Zimbabwe has adopted low sulphur fuels as the continent presses ahead with the migration towards cleaner fuels to reduce pollution.
So far, only 15 countries out of 54 on the continent have made it compulsory to have diesel fuels with less than 50 parts per million of sulphur, although such fuels are common in several others.
Countries that have low sulphur diesel include Morocco, Ghana, Benin, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Namibia.
Energy ministers in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) met on February 11 this year and agreed to move to the latest European standard of low sulphur fuels and vehicle emission standards harmonisation, Euro IV, from January next year.
On the regional front, SADC Energy ministers agreed two years ago to set 2022 as the deadline for all countries to have achieved mandatory low sulphur fuels.
The transport sector is a major source of air pollution, which causes 4,2 million premature deaths each year worldwide, while one in eight deaths is from air pollution.
Addressing delegates last week at the Regional Energy Regulators Association of Southern Africa (RERA) annual conference and general meeting, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority director of liquid fuels and gas, Ms Alinafe Mkavea said only 15 countries in Africa have adopted low sulphur fuels.
"In Southern Africa, seven countries in the region — Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho have adopted 50ppm sulphur fuels," she said.
"South Africa and Botswana also have low sulphur fuels, but national diesel standards are still set at 500ppm."
In South Africa it is now possible to buy 10ppm diesel and South Africa and Botswana both just need to change their stated national standard to what is on the ground to have compliance.
"Zambia's diesel standards are at 5 000ppm but also import some 500ppm fuels, mainly for their mining industry. There is need to harmonise fuel standards due to intra-regional trade."
Ms Mkavea said going forward, there was need to enforce or craft laws on vehicle standards, clean buses (Euro IV), fuel economy vehicles, and electric vehicles.
SADC member states have been called upon to review and harmonise the maximum age to five for second-hand vehicles imported by 2024. Ms Mkavea said while SADC countries have shown commitment towards adopting clean fuels, more needs to be done, including upgrading refineries.
"Ensuring fuel quality would prevent air pollution in the transport sector. Cleaner fuels must be coupled to cleaner vehicles to realise their full health and environmental benefits," she said.
Among other issues, Ms Mkavea recommended that member states should develop the necessary country capacity to conduct inspections, enforce compliance and maintenance programmes by 2025.
Further, countries should establish vehicle emission testing programmes in major cities by 2025 and conduct awareness campaigns on cleaner vehicles and fuels.
She also wants SADC member states to explore and adopt best available technologies that promote vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, including diesel retrofits and low emission vehicles like motorcycles.
As at 2015, Africa had 45 million used vehicles, with 90 percent of them in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. This has seen a 75 percent jump in transport emissions in Sub-saharan Africa between 2000 and 2016.