Dar es Salaam. The international community will gather in Dubai in less than two weeks to assess its progress in halting climate change.
A key topic at the UN climate change conference (COP 28) will be the energy revolution, as the world tries to wean its dependence on fossil fuels by replacing them with renewable energy in every sector of the economy.
In the realm of mobility, Tanzania is a leader and a laggard at the same time: It is the leading country in East Africa in deploying electric two- and three-wheelers.
Over 5,000 such vehicles, mostly motorbikes, are currently used in the country, as a report by the NGO the Africa E-Mobility Alliance revealed in March this year. The numbers for electric four-wheelers, however, are far less impressive. Only a handful of electric cars are in use, and electric buses have yet to be introduced.
Ali Masoud, famously known as Kipanya, aims to quickstart the novel market. Last year, the well-known cartoonist and radio personality presented his first electric car, a self-designed small pickup vehicle made with parts imported from China.
He reworked the model into a more powerful version and will put ten vehicles on the roads by February next year.
He plans to first offer delivery services with a small fleet in Dar es Salaam and other major cities. At a later stage, his company, Kaypee Motors, will start taking orders for the car.
“People first need time to trust our vehicle,” he explains. So far, he has invested roughly US$150,000 in the endeavour and plans to use his fame to promote the product.
Masoud is one of the few entrepreneurs in the nascent market. E-Motion, a company based in Arusha that retrofits combustion engine vehicles with electric motors for safari tours, is another player.
The Kenyan firm Drive Electric has also begun selling electric cars in Dar es Salaam. Overall, the selection for potential buyers is tiny.
Kipanya believes that a sceptical public must first be convinced of the new product’s advantages, a view shared by Paschal Giki, an associate researcher at the Africa E-Mobility Alliance.
“Awareness is lacking,” says Giki in an interview with The Chanzo. “Electric cars get little publicity in Tanzania.”
Electric cars are well suited to Tanzania’s mobility needs, experts say. Electricity is less expensive than in neighbouring countries.
Charging electric vehicles during the night over the grid can save drivers a lot of fuel costs, and the e-cars require less maintenance than conventional cars, which promises further savings.
Giki, however, sees several hurdles to fully developing the electric car market in Tanzania. Even though driving an e-car offers savings, the initial price is still higher than a conventional one.
Another problem is the lack of a charging infrastructure; , there are only two charging stations in the country, Giki told The Chanzo. The electric grid’s reliability, with frequent power outages, is another issue to tackle.
Giki also stresses the need for supportive government policies, such as setting clear standards and lowering tariffs for importing electric vehicles and parts. Furthermore, electric car startups often have difficulties acquiring loans and funding from investors.
The Chanzo contacted the Land Transport Regulatory Authority (LATRA), which oversees the car market, to ask if there are any plans to address the hurdles experts have pointed out. Still, LATRA was not immediately available to comment.
How soon electric cars will gain a foothold in Tanzania is yet to be seen. Kipanya, for his part, is sure that the technology – and therefore his company – have a bright future there.
“We cannot compete with Tesla or Volkswagen,” Kipanya explained during an interview. “But we can compete with the makers of three-wheelers from China.”
Marc Bürgi reports for The Chanzo from Dar es Salaam. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.