RE: “Volkswagen’s Rwanda, Kenya operations will complement each other, not compete – CEO” (The New Times, January 22).
Welcome to the future of e-mobility. E-mobility refers to clean and efficient transport, using electric vehicles backed up by a robust ICT infrastructure. As car manufacturers wake up to the reality of the dwindling resources of petroleum and diesel, the race is now on globally for electric cars.
The trend in the ICT industry of making ‘things’ like cars, electrical appliances, etc smart with embedded technologies means that transport industry is on the verge of a pragmatic shift. China has moved ahead of the game making it a requirement that 10% of vehicles must be electric vehicles from 2018.
E-mobility has four actors in its ecosystem made up of vehicles, infrastructure, providers, and regulations/subsidies. Africa is ripe for such an ecosystem to grow, given the low cars per capita ratios in the continent. USA has 795 cars per 1000 people while Uganda has 8 cars per 1000 people.
Coupled with a prospering Africa, it makes a good business case for e-mobility/car sharing ecosystem in the continent.
Rwanda’s ambitious plan for energy is one of the most admirable in Africa making it ideal for electric vehicles. Infrastructure includes charging stations, maintenance, while providers include existing transport companies, IT solutions providers, etc. It’s worth noting that Volkswagen commendably has partnered with a local IT company on this.
On regulations, Rwanda may have to rethink some regulations to accommodate e-mobility while looking into standards for the new breed of vehicles. Norway, for example, has a dedicated lane for e-vehicles.
Africa needs to rethink the old way of approaching transportation. An aspect of e-mobility that is car-sharing technologies could be the next frontier in transport given the promise of much lower costs in car ownership.
Already, Africa is reaping the rewards of a similar revolution: the mobile money. I am confident that Rwanda will prove a game changer in the continent.