BMW April 2022

The uptake of e-mobility and electric vehicles (EVs) is set to increase globally and this provides a myriad of opportunities for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, especially given its endowment of natural resources used in the production of the batteries used in these vehicles.

Saiia Futures head Dr Deon Cloete said there were still only a small number of EVs in the SADC region and that it remains a niche market. He said there were examples of positive developments, such as the City of Cape Town piloting the use of e-buses.

However, the region was still lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of encouraging the uptake of EVs, owing to a strong belief that jobs in the internal combustion engine automotive industry needed to be protected for as long as possible, he reckons.

Currently, the majority of activities for SADC countries were taking place at the start of the value chain, with most in the mining of raw materials.

South Africa, which is beginning to research and develop initiatives in raw material beneficiation, cell components manufacturing, call manufacturing and recycling. Moreover, other member States are assembling lithium battery packs; however, they are importing the cells. There are also signs of EVs gaining popularity in the SADC region.

However, there needs to be much more investment and uptake, as there is considerable value for SADC along the entire value chain, which needs to be unlocked through public-private partnerships, and coherent policy.

EVs in the region were currently all imported, with local manufacturers not having any incentives to manufacture them locally, as well as a lack of coherent policy to fast-track the uptake of these. It was also pointed out a lack of infrastructure across the region, for example, very few charging points. While it is believed South Africa had about 270 public charging points, most other SADC members States had very few.

Moreover, a major challenge for the region to contend with was the lack of reliable electricity supply to charge EVs. But there was definitely a window of opportunity over the next five years for SADC member States to collaborate on initiatives and interventions that would enable them to competitively participate in value-added manufacturing across the entire lithium battery manufacturing value chain.