The African Union Commission (AUC) in collaboration with the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARA) hosted a two-day workshop, from 10th to 11th December 2019 – to validate “The Benefits of Adopting AFRI Fuel Specifications Roadmap” which aims to ensure superior fuel quality and significant emissions reduction for achieving clean air in Africa. The harmonized regional and continental fuel specifications are believed to make a positive and lasting impact on economies, air quality, health, and climate.

The purpose of the workshop is to meet with the stakeholders and discuss a draft of the study on the socio-economic benefits of these harmonized specifications to develop a final report to be presented to the AU for its adoption.

The importance of a continental approach in developing the right fuel specifications, and vehicle standards with ambition, yet achievable roadmap said the director of Infrastructure and Energy at African Union Commission, Mr. Cheikh Bedda. “In the context of regional and continental integration, a common approach is ideal for enabling the continent to move together in the same direction. It is even more critical in the new dispensation of operationalizing the African Continental Free Trade Area.” Intra-African trade is expected to rise as access to larger regional markets increase and shared specifications and discourage illegal activity such as smuggling, tampering with product quality. The Harmonized fuel specifications would potentially boost the Intra-African trade therefore, the key to sustainable economic development throughout the continent.

As Africa moves towards cleaner air, the reduction of harmful particles such as particulate matter (PM2.5) emitted from substandard vehicles reduces the concentration of PM2.5 in the atmosphere. The study points out PM2.5 is one of the factors in causing premature deaths, thereby linking its reduction to an increase in the avoidance of the deaths.

As the population grows and urbanization increases, there is an immediate need to develop policies regulating vehicle exhaust emissions and fuel specifications across the continent.  However, as emphasized during the workshop, it is important to consider and continue to address issues regarding the cost and viability of African refiners to secure the support of the member states. Furthermore, the challenges outlined by stakeholders included vehicular control mechanisms, timeframe for quality adjustments for refineries, and cost-effective methods for production and/or import of fuel with higher specifications. 19 stakeholders were in attendance at this workshop representing the ARA and supporting institutions. The Feedback obtained from this fruitful discussion will serve the consultants and the ARA in finalizing the report in support of the application for AFRI specifications once adopted by the AU Policy Organs.  A pan African approach with the backing of the AU would be valuable in facilitating a coordinated and structured implementation of this roadmap to achieving cleaner air. The roadmap for reaching full compliance to AFRI specifications is expected to be presented to the AU in 2020 and its adoption, 2021.

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