The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), a Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) company, has committed €46 million ($50 million equivalent) to launch Africa’s first fully electric public bus network in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. The Dakar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) establishes a new benchmark for sustainable public transport in Africa and showcases the future of decarbonised urban mobility to the many metropolises across the continent seeking to implement climate-smart mobility solutions.
Aimed at emissions reduction and easing traffic congestion, while improving road safety, the €132.6 million project will include a fleet of 121 buses operating across 13 municipalities and an 18.3km route, which will eventually carry 300,000 passengers daily between the suburbs and city. The new bus network will reduce travel times by 50 minutes and avoid 59,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, in line with the PIDG ambition to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action.
EAIF acted as co-lender alongside Proparco, the private sector arm of Agence Française de Développement, providing the initial debt of €86.1 million to the special purpose vehicle Dakar Mobilité. EAIF and Proparco have also pledged an additional facility of €2.6 million and €3.2 million, respectively, to part-finance the renewal of batteries used to power the bus fleet. Ensuring the project’s delivery and supporting the project’s affordability, PIDG Technical Assistance will be providing the transaction with $10 million of viability gap funding.
The shareholders of Dakar Mobilité are infrastructure investment group Meridiam (70%) and the Senegalese sovereign fund for strategic investments into the country, Fonsis (30%).
Dakar is home to close to a quarter of the Senegalese population but underdeveloped and expensive transport options leave 70% of its people reliant on walking as their main mode of transport. With road-related infrastructure designed around the needs of motorists, it can prove dangerous to pedestrians. Amidst this, car ownership rates more than doubled between 2000 and 2015, leading to an influx of high-emitting second hand vehicles.
The next generation of Africa’s inter-city transport facilities will drastically reduce the sector’s carbon footprint. Diesel buses account for the majority of passenger trips in African cities and new, more energy efficient replacements will also improve passenger comfort, convenience and safety.
The investment complements progressive public policy designed to reduce the country’s dependence on hydrocarbons. Closing the energy access gap through renewables has required structured investment from key funding partners, a role EAIF continues to play. Senegal is the Fund’s second largest country exposure, with commitments totalling $121.37 million.
BRT will offer a climate-smart alternative to current modes of public transport and bring Dakar’s growing population closer to economic opportunities around the city. This includes the broader investment plan totaling $610 million, including the BRT funding, which will overhaul the city’s road infrastructure and improve signalling, while better integrating other methods of urban mobility.
As an entirely new entity, BRT’s development is designed intentionally to improve accessibility. A social fare, will be introduced to improve affordability and boost access, while gender considerations will prioritise employment for women amongst the 1,000 jobs expected to be created by Dakar Mobilité. The safety of female passengers has also been integrated into the infrastructure design, for example by ensuring sufficient lighting at bus stations to enable women to travel safely in the evenings.
This historic transaction will revolutionise public transport in one of West Africa’s rising economic powerhouses. It builds on impressive progress on sustainable public transport around the continent and can operate as an example to rapidly reduce pollution in Africa’s fast growing cities.Puleng Pitso, Investment Specialist at Ninety One, the Fund Manager of EAIF