBC sub-region. As recently as 2020, the Senegalese government under H.E. President Macky Sall’s visionary lead dropped VAT taxes on solar panels and associated technologies, sparking mass uptake of the renewable power source with tens of gigawatts of power generation potential across the country. A similar move, mirroring those taken by other governments, could certainly prove pivotal in electric vehicle adoption, and in a recent interview with Energy Capital & Power, the government-adjacent Green Growth Institute (GGGI) confirmed works underway on a national electric vehicle policy.

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