Leadership, News

We Must rededicate ourselves to the ideals of National Cohesion

A rare spec­ta­cle swept across Kenya last week as our oil pumps ran dry. Ini­tial­ly, long queues were wit­nessed at petrol sta­tions as motorists jos­tled for petrol. With­in hours, most of these petrol sta­tions didn’t have any fuel, leav­ing motorists strand­ed. This was a stark reminder that the world must free itself from its oil addic­tion. If we don’t do so, our econ­o­my, envi­ron­ment, and health will con­tin­ue pay­ing a huge price. 

Oil accounts for almost 3% of glob­al GDP. A coun­try like Libya earns 43% of its nation­al rev­enue from oil. Fur­ther to that, petro­le­um prod­ucts can be found in most of the things that we use includ­ing plas­tics, per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, fer­til­iz­ers, chem­i­cals and cloth­ing. We are there­fore not wag­ing a war against all. Rather, the goal is to break free from an oil addic­tion that has become cancerous.

Every cloud has a sil­ver lin­ing. Hid­ing in the cur­rent oil cri­sis is a gold­en oppor­tu­ni­ty that we must seize. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to embrace and expand clean­er, green­er ener­gy like bio­fu­el, and elec­tric, and hydro­gen-pow­ered cars.

Have you ever heard of the mukin­duri tree? Also known as Kenya Cro­ton in Eng­lish, an indige­nous tree in Kenya. This tree might just have the solu­tion to the oil cri­sis we are cur­rent­ly fac­ing. We have known for years that this indige­nous tree can fuel our cars and machines.

A local com­pa­ny has been buy­ing cro­ton nuts from thou­sands of farm­ers from Mt Kenya and Rift Val­ley. It then pro­duces bio­fu­el from the nuts and sells the fuel to select clients. While the fuel still needs pro­cess­ing before it can be used in cars, its very pro­duc­tion is a big leap in the right direc­tion. More than a decade ear­li­er, sev­er­al local play­ers fol­lowed this route and pro­duced bio­fu­el from jat­ropha. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, jat­ropha bio­fu­el didn’t take off due to numer­ous rea­sons. It didn’t help that oil com­pa­nies fought tooth and nail to desta­bi­lize the bio­fu­el baby steps. 

It is time for Kenya to recom­mit to the sev­enth SDG which seeks to ‘ensure access to afford­able, reli­able, sus­tain­able and mod­ern ener­gy for all.’ Bio­fu­el must there­fore be fur­ther explored with an open mind and suf­fi­cient resources. 

Cro­ton fuel pro­duces 78 per­cent few­er diesel emis­sions than diesel, mak­ing it a much clean­er option. Is it not pos­si­ble to vast­ly replant the cot­ton tree to increase our for­est cov­er while know­ing that we can still reap big in biofuel?

Elec­tric cars have already tak­en off in oth­er parts of the world and must do the same in East Africa. 

In 2020, almost 75 per­cent of Norway’s new car sales were elec­tric. That was not strange because this Scan­di­na­vian coun­try has the high­est num­ber of elec­tric cars in the world. This didn’t just hap­pen auto­mat­i­cal­ly. Over the years, the Nor­we­gian Gov­ern­ment has pro­vid­ed numer­ous tax incen­tives for elec­tric car own­ers. Apart from receiv­ing tax exemp­tions in road tax and toll charges, they also pay fifty per­cent less in park­ing fees. With such incen­tives, who would not want to own an elec­tric car? Apart from Nor­way, at least 13 oth­er coun­tries also saw a rise in the sale of elec­tric cars in 2020. In these coun­tries, more than 10% of new car sales were electric. 

While most motorists park their cars due to the ongo­ing oil cri­sis, those who own elec­tric cars are dri­ving as usu­al. By God’s grace, I dri­ve an elec­tric car and there­fore didn’t have to queue at petrol sta­tions or park my car dur­ing the ongo­ing oil crisis. 

As we wait for Hydro­gen tech­nol­o­gy to click, I sug­gest that Kenya’s Gov­ern­ment need to fol­low the exam­ple of Nor­way and make it a lot cheap­er to own and run an elec­tric car. That way, the per­cent­age of elec­tric cars in new car sales will rise exponentially.

Last Decem­ber, Kenya Pow­er revealed that it would con­struct a net­work of pub­lic elec­tric vehi­cle charg­ing points. Such plans must be expe­dit­ed not just by Kenya Pow­er, but by oth­er investors as well. Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Founder and Chair­per­son of Green Africa Foun­da­tion, an orga­ni­za­tion that was found­ed in the year 2000 that cham­pi­ons Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment in Africa.

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