The African continent adoption of E-commerce and car-hailing apps as a means of automobile dealings has risen in the past years but of note is the gratifying news that locally-made electric bikes are beginning to take over roads on the continent.
The time to aggressively replace fuel-based motorbikes in a global race to net zero is now!
Swedish-Kenyan firm, Opibus coming off with a strategic partnership between global ride-hailing firm Uber, appears to be leading the way in the adoption as about 3,000 Kenyan designed-and-built electric bikes are being projected to hit the road in Africa target countries as early as June this year.
Opibus, an e-mobility manufacturing and development company currently developing electric bikes in Nairobi has said it is leveraging on Uber’s presence in African markets to accelerate the mass adoption of electric vehicles across the continent.
“We’re seeing a huge demand for locally-designed electric motorcycles on the African continent, and by working with Uber we’ve now been able to prove the feasibility for large-scale deployment. Next year we’re scaling up our production to meet the market demand, both in Kenya and in the region” explained Mikael Gånge, Co-Founder and Chief Sales Officer of Opibus.
The Uber ride-hailing platform currently has a presence in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ivory Coast among other Africa countries, with the company setting a 2040 target the full switch of its business to electric, with the further ambition of becoming a net-zero emissions platform.
“Uber is continuously looking for ways to improve the customer experience, and we have a responsibility to invest in product innovations that are safe, reliable, durable, and environmentally friendly and have a sustainable impact on drivers and cities. This collaboration with Opibus will do just that,” said Frans Hiemstra, General Manager, Uber Sub-Saharan Africa.
Opibus noted that the majority of the 3,000 units, will be deployed in Kenya and the rest will be used for launching the firm in other Africa markets, both in West and Southern Africa.
The biggest e-commerce platform in Africa, Jumia had in November 2021 announced the replacement of ‘hundreds’ of the fuel-based delivery motorbikes used by its riders, through a partnership with a Kenyan Start-up eBee Africa.
Jumia noted that the decision to switch to E-bicycles is in cognizance with the firm’s effort to be an environmentally conscious organization.
“This pilot with eBee is the beginning of a conscious push across Africa into EVs. We hope we can play a part, as early adopters, in speeding up the penetration of the industry in Africa” said Jumia Services Country Manager, Ankur Agarwal.
According to Olivia Lamenya, the Africa Managing director of another Kenyan start-up, with a four-hour charge, the electric bikes can last an entire day of deliveries, save cost for riders and final consumers, with the company targeting having a 1 million green bikes on the road in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
Ampersand, a Rwanda startup has announced its plans of scaling up the number of electric motorcycles from its current fleet of 56 drivers on the country’s roads to ‘several thousand’ while also growing in the Kenyan market, and projects that by the end of 2022, as it eyes the potential to electrify the around 5 million fuel-powered motorcycles in East Africa.
Ecobodaa, another Kenyan startup with an identical business model to Ampersand has November last year started the production of its electric bike brand with the company ramping up the roll-out of battery swap stations across the country, while betting on a rent-to-own business model to boost uptake.
Indian electric vehicles (EV) maker, One Electric had July 2021 began deliveries for its motorcycle brand, Kridn in Kenya, with plans in the offing to extend its operations to four more African countries this year, an indication that the African market is bringing in investors outside the continent.
Though target markets may be a bit different, One Eletric and Opibus appears to be direct rivals, effectively promoting competition. The slightly different market may be that Opibus has a robust frame and dual swappable battery packs that provide a perfect product-market fit, One Electric motorbikes are designed for tough road conditions, heavy loading, and high temperatures.
The brands are making a similar pledge which is good for the African market: They all promised a significant reduction in fuel and maintenance costs, with Opibus for instance affirming that users of its bikes experience a cost reduction of more than 60 percent, in comparison to a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) motorcycle.
Africa is set to be on the spotlight in 2022 with big savings financially and environmentally, with competition for the deployment of electric motorbikes on the spiral.