Share this on
February 2024

Ethiopia announces halt to import of endothermic vehicles

Francesca Del Bello

The statement comes from the Minister of Transport and Logistics. But the decision raises concerns
'The decision has been made: cars will not be allowed to enter Ethiopia unless they are electric': with just a few laconic words uttered by Ethiopia's Minister of Transport and Logistics Alemu Sime, the African state is preparing to become the first country in the world to ban the import of internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. A decision that, in the Ethiopian government's plans, could become effective as early as the end of 2024. This sudden (and unexpected) acceleration would beat other countries already engaged on this front - first and foremost Norway, which is preparing to ban the sale of endothermic vehicles as of 2025 and where the percentage of new electric cars sold has long since reached around 80 per cent of the total.

A decisive commitment of the Addis Ababa government in the direction of a more sustainable future, which however requires a somewhat broader reading. First of all, the main reason for this decision seems to be more economic than purely environmental. It is in fact true that this measure continues and confirms the country's commitment to the use of energy from renewable sources (in the case of Ethiopia, mainly hydroelectric power), which has been active for 20 years now; but alongside this, it is the minister himself who points out the need for a clear cut in the expense of importing oil and derivatives, used largely for the transport sector. Expenditure which, according to Ethiopian sources, amounted to USD 6 billion last year: a scenario of heavy dependence, aggravated, moreover, by the increasingly scarce foreign currency reserves.

But whatever the motivation behind this decision, the most perplexing issue, and one that has not yet been clarified, concerns the population's access to these vehicles and the recharging infrastructure. Ethiopia's motorisation rate is one of the lowest in the world, with around two cars for every 1,000 inhabitants, and the percentage of the population that can afford a car is still very low, also due to the high taxes applied to vehicles. Moreover, although there are plans to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025, and the country is in fact able to produce its own energy thanks to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the dam built on the Blue Nile (which has also caused serious tensions with neighbouring Egypt and Sudan), at present about half the population still has no access to electricity. On this issue, the Minister stated that plans have already been started to install electricity columns, but the question remains whether these efforts can be considered sufficient.

There are still few certainties about this measure, while international observers continue to raise questions. For example, many wonder whether China has a role to play within this framework: the Beijing government has long developed important relations on the African continent, becoming Africa's leading trading partner (included in China's famous 'Belt and Road Initiative' development and investment strategy). Added to this is the Eastern country's increasingly important commitment to the industrial production of electric cars.

All in all, will Ethiopia really be the first country in the world to say goodbye to endothermic engines?

Do not miss any article from the Autopromotec Blog! Subscribe to our newsletter!


You might be interested in