Motorbike taxi drivers drive motorbikes in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Feb. 27, 2022. (Xinhua/Martina Fuchs)
Electric mobility is all the rage in Rwanda, known as the “land of a thousand hills” in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes and East Africa converge, with more and more motorbikes being used for taxi services plying its roads.
KIGALI, March 8 (Xinhua) — Electric mobility is all the rage in Rwanda, known as the “land of a thousand hills” in the Great Rift Valley where the African Great Lakes and East Africa converge, with more and more motorcycles used for taxi services plying its roads.
In the capital of Kigali, with a population of around 1 million, a Quiet Revolution is underway to help the transition to a green economy and further promote sustainable development after the 1994 genocide of over a million Ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
Josh Whale, founder and CEO of Ampersand, one of the first electric motorcycle taxi companies on the African continent, said his business in the landlocked country is growing rapidly.
“We started here in Rwanda in 2016 and we are following the startup methodology, basically treating the business as a science experiment,” he said. “We’re putting another 450 motorcycles on the road here for a total of 500, with 60 going to Kenya in April. We’re in this growth phase and it’s happening.”
“We really want to see across East Africa at least all electric motorcycles by 2030. That’s 5 million motorcycle taxis, or about half of the entire vehicle fleet in the region. But Rwanda here is our home and that is our first goal,” he said.
A worker changes the battery of a motorcycle driver in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, Feb. 27, 2022. (Xinhua/Martina Fuchs)
Ampersand’s battery swap system allows motorcycle taxi drivers to simply replace depleted batteries with fully charged batteries at one of its swap stations using hydroelectricity from national grids.
“Currently in Rwanda we have around 130 drivers, but we are adding around 40 every week as we progress. We have eight battery swap stations here in Kigali and we are building four more in Kenya at the moment,” Whale said.
According to him, electric motorcycles or electric motorbikes cost less to buy and operate with up to 83% less carbon dioxide emissions.
Niyonshuti Valens, who works at the Nyamirambo exchange station in the suburbs of Kigali, said: “I love my job because when you consider our vision is to protect the environment and climate change and to do not pollute the surrounding air.
“When our customer comes, I give him the battery. Then I take the battery and put it on the charger. I give him a battery that’s fully charged, 100 percent,” Valens said.
Whale said its drivers have already traveled 3.8 million km, but the journey has only just begun. He now plans to expand the business across the region and tap into other African countries as well with the aim of helping to tackle air pollution, have social impact and support development. economic.
“I started this business originally because of climate change, and it’s still a key driver for us. Also cleaning the air in African cities,” he pointed out. “We want to help put transport on the continent on a different trajectory and I hope to inspire entrepreneurs from Africa and abroad to put Africa on the future the whole world needs.”
A motorbike taxi driver rides a motorbike in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, Feb. 27, 2022. (Xinhua/Martina Fuchs)
With its hilly, lush landscape and 45% of its 12 million people under the age of 18, Rwanda provides the perfect launching pad and testing ground for foreign and local start-ups, Whale said. “Rwanda is in a fantastic position as a proof-of-concept country. You come here, you prove it. It works. It’s easy to start a business. Rwanda is an ideal size for testing different businesses, for start- ups, for large companies, you want to test new concepts.”
This comes as Rwanda has set ambitious targets to become a green, climate-resilient and low-carbon economy by 2050. Some of its key strategies include increasing energy efficiency, decarbonization of the electricity sector, the switch to electricity and other low- and zero-carbon fuels, and the adoption of e-mobility.
Last year, the government announced that the transition to e-mobility was a top priority and launched several incentives, including a preferential corporate tax rate of 15%, electricity tariffs capped at industry and free land for the installation of charging stations. Infrastructure.
Whale, a former intellectual property lawyer who lived in Beijing from 2007 to 2013, said he was inspired by his time in China.
“Elon Musk had just sold the first of the Tesla Roadsters at that time. And suddenly electric was getting sexy,” Whale said. “At the same time, there were already around 200 million e-scooters and e-bikes in Chinese cities. That’s what really gave me the idea that e-mobility is not just something that comes from rich countries. ■