I just returned from Munich Germany after attending the International Motor Show (IAA). I was part of a delegation from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). Also in attendance at the annual Fair was the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This nearly seventy years show was previously about automakers showcasing their latest cars. But things are different now. Organized by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the event now focuses on mobility as a whole and not just cars. Such is the holistic focus that we also need here in Kenya.
Participating in this show was akin to being immersed in sights and sounds of a different new world. Clearly cars are no longer dominant in the mobility space however their showcase was mind-boggling.
Volkswagen presented a small, fully electric city car called the ID.LIFE. It is perfect for urban transportation and will be launched in 2025. The all-electric, BMW iX SUV offers almost 500 kilometers of battery range, which means that after you charge it in Nairobi, you can travel all the way to Mombasa without needing a recharge
On its part, Mercedes showcased a bigger electric car known as Maybach EQS. Incidentally, the electric version of the Mercedes S class is already available. In addition, from 2025, all of Mercedes-Benz’s new vehicles will be 100% electric. In the same vein, Audi has committed to making all new vehicles electric from 2026 onward.
Kenya must follow in the path of “Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” as stated by BMW’s top executive Oliver Zipse. This is the philosophy that auto manufacturers are increasingly working from as they manufacture electric cars.
Unmistakably, the future of cars is electric. As such, Kenya’s government is best advised to sway investors who will invest in the local assembly of electric vehicles and micro-mobility infrastructure.
It was clear during the show that micro-mobility is a critical cog in the mobility wheel. This was evidenced by the fact that there were over 70 bikes on show. Among them were electric moped bikes whose maximum speed is 25 kilometers per hour. Beyond that, one would have to pedal manually. I couldn’t resist the temptation of grabbing one of these.
Unfortunately, only a handful of these machines can be found in Kenya today which presents a huge opportunity for mobility investors and manufacturers.
Electric mobility isn’t just good for the environment – it is great for the economy. By 2040, Germany will be producing 3.4 million electric cars annually, which puts them at the very heart of the auto industry. According to the European Commission, 13.8 million Europeans are directly and indirectly employed in the automotive sector. This represents 6.1% of total EU employment.
Kenya can create thousands of well-paying jobs by revitalizing the automotive sector. The starting point is that our Parliament quickly and carefully enacts the draft National Automotive Policy as an enabling policy framework that will attract investors to assemble these cars locally. As part of this conducive policy environment, we must activate the Special Economic Zones because they will greatly incentivize mobility manufacturers. Towards this end, I suggest that the Government urgently and sufficiently funds the Special Economic Zones Authority.
I should also note that the global mobility consumers are no longer exclusively enthralled by cars. They want to move in an affordable, clean, and efficient manner. Indeed, greener modes of transport are becoming increasingly popular.
Accordingly, I suggest that the Government strategically entices Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to support Kenyan institutions through technology transfer. This will underpin the local manufacture of these new forms of mobility into Kenya. We should no longer have to wait for years before we can tap into mobility technology because this is already mature expertise among our existing global trade partners.
Ultimately, hidden at the core of Europe’s success of the mobility industry is the unity in diversity amongst all players which unfortunately seems to be lacking in Kenya hence inhibiting the natural growth of this most transformative sector. We must Think and act green for us to change the narrative.