Africa eyes sustainable transport as clean mobility week begins

Motorcycle transport in Nigeria (PHOTO: ClimateReporter/atayibabs)
Motorcycle transport in Nigeria (PHOTO: ClimateReporter/atayibabs)

By Atayi Babs

Governments from over 41 African countries alongside private sector, civil society and development partners, are in Nairobi this week to explore ways of achieving cleaner mobility across the region.

The week-long meeting which is dubbed “the Africa clean mobility week” seeks to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in Africa by leveraging on technological advancements driving low-carbon mobility within and outside the region.

The Africa clean mobility week, according to the conveners, represents Africa’s quest to transit to cleaner mobility, building on the outcomes of the 2014 Africa Sustainable Transport Forum.

It would be recalled that African ministers, at this forum held in Nairobi in 2014, adopted 13 action points aimed at boosting Africa’s capacity to harness the impact of cleaner mobility on health, environment and economic growth in the region
 
Transportation and climate change

Transportation remains at the very core of development. The sector, considered as an essential enabler of business, comprises movement of persons, products or services using road, air, rail or water.

As important as this sector is, it is not insulated from the impacts of climate change such as heavy rains, sea level rise and pollution. It is also a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions which lead to climate change.

According to a new briefing published by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS), physical impacts of climate change on primary industries are likely to include damage to infrastructure and industrial capital assets, and could reduce availability of renewable natural resources including water.

The briefing which distilled the key findings from the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report for the transport sector indicates that most sector scenarios project that global demand for industrial products will increase by 45–60% by 2050 relative to 2010 production levels.

Rising demand for products used to reduce GHG emissions and to adapt to climate impacts could, perversely, create pressures to increase industrial emissions, the briefing asserts.

Also, a 2016 World Bank report says that transport was the largest energy consuming sector in 40 percent of countries worldwide in 2012. It was second-largest consumer in the remaining countries. According to the report, carbon dioxide gas emissions from energy are expected to grow by 40 percent between 2013 and 2040.

Combating climate change through clean mobility initiatives therefore becomes a right step in the right direction.
 
Imperatives of cleaner mobility in Africa

Across the world, the challenge of curbing or decreasing the sector’s contribution to climate change particularly in urban centres remains ever present.

In Africa, urban transport and the transition to low-carbon mobility have remained strange bed fellows owing largely to commuters’ willingness to leave their cars at home and turn to greener modes such as public transit, cycling, or walking.

Getting Africans to make the switch appears an uphill task as decades of car-centric development, combined with the car culture which projects the private car as a status symbol, have made it hard for African governments to take people out of their vehicles.

With unprecedented motorization rate spurred by high rates of urbanization and economic growth, most countries in the region are not able to plan and provide adequate transport infrastructure and services.

In addition to this, the Stockholm Environment Institute in 2012 reported that only a few sub-Saharan countries operate routine monitoring systems for air quality monitoring standards (Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

Out of the countries investigated, the report discovered that 27 have environment protection acts which were poorly implemented or not implemented at all despite the specifications about air quality in them. This is despite evidence that poor air quality could lead to around 50,000 deaths a year in the region.  

A platform for clean mobility solutions

Despite these challenges, all hope appears not lost as the clean mobility week aspires to develop strategies that promote the importation of cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles; how tools to assess fuel economy policy impacts will be disseminated; and opportunities to leapfrogging to electric motorcycles, electric vehicles and electric buses.

Already, the Africa clean mobility week has recorded a milestone with the signing of an e-mobility partnership agreement between TAILG and the UN Environment on Tuesday.

The agreement targets the introduction of electric vehicles in Africa and other areas of the world by TAILG, a Chinese firm that manufactures electric vehicles.

Speaking on the sidelines of the clean mobility week, Xu Rong, TAILG Marketing Director, said the agreement will help governments of Africa and other areas of the world start phasing out defective vehicles, thus curbing air pollution.

“We intend to show the benefits of driving electric vehicles in accelerating clean environment that is free of pollution,” Xu added.

Access to financing opportunities for cleaner mobility initiatives such as this will take centre stage during the week just as case studies of inclusive transport programmes mainly through investment in non-motorized transport and public transport infrastructure will be shared.

The Africa clean mobility week is expected to draw to a close on the 16th of March 2018 after spotlighting the role of media and the relevance of South-South cooperation on sustainable transport management.

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