Exploring the Potential for Minibus Electrification in Three African Cities

Matatus: might they be electrified?

In African cities the majority of people use minibus systems as their main mode of motorized transit. Minibuses are essential for mobility and access and are the core of public transit systems. There is, nonetheless, a need to support minibus businesses and upgrade their services to respond more effectively to equity, public health and climate concerns. Improving minibus services can help retain transit users and de-incentivize ownership and reliance on private cars. However, minibuses are often themselves second-hand and poorly maintained, use dirty fuels, and also contribute to a growing and serious air pollution problem in the local environment. The air pollution  problem disproportionately impacts workers in the sector, the walking poor and transit passengers, constituting a major, under-addressed social and environmental justice problem.

Most approaches to addressing this problem involve either a focus on cleaner fuels, or replacement of minibus systems by bigger, cleaner buses. This project, supported by Volvo Research and Education Foundations, explores whether minibus electrification is an additional viable policy option. The team is conducting a comparative study of existing transport electrification policy, regulation and pilots in Nairobi, Cape Town and Cairo. The study draws on mixed methods including systematic reviews of policy and regulatory environments, and case studies of minibus electrification efforts including Opi-Bus in Nairobi, a planned minibus electrification pilot project in Cape Town and Revolta’s electric charging network roll-out as well as APTA and Mwasalat Misr’s E-Bus operations trials in Cairo. We are conducting focus group discussions with operators and drivers, as well as interviews with policy makers and private sector actors in both electric vehicle-producing companies and green finance houses. Finally, we will create a very basic cost/benefit model for minibus electrification and hold a policy dialogue in Nairobi with the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association in 2021.

Associated Reading

Odhiambo, E; Kipkoech, D; Hegazy, M; Hegazy, A; Manuel, M; Schalekamp, H; Klopp, J M ; (2021) The potential for minibus electrification in three African Cities; Cairo, Nairobi and Cape Town. Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF). August 2021


Abdelrahman Hegazy, Mohamed Hegazy TransportforCairo

Jacqueline M Klopp, CSUD

Mikhail Manuel, Herrie Schalekamp, University of Cape Town, Transport Studies Center

Edna Odhiambo, Dan Kipkoech, University of Nairobi, Law School (PI)