Ethiopia first country in the world to ban ICE cars?

In a decisive move to combat escalating fuel import costs and worsening air pollution in its cities, Ethiopia has announced a groundbreaking shift in its automotive policies. Transport Minister Alemu Sime calls for an immediate ban on buying fossil-fueled vehicles. What’s 2035 for Europe is today for Ethiopia.

Minister Sime revealed that the nation spent a staggering €6 billion last year on gasoline and diesel imports, an unsustainable financial burden. Half of that cost is absorbed by transportation. Coupled with the alarming levels of urban pollution, the Ethiopian government is now enforcing a ban on importing non-electric vehicles.

‘Decision has been made’

Sime has announced that “a decision has been made, that automobiles cannot enter Ethiopia unless they are electric ones”. Not all the intricacies of the plan have been made public, but the policy is part of a broader ‘Green Transport’ initiative. This includes the development of a national charging infrastructure. The Ministry of Transport is prioritizing installing these charging stations across Ethiopia.

The impending ban is just the start. Existing vehicle owners will face stringent emission tests, and those failing these tests will be required to remove their cars from the road. This measure is a significant step, given that of the approximately 2 million vehicles on Ethiopian roads, a substantial share is over 20 years old.

It remains unclear whether the government will establish an incentive, as battery-powered vehicles, also used ones, are much more expensive. Also, the country’s current taxation scheme is based upon engine displacement, not the origin of production or vehicle size, posing an essential hurdle for future public income.

‘Challenging process’

Ethiopia’s approach is unlike the planned bans from Western nations, which pursue a stronger focus on climate warming than on air quality and soaring fuel prices, without neglecting those.

The Ethiopian transition to EVs is expected to be a challenging process, requiring the gradual substitution of those 2 million internal combustion engine vehicles and the establishment of sufficient grid stability to sustain the EV charging network.

 As a positive side-effect, the announced ban positions the country at the forefront of a potential EV revolution in Africa, creating a lucrative market for EV manufacturers, importers, and infrastructure developers.

So far, the automotive industry never had a keen interest in Ethiopia because of the low sales volumes. Ethiopia is home to one of Africa’s largest populations but counts only one car per 500 inhabitants. Of its national fleet, 85% is imported, of which nine out of ten vehicles wear a Toyota badge. 

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