By Arnold Muthanga
Despite the temporary disruption of the global economy by the coronavirus pandemic, the global village is ready to embark on the new normal. Notwithstanding the current tanking of the automobile industry, Africa’s vehicle importation stood at $ 17 billion in 2018, trailed behind by oil and petroleum imports, making it the world’s most lucrative industry. Unfortunately, much of the motor trade in the region involves second hand vehicles that experts say “developed countries are exporting pollution to poorer countries.” A situation further worsened by lax transport sector emission regulations in African countries.
The externalities of ‘business as usual’ approach have not gone unnoticed. Observations by the Economic Survey in 2017, documented 19.9 million respiratory cases in Kenya’s health facilities representing a whopping 63% hike from 2012. With an expected threefold increase in the rate of emissions between 2010 and 2030 in Kenya, as by National Climate Change Action Plan estimates, Kenya has gone witch-hunting purposely for better air quality and reduced climate emissions through cleaner used vehicles. Specifically, are the adoption of the stringent Euro 4 emissions levels that have very low permissible levels of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions. Expectedly are major sector disruptions.
However, Kenya’s ingrained entrepreneurial spirit has turned the tables by converting fuel run engines into liquid petroleum gas based (LPG) that have much less emissions. Empirically, LPG based vehicles produce 15% less carbon dioxide, 30% less carbon monoxide and 50% less nitrogen oxides. Increased use of Auto-gas vehicles through government advocacy, would bring major socio-economic benefits in the form of cleaner air, improved human health and reduced climate change. As an additional benefit, LPG has a higher-octane rating providing greater performance than conventional gasoline and diesel, making it a popular alternative to oil-based fuels. Back in 2019, there were about 27 million Autogas vehicles across the globe, a trend propelled by distinctive environmental benefits and relatively competitive cost and is expected to triple by 2040.
Currently, modern application taxi services have quickly transformed the way Kenyans move around. Easier accessibility and affordable travel services have quickly created competitive and consistent job opportunities especially for the youth majority. Conversion to Auto-gas alternative for both the commercial and personal use vehicles has practical cost advantages. The growing Kenyan population and proportionately the insatiable demand for second hand vehicles also present opportunities to both the fuel system equipment producers and installers.