Siemens Stiftung Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Powering Agriculture, and Wetu recently organized an electric mobility conference in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is an inland port city on Lake Victoria and is Kenya’s 3rd largest city after capital city, Nairobi and the coastal city, Mombasa. The E-Mobility conference was part of the Lake Basin Region Innovation and Investment week.
The focus was on strengthening the economic capacity of the Lake Basin Region and the rest of East Africa through innovations in the electric mobility space. Innovations in electric mobility present an opportunity to combat unemployment via up-skilling members of the local communities to secure employment opportunities in “future jobs” and to promote climate sustainability.
Kisumu has traditionally been a trading town therefore an efficient, sustainable, robust mobility and logistics ecosystem will enhance capacity in the region. Pilot programs are already running around the Lake Basin Region with several startups looking to scale up operations in Kampala, Uganda and around Kisumu, Kenya. Some of the products on show at the E-Mobility conference included electric cargo bikes, electric motorcycles (E-Bodas), and solutions for electric boats.
Uganda-based Bodawerk showcased its E-Boda electric motorcycle. Bodawerk converts the very popular Bajaj Boxer 100 ICE motorbikes in Uganda to electric. The E-Bodas are powered by second life lithium-ion batteries. Bodawerk has been building local capacity and has set up a lithium-ion battery pack assembly unit in Kampala. The process involves sourcing batteries from old laptops, stripping out the batteries, testing and sorting the good ones, then assembling new battery packs with applications in the stationary storage space and in electric mobility.
Bodawerk is very passionate about sourcing materials in a sustainable manner. The wiring is sourced from recycled wiring looms from old vehicles, which it says provides Bodawerk with miles of automotive grade wiring at a fraction of the normal costs. This approach allows the company to make its E-Bodas quite competitive on pricing compared with the usual petrol motorcycles.
Bodawerk has set up battery swapping stations around Kampala where users can rent batteries for $3 per day. The $3 covers as many swaps per day as needed. The battery rental model means the converted electric motorcycles can be acquired at a price that is cheaper than buying a new petrol bike. Riders in Uganda usually spend about $5 to $6 per day on fuel costs. The battery lease fee of $3 presents a huge saving on their operating costs in an industry with very tight margins.
Opibus, a Nairobi-based startup that we featured recently here in EV Conversions Go Mainstream in Kenya, was also part of the proceedings. Opibus will soon be supplying its electric motorcycles to the Kisumu area as part of the broader e-mobility program for the Lake Basin Region. Kisumu-based WeTu also showcased its E-Cargo Bike.
WeTu is focusing on improving lives in rural Kenya though clean energy, safe water, and electric mobility solutions. WeTu has 6 solar powered hubs near Lake Victoria. The pedal electric cargo bike was designed to carry loads of up to 160 kg | 352 pounds and is suitable for off-road use in rural Kenya. In a boost for the local job market, the E-Cargo bike is assembled in Mbita, Homa Bay County.
The WeTu model also includes battery swapping. The 2.4 meter | 7.8 foot long cargo bike has a cargo bed that can be converted for many applications such as for transportation of water containers to housing chillers for fish vendors. This could be a game changer for the local fish economy. The fish industry is one of the key pillars of the Lake Basin Region’s economy.
In Kenya, 90% of the national fish catch contribution is from the Lake Victoria region, according to FAO. Electric boat solutions will also certainly boost efficiencies in this sector. Torqeedo’s electric boat propulsion solutions were on show at the conference and we hope startups looking into solutions for electric boats can be able to scale up soon.
It’s good to see that discussions on electric mobility are already taking place in Africa’s second tier cities like Kisumu. The event managed to shed some light on progress in the electromobility space in regions where electric mobility can really have a transformative impact in the rural and second tier city regions which are often overlooked. Kisumu is very keen on reducing CO2 emissions from the transport sector and since it is one the counties with the highest number of 2-wheelers in the public transportation sector in Kenya, transitioning to electric mobility will have a significant impact on emissions in the region.
Many thanks to Nambuya Imbega for taking the images and contribution.