Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment, told a conference in Nairobi that the rate of rapid urbanization on the continent urgently calls for new ideas and technologies.
“The rate of urbanization requires the introduction of electric vehicles to help reduce air pollution,” Solheim said while opening Africa Clean Mobility Week Conference.
He said Africa’s biggest challenge in the next decade is likely to be urbanization due to the increasing population that calls for additional accommodation and transport.
“If you get urbanization right, it leads to positive development but it is unfortunate if you get it wrong,” he added.
Solheim said the countries need to start re-planning their cities by creating walking paths and cycling space along the major roads to help reduce vehicle use and air pollution.
“Your governments must begin discussions with China and other countries that are leading in developing electric mode of transport globally,” the official told officials who are attending the conference.
He hailed China for leading in developing electric mobility and also adopting them in streamlining their transport system.
According to Solheim, by linking 35 cities with metro services, China has set an example that transitional and developing countries should follow.
“It has happened in India, China and Vietnam. It can also happen in African countries,” the UN official noted.
He said that with the increasing different car makers globally, Africa need to acquire electric trams, cars and buses to reduce its air pollution and road congestions, adding that constructions of major highways may not lead to reduction of vehicles on the roads.
Solheim wondered why Africa continues to import used and old vehicles while electric vehicles are known to be cheaper than gasoline powered cars.
He warned that action need to start immediately to help reduce the rate of deaths caused by road accidents and air pollution that he said is far above deaths caused by known diseases lately.
“A shift to non-fossil fuel, zero and low emission vehicles will mean massive benefits for both air quality and climate,” he added.
Rob de Jong, head of the Air Quality and Mobility Unit at the UN Environment, also called on African governments to start adopting an alternative roadmap to adopt electric mobility.
He called on countries to start using low-sulphur fuels, stop importing old vehicles and import zero and low emission mobility.
“Consider introducing mass transport and develop footpaths to decongest and also reduce air pollution. Ethiopia and Tanzania has introduced electric transport in their countries,” he said.