Electric mobility has been the centre of attention globally for a couple of years. The spotlights have often been turned to Tesla, which is revolutionising the automobile industry. But Africa also holds amazing potential when it comes to electric mobility (often simplified by the term “e-mobility”), especially when it comes to electric motorbikes. Indeed, mobility in Africa relies in a big part on 2-wheelers “moto taxis”. Africa hosts an estimated 27 million motorbikes, out of which 80% is estimated to be used for commercial taxi service. And all these motos have the potential to soon be riding on electricity! REM, Rwanda Electric Motors, has been specializing in this field since 2019 in Rwanda and has become one of the largest e-mobility companies in the continent.
So much so that the company looks forward to celebrating its 50,000,000th km driven with 100% electric bikes in 2023. This distance is equivalent to traveling around the Earth’s equator more than 1,200 times or traveling to the Moon and back over 200 times. With close to 300 bikes in operation since its inception, REM has developed a unique model allowing moto taxi riders to no longer use gasoline, which in turns helps them generate significant fuel savings while also reducing carbon emissions.
The e-mobility industry in Africa is set for a massive boom in the coming years as a variety of new solutions and new companies are hitting the market. Next to electric 2-wheelers, other vehicles such as 3-wheelers, electric buses, electric bikes and of course electric cars are now being rolled out and tested across the entire continent. Demand for these vehicles currently seem unstoppable because of their very attractive economics. But rolling out large numbers of such vehicles requires significant funding for the vehicles themselves, and also for the power infrastructure that will be used to charge the batteries. There is no doubt however, that large international investors will want to seize this opportunity and position themselves on the promising business opportunity.
Some countries have understood the opportunity of e-mobility earlier than others and this is the case of Rwanda. Pushed by the desire to improve the air quality and protect the environment, the Rwandan Government has put in place attractive policies and fiscal support for companies operating in the e-mobility space. Rwanda is ideal for e-mobility because, unlike many other African countries, the locally produced electricity in Rwanda comes mostly from renewable sources. Making a motorbike electric in Rwanda therefore has a real impact on reducing the use of imported and expensive fossil fuels, as opposed to “displacing” the fossil fuel problem from the bike to the power generation plant.
REM was among the first companies to embrace the e-mobility vision of Rwanda and has developed unique features for its motorbike fleet such as “retrofits”. Retrofitting consists of transforming an old gasoline motorbike into a fully electric one, at a fraction of the cost of buying a new electric bike. In 2023 REM is now looking at mass expansion of its fleet deployment in Rwanda, to meet the country’s goal of converting 100% of its moto taxi community to electric. And the company is also looking to the wider region to bring about the benefits of electric mobility to as many riders as possible.