Ethiopia set to be African electric car trailblazer

African nation says will only allow import of electric cars to combat pollution; although it lags behind in many indicators its emerging market makes strides thanks to foreign investments

Yoel Schwartz|
Ethiopia announced it would be banning the import of cars that run on gas and will only allow electric cars to be sold, in its declared effort to combat pollution and amid the climate crisis. It is the first African nation to do so although a few other nations on the continent targeted 2040 as the year when they will exclusively sell new electric vehicles.
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Transportation Minister Dr. Alemu Sime Feyisa said he would expedite the construction of a network of charging stations that would support the government plan to use electric vehicles in public transportation and will service the new electric car imports.
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אדיס אבבה
אדיס אבבה
Addis Ababa
(Photo: shutterstock)
The majority of Europe, North America, Japan, Singapore, and Chile are aiming for 2035, with certain Nordic countries aspiring to achieve this even sooner (as evidenced by Norway concluding 2023 with 82.4% of vehicles being electric). However, it appears Ethiopia, a seemingly unlikely contender, may outpace them
Ethiopia, despite being one of the world's least developed nations in many indicators - including per capita income, human development index, a literacy rate of just 49%, high poverty levels, minimal human rights observance, and prevalent ethnic discrimination - is emerging as a key player in this shift.
Recognized as a burgeoning market, Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth, the fastest among all African countries south of the Sahara, is largely attributable to foreign direct investment boosting agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
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Addis Ababa Metro line
Addis Ababa Metro line
Addis Ababa Metro line
(Photo: Reuters)
Multiple factors, predominantly economical, drive Ethiopia's shift toward electrification. The past year saw the nation pour approximately $6 billion into oil imports, with over half this expenditure dedicated to fueling vehicles. However, constrained foreign currency reserves make oil purchases challenging, and fluctuating exchange rates compound the cost of such transactions.
Ethiopia has 97% of its energy derived from renewable sources, mainly hydroelectric power. The nation is also undertaking extensive infrastructure projects focused on water, solar, and wind energy.
From our perspective: The global imperative to reduce air pollution necessitates a switch to renewable energy. In this aspect, Ethiopia has been leading the way for some time. In contrast, Israel, although more advanced in other fields, lags behind in renewable energy utilization, currently at a disappointing 10%, far from its self-set goal.
Ethiopia has already taken the initiative, even outpacing most European nations. However, the subsequent phase, establishing a charging infrastructure, would demand considerable time and resources, which Ethiopia may not readily have. It will indeed be fascinating to track their progression.
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