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Green energy can step up transport

By Isaac Kalua | August 14th 2016

A few weeks ago, solar energy stunned the world by exclusively powering a plane for 40,000 kilometres. This stunning achievement was a vindication of solar energy as a powerful force that literally transforms the way we move and do business. 

It was a memorable fete achieved by the Solar Impulse team led by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, a doctor and engineer respectively.

It is time for us in Africa to follow the footsteps of the Solar Impulse team and also scale great heights by tapping into the power of renewable energy in particular and the green economy as a whole.

UNEP defines an Inclusive Green Economy as an “opportunity to advance both sustainability and social equity as functions of a stable and prosperous financial system within the contours of a finite and fragile planet.”

Indeed, the Solar Impulse team has shown how sustainability and social equity can be a reliable currency for innovation and economic growth. If two men can lead a lean team to steer an aeroplane around the world on nothing but solar energy, then a team of Kenyan engineers and innovators can also help Kenyans to travel through cheaper and greener integrated means of transport.

For instance, as part of a massive plan to pump sustainability and profitability into our transport, we can go The Netherlands way and ensure that a quarter of all journeys in Kenya are made via bicycle.

 The increase of bikes on our roads would mean increased lane construction that would create thousands of infrastructure development jobs. In the same vein, the opportunity would be there for Kenyan companies to replicate what Giant, a Taiwanese bike manufacturer company has done towards becoming the leading bicycle exporter in the world. In 2014, the company exported 6.6 million bikes, earning an equivalent of KSh184 billion in the process.

Shouldn’t it worry us that we do not have a mere bicycle assembly plant in Kenya? At least Uganda is manufacturing bicycles and Tanzania will soon produce Helicopters.

In this regard, an increase of bikes on our roads would potentially create infrastructure jobs, earn revenue for local bicycle and parts manufacturers as we lessen the carbon footprint of our country’s transport sector. Besides through cycling, we shall become a much healthier nation. Isn’t this a ‘green money’ opportunity dandling up for grabs?

Biofuel is the other opportunity waiting to be tapped by the transport sector. Although the possibility of biofuels becoming mainstream remains remote, this does not mean that they offer the local transport sector zero opportunity. We should scale up our research and development in this sector.

Even the Solar Impulse team took a whopping 13 years to finally complete their journey around the world. In the meantime I suggest that we consider tax exemptions for green cars and various innovations to inculcate a new culture towards a green Africa.

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