The continent is ill-placed to join it at the moment due to the higher prices of EVs and unreliable power grids. Just 66 electric cars were sold last year in South Africa - the continent’s most developed economy.
“Africa will most likely remain as the last bastion of internal combustion engines,” Parker said.
Nevertheless, industry officials say the biggest hurdle to developing the market for new cars is dumping from countries such as Japan, where strict vehicle inspections force cars out of circulation after just a few years.
They say this distorts the market by allowing dealers to buy the cars at scrap prices and export them to Africa. They blame the cheap imports for killing off assembly sectors in a number of African countries including Nigeria, which built around 150,000 cars per year until the 1980s. Political will is needed to change that, and without it there is little point in considering a country for local production, according to VW’s Schaefer.
“The markets ... are literally not functioning right now due to importation of used vehicles,” he said. In Kenya, the government plans to wind down imports of cars more than three years old by 2021.
Exceptions will be made for passenger vehicles with 1.5 litre or smaller engines. The policy could see mid-range imported models double in price, according to the 300-member Kenya Auto Bazaar Association (KABA). The lobby group has taken out ads in local newspapers denouncing the policy and is demanding a meeting with Kenya’s president. Mark Oburu, KABA’s vice-chairman, said the move would hit an industry that delivers 85% of Kenyan car purchases.
“The middle class will not be able to own a vehicle of their choice,” he said. In the Nairobi bazaar, Grace was shopping for her eldest son’s first car. She said she could not afford to buy a new one. “If they don’t rescind that decision, we will be on boda bodas (motor-bikes).” Both Ghana and Nigeria have also pledged to tackle the issue.