Exploring the Potential of Minibus Electrification in Three African Cities

Lead PI: Dr. Jacqueline M. Klopp , Edna Odhiambo

Unit Affiliation: Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD)

January 2020 - July 2021
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This study evaluates the potential for minibus electrification in African cities as a means of promoting cleaner public transport, improving air quality, and addressing the climate crisis in an equitable way. Minibus systems are the main form of motorized transport for most residents and are likely to continue dominating public transport service provision in Africa, in the short and medium term. Since most minibuses run on diesel and are often poorly maintained, African cities risk being locked into public transport systems that exacerbate air pollution, increase the public health burden because of respiratory illnesses, and contribute to the climate crisis through vehicular emissions.
Drawing on twenty-one interviews with key actors working on EVs and bringing in a comparative perspective, this study analyzes the overall policy environment for minibus electrification in Cairo, Nairobi, and Cape Town. The findings reveal that although vehicle electrification is actively under discussion with growing government pilots and private actor activity, more focus is needed on the public transport modes used by most people rather than private motorization. We also found that, despite their ubiquity, minibuses are relatively neglected as a focus of potential electrification. The viability of minibus electrification must be supported by stable energy supply, with increasing renewable energy share if minibus electrification is to contribute towards climate mitigation. New and more sources of finance are needed to cover up front investment in charging infrastructure and new vehicles. Tax relief is insufficient to make e-buses price competitive. Minibus operations are often complex and there is a need for more deliberate support for formalization to enable access to EV technologies along with cross-sectoral collaboration to design the most appropriate solutions that address African cities’ unique realities.

African governments should review counterproductive policies on low density suburban developments, secondhand vehicle imports, low quality fuel standards and persisting use of highly polluting energy sources when renewables are available and cost effective in the long-term.

African governments should stabilize and clean the energy supply as well as encourage innovative off-grid charging solutions such as solar rooftop charging stations, to complement grid supply.

African governments should develop EV targets, standards and enabling policies to govern the E-bus value chain including minibuses to secure safety, sustainability and maximize socio-economic benefits of vehicle electrification.

Minibus stakeholders across the value chain need to be part of processes of co- design in E-bus solutions. More pilots should be encouraged for learning and awareness. Electrification requires cross-sectoral collaboration, overcoming vested interests and unlocking investments and value, across the entire value chain.

Innovative finance and investment must be encouraged to overcome the up- front costs of the electric vehicle transition and to encourage inclusive and equitable share of benefits of electrification. Tax Incentives are unlikely to suffice.


University of Nairobi


Volvo Research & Educational Foundation


Edna Odhiambo, Dan Kipkoech, Abdelrahman Hegazy, Mohamed Hegazy, Mikhail Manuel, Herrie Schalekamp, Jacqueline M Klopp


University of Nairobi, Center for Transport Studies, University of Cape Town, Transport for Cairo


Odhiambo, E; Kipkoech, D; Hegazy, M; Hegazy, A; Manuel, M; Schalekamp, H; Klopp, J M ; (2021) The potential for minibus electrification in three African Cities; Cairo, Nairobi and Cape Town. Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF). August 2021


electric vehicles transportation electrification


Sustainable living