Accelerating the Electric Revolution in Zambia

 Accelerating the Electric Revolution in Zambia

Transitioning Zambia`s Active Participation In The EV Supply Chain Through Value Addition
By Eng Geoffrey Chishimba
Chiyumbe, Pr Eng                                                                        

Vehicle manufacturers across the world are transforming from fossil fuel to electricity, and this transition is happening very fast, hence the term electric revolution.  The Automotive industry is leading the electric revolution.  Rising gasoline prices, dwindling fossil fuels production and growing concern over carbon pollution have helped to bring about the electric revolution. One fundamental part of the transformation is a move towards a more sustainable society by limiting emissions from the automotive sector.

The electric revolution encompasses the entire EV value chain which is composed of the following elements:

  1. Mining Of Raw Materials
  2. Manufacturing Of Electric  Vehicle  Batteries (EVBs)
  3. Manufacturing Of Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  4. The Global EV Market
  5. Public Charging Stations

With this transition, the need for car batteries has sky-rocketed creating a completely new industry. The need for battery minerals, such as copper, cobalt, nickel, and lithium, as well as rare earth element for electric components, will increase and grow at the same pace as the electric vehicle industry.

Countries that have been automotive industry global powerhouses for decades are facing challenges in this new era of Electric Vehicles (EVs). For them, much of the mineral resources are inconveniently located and there are other political and non – geographical factors that can hamper production and squeeze supply value chains. For example, with a large European electric vehicle industry, the EU has set a goal for the region to become the global leader in sustainable battery production. This is a key strategic move to achieve the target for the region to be climate neutral by 2050 as defined by the EU commission. However, today roughly only two to four percent of the car batteries needed in the European electric vehicle industry are manufactured within the region.  They are hampered and limited by the raw materials value chain whose foothold is outside Europe. Despite that disadvantage, heavy investments are being done in the industry and several plants for battery manufacturing are under construction.

Though Africa has never been an automotive industry powerhouse, to the contrary, it has the competitive advantage in this electric revolution in that it is the foothold of the major mineral resources needed to sustain the global EV sector. Local beneficiation of our minerals to produce both electric vehicles and electric batteries in Africa, aimed at putting an end to the perpetual poverty that has plagued Africa for so many decades, is one area where we can increase our potential as a continent for economic growth, sustainable industrial development, and job creation.

The pressure globally to go green is increasing as governments, companies, and individuals everywhere look towards a sustainable future, with many turning to EVs as an integral step in their decarbonization journey. The growth in electric mobility, and especially passenger electric vehicles, has been profound. From whichever metric you measure it — EV sales, EVs on the roads, government EV mandates, EVs as a percentage of all vehicle sales, or simply vehicle manufacturers making electric mobility pledges — it is undeniable that governments, society, and consumers see electric mobility playing a large role in the future.

The number of EVs on the road has exploded. From negligible in 2010, to approximately 1 million in 2016, and by the end of 2020, there were as many as 10 million electric cars on the world’s roads. Tesla is the most valuable automotive company on the planet – worth an estimated $1 trillion. Its co-founder and CEO Elon Musk is, for a large part thanks to Tesla, the richest man on planet earth.  This growth is not only limited to a few countries either. Around the world, there has been continuous growth in EV sales in all major markets. By 2035, it’s expected that all the largest automotive markets will go electric. This rapid growth in electric mobility, according to McKinsey & Company, means that we have already reached the tipping point.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that EVs will reach just over 20 percent of sales in 2030, increasing the stock to 200 million vehicles. In a world where we meet global climate goals in line with the Paris Accord, that number could be as high as 230 million vehicles in 2030. Year on year, many governments and businesses continue to up their commitments to sustainable transport. The European Union proposes that all new cars sold from 2035 should have zero emissions. In the US, President Biden has said he wants to see EVs make up half of all new vehicle fleet electric by 2030. Many other countries around the world, including Canada, the UK, Japan, and multiple states in the US and member states in the EU have made moves to limit ICE sales or ban them altogether. We have seen that many vehicle manufacturers have stated their intentions to stop ICE sales in certain locations and go electric as a response. For example, GM plans to stop making gasoline passenger cars, vans, and SUVs by 2035. Cadillac, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini, Volvo, and Volkswagen have all made similar commitments.

Whilst we may not know exactly what the future holds, together these factors point to a bright future for electric mobility.

But how is Africa positioning itself to fully participate and add value in the booming global e – mobility market? This calls for a serious mindset shift for all of us but especially more so for the political leaders, industry leaders, and influencers who are well positioned to drive and accelerate the transition. These must be decisive and demonstrate their dedication through empowering forward – thinking businesses to build a sustainable future.

The Implementation Strategy for our Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP) is focused on Zambia’s attainment of economic transformation that will be marked by advancements in industrialization and economic diversification for sustained growth. This is anchored on agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and tourism sectors as key drivers for the country’s economic growth agenda. It further states that for sustainable economic transformation and resilience of the economy, measures will be undertaken to transition Zambia to a modern green and resource – efficient economy. Promoting value addition in mining and manufacturing are at the key of the plan. Turning our transport sector into green by adopting electric vehicles is a positive strategic alignment.

Why should Africa always lag behind when it comes to developmental strides affecting our globe? Are we becoming a generation of chatterboxes, good at talking but no action? What legacy are we going to leave for our children? There has been a lot of talk from within our society about electric cars in Zambia. It has become just that. All bark and no bite. All talk and no cider. Talking with no action – failing to walk the talk. Meantime, nothing is happening on the ground to accelerate the adoption of EVs. This bogs down to one thing: The quality of leaders we have are neither inspiring nor motivating to say the least – majority are embedded with the ancient mindset. If these are the type of leaders our ancestors had, we could still today be walking with our bare feet to cover long distances. While leaders in other lands are embracing the revolution ours are still ndwiiii, waiting to evolve. It is embarrassing!

We don’t have production gigafactories for the ICE vehicles here in Zambia and we have been informed that the sources of these vehicles are closing their taps and switching to EVs come 2035.  But we are ndwiiii.

If we don’t act now to ensure we have the infrastructure in place, how are we going to drive these EVs?  Have we prepared to make a switch to donkey rides? Ifikotikala, the cattle-drawn carriages? Still ndwiiii.  This ndwiiii phenomenon is not a revolution, but an evolution.

Africa arise and take action now. Have a paradigm shift! Add value to the mining of raw materials. Add value in the manufacturing of Electric Vehicle Batteries (EVBs). Add value in the manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Add value in public charging stations. Add value to the global EV market. Start the journey today. Yes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t be ndwiiii and wait for Europe to spoon-feed us. I have interacted with our leaders and I categorically make an exception with our academia especially from the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University. Zambia can go far with this class of leaders. There is just something transformational and innovative about them.  Also in this category is the current Zesco Managing Director Mr. victor Mapani. He has been actively letting us know about this revolution. Kudos to this class! My colleague from UNZA shared this inspirational quote with me, “If it can be done there, it can done here”. But this won’t just happen by abracadabra. We must do something now, together.

“Execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality, align people with goals, and achieve the promised results.” Lawrence Bossidy

“Leaders have three fundamental responsibilities: They craft a vision, they build alignment, and they champion execution.” Anonymous

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” Indira Gandhi

“Plan your work and work your plan.” Napoleon Hill

As I conclude, E-mobility is an industry that has the potential to drastically improve our planet’s future. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the 20 hottest years on record have occurred in the past 22 years – meaning that the steps we can take now to nurture, develop, and promote e-mobility are the steps that we must take. And so, establishing a zero – emission future now at a time when our planet needs it depends greatly on our adoption of electric vehicles as a viable alternative to the status quo – petrol and diesel driven vehicles.

Are you a leader? Leadership carries responsibility. We are watching you. The eagle’s eyes are on you. You occupy that strategic position in this country to churn out positive outputs – progressive and not for ndwiiii – retrogressive. This is no time to shilly-shally. Remember, procrastination is a thief of time.

“Well done is better than well said”. Zambia, let us actively participate in the electric revolution by riding the waves of change, and shun the ndwiiii evolution phenomenon, for a sustainable, prosperous and better Zambia for all.

Alice Nachilembe

Alice Nachilembe is a Journalist who yearns for a better country with leaders being accountable to their mandate without oppressing the governed.