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FEATURE STORYApril 15, 2024

From Africa to Maryland, Transport Knowledge Knows No Borders

A photo of delegates standing in front of robots.

Jonathan Davidar/World Bank

Electric mobility is at the heart of the World Bank’s commitment toward low-carbon transport. Since 2016, the institution has helped some 32 countries around the world lay the foundation for EV deployment and invest in relevant e-mobility solutions through a combination of analytical work, technical assistance, and lending projects.

“Investing in greener and more resilient transport is a key priority for the Bank, and EVs are an integral part of this transition,” said Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge, Global Director for Transport. “Our e-mobility agenda is bound to grow significantly in the coming years with many new e-mobility projects in the pipeline, especially in Africa.”

One example is a recently approved technical assistance program that will support the creation of an integrated e-mobility strategy in Malawi—a country that is eager to modernize its transport system and reduce its reliance on fossil fuel imports. The work will include a diagnosis of Malawi’s e-mobility infrastructure, the development of an appropriate policy framework, along with the identification of pilot projects and viability studies.

“Malawi spends a lot of money—almost half a billion of US dollars a year—on fossil fuels. E-mobility can help change this and pave the way for a better future,” said Ibrahim Matola, Malawi’s Minister of Energy. “It is a welcome development, but we need to move together on this journey.”

A similar activity is under preparation in Sierra Leone, where the World Bank will be using its e-mobility scoping tool to analyze the economic case for e-mobility and identify the most sensible entry points for EV adoption.

As part of this engagement, the World Bank invited high-level delegations from Malawi and Sierra Leone to Washington, DC for a busy week of events and knowledge exchange anchored around the Transforming Transportation conference.

The delegates first headed to College Park, MD for an all-day e-mobility workshop at the University of Maryland (UMD), which was organized by Professor Nii O Attoh-Okine, Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, in close coordination with the World Bank Transport team. The workshop was designed as an introduction to the fundamentals of electric mobility, starting with an overview of the main policy and regulatory changes that are needed to create an enabling environment for EV adoption. Participants then learned about some of the more technical considerations that decisionmakers should keep in mind before they can deploy EVs at scale—including the importance of guaranteeing reliable electricity supply, investing in adequate charging infrastructure, and anticipating specific risks such as cyberattacks. Finally, the course highlighted the potential benefits of large-scale EV adoption on economic activity and job creation.

Investing in greener and more resilient transport is a key priority for the Bank, and EVs are an integral part of this transition. Our e-mobility agenda is bound to grow significantly in the coming years with many new e-mobility projects in the pipeline, especially in Africa.
A photo of Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge, World Bank Global Director for Transport
Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge
Global Director for Transport, World Bank
A photo of the Transport delegation.

World Bank

Back in Washington, the delegates participated in a wide variety of Transforming Transportation sessions that touched upon e-mobility as well as many other topical issues relating to transport, climate action, and sustainable development.

Between sessions, many of them had the chance to get up close and personal with the cutting-edge transport solutions that were on display around the World Bank headquarters as part of the Transforming Transportation knowledge exhibit. This included a ride on Circuit, a new type of fully electric shuttle that aims to make short local trips greener and more affordable. The tour continued with a demonstration of Starship Technologies’ electric and autonomous delivery robots, which are currently being piloted in locations across the US and Europe.

A photo of delegates in Washington DC

For participants, this kind of activity brings clear benefits. The tour elicited overwhelmingly positive feedback from the two delegations, who valued the opportunity to learn more about quicky evolving transport technologies such as e-mobility and to experience some of these innovations firsthand. In addition, delegates said they enjoyed sharing perspectives and insights with other African leaders. “Africans have similar transport issues. It is essential that we learn from each other and walk together hand in hand,” said Hindolo Shiaka, Director of Transport for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Transport and Aviation.

The program also underscores the critical role that the World Bank can play in making sure clients gain access to the right knowledge.

“Technologies like e-mobility are ripe with potential, but they are relatively new and complex. To make the most of these innovations, it is crucial that decisionmakers understand the fundamentals,” said Binyam Reja, Practice Manager of the World Bank’s Transport Global Knowledge Unit. “Programs such as this one can help build a solid knowledge foundation by connecting our clients with World Bank experts, academics, private entrepreneurs, and other government officials. The Bank’s Global Knowledge team is uniquely positioned to facilitate this type of exchange. Knowledge is part of our DNA.”

And this isn’t just about abstract thinking or theoretical discussions. Ultimately, a key mandate of the Transport team is to generate and share knowledge that supports World Bank projects and helps inform policymaking in client countries, with a real impact for people on the ground. “Our work on e-mobility perfectly illustrates the value we can bring to the Bank’s operations and to our clients. At the moment, 90% of EV sales are concentrated in China, Europe, and the US, meaning that most existing data and case studies focus on these markets. The Bank’s Transport team has been working hard to close the knowledge gap on the potential of e-mobility for low- and middle-income countries,” said Wenxin Qiao, the Senior Transport Specialist who coordinated the knowledge exchange.

Recent Bank research on the economics of electric vehicles, for instance, has uncovered important findings about the relevance of EVs in developing countries, and given clients some practical tools to start thinking about which e-mobility solutions are the best fit for them. Exchanges with African delegations and other stakeholders are now helping to ensure this knowledge reaches the right audience. “All these activities are already transforming the way we’re engaging with clients and creating exciting new opportunities on the operational side,” said Nicolas Peltier-Thiberge. “This is what you call knowledge in action.”


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