Urban buses account for approximately 25 per cent of the black carbon emitted by the transportation sector. Urban bus activity is predicted to increase by nearly 50 per cent by 2030, which will translate into an estimated additional 26,000 tons of black carbon. To combat the resulting emissions and to reduce the public health burden, there is a requirement to support soot-free engine technologies, especially electric engines.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a significant global producer and exporter of fossil fuels. However, as the critical importance of sustainable transportation becomes clear, energy diversification is increasingly becoming an important policy priority.

In many sub-Saharan African countries, vehicles that are imported for private and mass transit are “polluting and unroadworthy”, resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. At present, electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the region is still low due to higher upfront costs and electricity issues.

Table 1 provides a snapshot of the planned and current deployment of electric buses in the Middle East and Africa.

The MENA region: Concrete actions towards electric bus deployment

There is growing interest in the MENA region in the adoption of clean fuels for public transport fleets. Some countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt have made clear commitments towards this goal and taken steps towards electrifying their transport sectors.


In September 2020, the World Bank approved the USD200 million, six-year Greater Cairo Air Pollution Management and Climate Change Project to support Egypt’s efforts to reduce both air pollution and climate pollutant emissions in line with the goals laid down in Egypt Vision 2030. The project aims to reduce vehicle emissions by supporting the piloting of electric buses in the public sector and related infrastructure and by assessing the technical and financial feasibility of scaling up these measures.

In February 2021, Brightskies signed a cooperation protocol with the Engineering Automotive Manufacturing Company (EAMCO). The protocol marks the beginning of a cooperation arrangement to develop an electric bus prototype, where EAMCO will produce the bus and Brightskies will contribute to the development of the power battery pack and the powertrain electronic control unit.

At the city level

Alexandria: In May 2020, the Alexandria Public Transport Authority, after the successful completion of a three-month pilot, commenced the operations of 15 BYD K9 battery electric buses (BEBs) along three routes.

Cairo: In February 2020, Mwasalat Misr commenced a pilot of a Shanghai Wanxiang BEB. There are also plans for establishing joint ventures for local production in Egypt as indicated by a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Arab Organization for Industrialization.

In October 2019, the Cairo Transport Authority commenced pilot operations of two Foton BEBs; this was part of a larger batch of 50 buses. An agreement was also signed between Foton and the Ministry of Military Production to commence the local manufacturing of 2,000 electric buses from November 2020 onwards and over a period of four years with 45 per cent local components.


Marrakech has initiated an ambitious electric bus rapid transit (BRT) showcase project, which is powered by an integrated 750 kW HCPV solar energy plant. The project is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It currently deploys 10 (with five as backup) Dongfeng & Yutong in-motion charging trolleybuses. There are plans to expand the project to include three new lines and 48 additional buses by 2030. Morocco is also keen to set up a local manufacturing plant for electric buses.


Qatar aims to have 25 per cent of its public bus network operating on electric by 2022, increasing this figure to 100 per cent by 2030. The country is seeking to be a pioneer in the area of clean-energy mass transit, becoming one of the first countries in the world to have an integrated electric bus system.

In September 2018, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, along with Mowasalat (Karwa), Doha’s public transport operator, started piloting a North BEB. Mowasalat (Karwa) is in the process of purchasing 3,000 new buses for the World Cup, of which more than 25 per cent will be electric.

In December 2020, Mowasalat awarded a USD275.3 million contract to Yutong Bus to supply 1,002 buses to expand commuter services during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The order includes a total of 741 electric buses. In July 2021, the first 10 electric buses of the order were delivered. The contract is flanked by a framework agreement between Yutong, the Qatar Free Zones Authority, and Mowasalat for the construction of an electric bus assembly plant. Starting in end-2022, a total of 1,500 electric buses are planned to be assembled within seven years.

Saudi Arabia

In March 2020, Zhuzhou CRRC Times Electric Company Limited confirmed that it had received an order for 20 electric buses. These smart electric buses are especially developed for Saudi Arabia, with outstanding radiation-resistant and cooling effects based on the local operating environment.


In November 2018, Tunis completed a six-month pilot using a BYD K9 BEB. Future plans include the prospect of local manufacturing.

United Arab Emirates

Tests and trials of electric buses are taking place in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah.

Abu Dhabi: In December 2018, Masdar, in cooperation with the Department of Transport, launched the Hafilat Industry BEB. The EcoBus was jointly developed by Masdar, Hafilat, and Siemens.

In February 2021, lithium-titanate-oxide (LTO) electric buses were launched in Abu Dhabi by Emirates Global Motor Electric, Al Fahim Group, and Yinlong Energy. These buses are powered by the fastest-charging lithium battery in the world, which can be charged in less than 20 minutes. This launch will be followed by a rollout in other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Dubai: Electric bus pilots have been ongoing since 2015. Trials of a Yutong BEB were concluded successfully in 2019. The Roads and Transport Authority has also been testing wireless dynamic charging (Shaped Magnetic Field In Resonance [SMFIR] technology) for electric buses in preparation for the future deployment of such buses.

Sharjah: In December 2019, the Sharjah Roads & Transport Authority commenced a six-month pilot of a Changhan BEB on the Sharjah–Ajman route.

Sub-Saharan Africa: The future is electric

The electric bus sector in sub-Saharan Africa is not very highly developed, which reflects the current state of the public transport sector. Electric buses also face region-specific issues like tough terrain, heavy passenger loads, and limited supply of electricity. Nevertheless, governments in the region are keen to introduce the technology.


Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport has emphasised the importance of electric buses in its new 10-year transport policy. One of the main goals of the policy is to “de-carbonise the country’s fleet by introducing 4,850 electric buses”.

In addition, Addis Ababa plans to have 1,500 electric buses as part of the BRT, the new mass transport routes that the city administration plans to build. The electric buses will be part of the 3,000 new buses that the city administration is procuring to increase and strengthen the public transport system in the capital.

In November 2020, preparations were underway to launch an electric bus pilot project in Addis Ababa. The city transport bureau was working in collaboration with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to secure financial and technical support for the project.


In 2019, the government announced its plans to introduce electric and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses into the public transport system to reduce the emission of pollutants as part of actions to combat climate change. For this purpose, the government planned to collaborate with the African Development Bank to access funds from the Green Climate Fund for the purchase of electric buses.


The Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority plans to procure 60 electric buses for the Thika BRT. The BRT is scheduled to be launched in February 2022. These buses will arrive in December 2021. The electric passenger buses are being procured through a public–private partnership. 


An initiative in the offing is the use of electric buses for the feeder services of the metro. Partial investment in the purchase of 30 such buses will be shared between three bus operators, National Transport Corporation, United Bus Service, and Rose Hill Transport. In addition, the buses are to be charged through solar power.

In December 2019, the concept for a project to promote low-carbon electric public bus transport in Mauritius was approved. The project will be implemented by UNDP and will be financed by the GEF Trust Fund.


Rwanda has a long-term goal to be a carbon-neutral nation as articulated in its Vision 2050. The e-mobility programme plans for the phased adoption of electric buses, passenger cars, and motorcycles from 2020 onwards. The country aims to have 20 per cent of all buses transition to electric by 2030.

South Africa

Cape Town has a target of procuring only zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The city’s transport plan includes exploring the production and use of biofuels, using renewables for depots and transport interchanges, and replacing the diesel buses of the municipal bus fleet with electric buses.

In early 2018, Cape Town’s “MyCiTi” BRT service added 11 electric buses to its fleet. The buses were locally manufactured.

In July 2021, Golden Arrow Bus Services deployed two electric buses in Cape Town. The new buses were developed as part of a partnership between BYD and uYilo (which provided the financing). The launch of the new buses was preceded by a one-year test period.


State auto firm Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) planned to commence producing buses by July 2021 and aims to put out 1,030 units in 2021. KMC has been conducting research on solar, electric, and other vehicle models. The firm aims to produce both electric- and diesel-powered versions of the Kayoola Coach bus.

KMC also ran a pilot using its Kayoola electric buses, with the buses offering shuttle services to the staff of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority.

A final word

In line with global climate control and emission objectives and to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, electric buses must be part of the low- or zero-emission mobility strategy adopted by nations with public transport at its core. The complete transition to large-scale electric bus fleets is not likely in most countries in the Middle East and Africa in the immediate future. However, by laying the groundwork for greater EV use through appropriate policies, electric grids, BRTs, and charging infrastructure, the eventual deployment of electric buses on a large scale can be ensured.

This article has been sourced from Global Mass Transit