Sustainable mobility solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa

Electromobility is being discussed worldwide as the technology of the future. Sub-Saharan Africa can be a pioneer in leapfrogging into a climate-friendly mobility future.
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Mobility is one of the fundamental conditions for sustainable, economic, and societal development in a country: trade, healthcare, education, political participation, or cultural interaction rely on reliable and affordable transport systems. These have yet to be established in many regions of the Global South, with rural regions in Africa facing challenges that are particularly daunting. Our partnerships with social enterprises and startups in the e-mobility sector, in addition to our work with local authorities and international organizations, advance the development of innovative technological solutions and sustainable business models. Built upon a foundation of sustainable energy and circular economy technology, electromobility is essential for social and economic development and achieving global climate goals.

A growing population, urbanization, and insufficient connections to rural areas are all taking a toll on the African transport sector. However, Africa’s climate offers a one-time opportunity to transition directly into a climate-friendly mobility future – the conditions are right for electromobility as a new developing sector.

The cornerstones for e-mobility in rural Sub-Saharan Africa have been set

Electric vehicles are perfectly suited for rural and peri-urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Cold temperatures are rare, speeds above 60 kilometers per hour are uncommon, and ranges of up to 80 kilometers per day are the norm. The supply of solar energy is effectively endless, making simple and robust solutions attractive from both a technological and an economic perspective. Establishing a CO2 emission-free charging infrastructure and local e-vehicle production also creates jobs and encourages economic and social development. Moreover, for countries and users, electromobility contributes to energy self-sufficiency, the supply of energy without dependence on distant sources or suppliers.

We consider two- and three-wheeled vehicles and light transport vehicles to be the most interesting option: Motorcycles and lightweight vehicles with conventional motors are already ubiquitous in rural areas. Given their generally short life spans, opportunities exist for using e-vehicles to renew fleets. Cargo capacity demands tend to be relatively low and can be met easily and affordably.

Did you know …

… that up to 3.7 tons of CO2 could be saved per year if a motorcycle is replaced by an electric vehicle?

More facts and figures on electromobility in Sub-Saharan Africa

Call für Forschung und Entwicklung im Bereich E-Mobilität: Entwicklung und Pilotversuch für nachhaltigen Verkehr in Ghana und Uganda

Siemens Stiftung’s work in the region focuses on developing markets for rural electromobility. We believe these technologies will help achieve the following Sustainable Development Goals outlined in Agenda 2030.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 – No poverty
Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth
Sustainable Development Goal 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate action

Incubation program for startups and local e-technology

We work with social enterprises that are dedicated to expanding the commercial use of e-mobility in rural areas. Our efforts create conditions for their technologies to enter the pilot phase while also providing a testing ground for new business models, such as loan and leasing methods. We conduct data analysis and studies during each stage of the process and connect startups with partners for financing and cooperation. In rural Western Kenya, we operate our own e-mobility incubation program with a network of different user groups, public sector stakeholders, and local startups providing e-mobility technology solutions for production and charging infrastructure with a direct impact on labor market.

These endeavors are focused on ease of use in the most important economic sectors of rural Sub-Saharan Africa: agriculture, fishing, and market trade. Companies partnered with Siemens Stiftung test local demand for suitable e-mobility solutions in these sectors. For the most part, small businesses in the region utilize two- and three-wheeled vehicles, light transport vehicles, and fishing boats. Therefore, the project has focused on cargo bikes, motorcycles, boat motors, and related maintenance services and charging stations. We are also building the necessary infrastructure for a resource-saving circular economy for used batteries, solar modules, and other electronic components.

In-house social enterprise as innovation hub

In Kenya, WeTu is Siemens Stiftung’s fully-owned social enterprise. It provides partners with a risk-free testing environment for innovative business models. The foundation is available as a reliable partner during the pilot phase in which social enterprises find their footing and begin to grow. We are especially proud to support innovative business models, such sharing economy approaches that utilize battery leasing or the PAYGO payment system.

An e-mobility ecosystem

Alongside our support for individual social enterprises, we create an environment that encourages knowledge and information transfer between companies, public entities, and other important stakeholders. Collaboration with strategic partners is important, as evidenced by the Spotlight on E-Mobility  innovation conference in November 2019 in the Western Kenyan city of Kisumu. The conference was initiated in cooperation with the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). We work with the Shell Foundation and UNEP on strengthening ties between investors.

We consider a reliable set of underlying data to be crucial for long-term support of e-mobility in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. Through GIZ, we have received assistance in the form of five studies that provide new data on societal, environmental, and economic impact, in addition to information on business models, needs in vocational training, and charging infrastructure requirements. The full results of the technical evaluation and business model assessments will be published in free, open-source documents in spring 2021 to encourage scaling of e-mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our booklet “E-Mobility Solutions for Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Leveraging Economic, Social and Environmental Change” provides initial data and case studies from the region.

E-Mobility Innovation Call 2021

Siemens Stiftung first open, competitive E-Mobility Innovation Call “Electric Mobility Made in Africa for Africa” emphasized innovative technical solutions and circular economy approaches. More than 100 applications were submitted to the competition from 19 African countries. Five social enterprises have been selected by a renowned jury to receive prize money ranging from €10,000 to €50,000. Each recipient will put the money toward product development, expanding services, and establishing a greater market presence. In addition to their innovative solutions, the winners stand out because of their sustainable and inclusive business models.

E-Mobility Innovation Call 2021: Five African startups win prices for innovative e-mobility solutions

For the technological expansion of e-mobility in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, we work with and on behalf of the following social enterprises in the region:

In our engagement on an e-mobility platform and in expanding related ecosystems, we work with organizations such as Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Shell Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Partnering for Green Growth and Global Goals 2030 (P4G as well as local, regional, and national authorities in Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda.

Could electromobility provide a chance for sustainable and emission-free development?

Our booklet “E-Mobility Solutions for Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Leveraging Economic, Social and Environmental Change” compiles the biggest challenges and opportunities for electromobility in Sub-Saharan Africa, offers insights into currently available technologies and business models, and provides reliable data on the region.

By supporting e-mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa, we are pursuing a better supply situation, improved climate protection, economic and social development, and secure jobs and incomes. Our aim is to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals as outlined in Agenda 2030.

Local economic growth with the foundation's own social enterprise

In 2019, Siemens Stiftung founded a company called WeTu on Kenya’s Lake Victoria. With WeTu, social entrepreneurial structures and organizational forms are introduced into the foundation’s activities, broadening their impact and anchoring them locally. WeTu locations along Lake Victoria host local production of electric cargo bikes and workshops that teach new skills on assembly and maintenance of the electric vehicles being deployed. WeTu already operates seven solar charging stations for renting and charging batteries, and additional charging stations are on the way thanks to close collaboration with local authorities and other partners to ensure a reliable charging infrastructure.

WeTu is creating an eWaste recycling network for collecting electronic waste and expanding local value chains. These efforts receive financial support from the Global LEAP Fund, a program backed by organizations including USAID and DFID.

 Did you know …

… WeTu’s electric cargo bikes have a range of up to 50 kilometers on a full charge and can carry up to 180 kilograms of cargo?

More on the impact of WeTu

Creating a platform for information and networking in the e-mobility community

The community surrounding e-mobility in rural Sub-Saharan Africa is growing rapidly. Participants at the “Spotlight on E-Mobility” innovation conference in Kisumu demonstrated the willingness and eagerness to expand local e-mobility solutions. The conference also facilitated closer contact for partnerships and collaborations, with local social entrepreneurs using the opportunity to meet new investors and present their innovations and activities to interested donors. Siemens Stiftung signed a memorandum of understanding with UNEP that launched a collaborative program in support of the transition to electromobility and cemented closer cooperation with national and regional governments.

»Using an electric cargo bike to transport water and goods from wholesale shops to retail shops increased our daily earning and improved our way of life.«

Or would you like to work with us on supporting electromobility in rural Sub-Saharan Africa? We look forward to hearing from you! If you would like a print copy of the booklet, we will be happy to send it to you.

Social Venture Support – E-Mobility and Circular Economy
Marah Köberle

Background material

GIZ: Advancing Transport Climate Strategies (TraCS), (2016 – 2023)

GIZ: Electric Mobility in Kenya (2020)

Intellecap: White Paper, Sustainable rural mobility solutions in India: Challenges and Opportunities (2019)

ISNAD: Transportation and Mobility Behavior and Trends: Africa’s Road to a Sustainable Future (2019)

UNEP: The eMob calculator (2018)

UNEP: The global electric vehicle policy database (2018)

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