The transportation demands in rural Africa are enormous, yet the few available vehicles are costly and generate high levels of pollution. The climactic conditions in Africa represent a unique chance to immediately embrace a climate-friendly transportation future. An energy-autonomous charging infrastructure and local production of purpose-built vehicles create jobs and stimulate economic development.
The WeMobility branch of WeTu is testing electric vehicles at WeTu sites. These are environmentally-friendly alternatives to existing transportation options and are well-suited for deployment in rural areas. The aim is to demonstrate that these products are appropriate for daily use on Lake Victoria and that the corresponding business model provides cost-effective and low-maintenance access to e-mobility. WeMobility also sets up workshops and trains employees to assemble and maintain the e-bikes and e-motorcycles. Collection facilities are also being planned at each location for environmentally-friendly disposal of electronic waste. Vehicle batteries will be distributed on a rental system. When the batteries are no longer suitable for use in an electric vehicle, they will be used for stationary power storage at more than 30 solar charging stations that are currently being developed.
Mobility is an essential part of a country’s development: it creates access to jobs, markets, social services, and healthcare. The mobility sector also creates its own jobs, and environmentally-friendly mobility is important for protecting the environment and reducing CO2 emissions. WeMobility has a significant impact when it comes to economic, social, and environmental sustainability – known as the three pillars of sustainability.
Economic development and social engagement
The World Bank has calculated that in Sub-Saharan Africa, an average of 70 percent of a household’s income is spent on transportation. Poor households do without mobility as much as possible, resulting in missed opportunities for participating in the economy and society.
Regional trade enables fishermen, farmers, and small businesses to create new markets for their products and increase income. The availability and affordability of transportation influences how this trade is conducted. High transportation costs also have a direct impact on market prices for agricultural products. Several local markets on Lake Victoria (including Homa Bay, Mbita, Sori, and others) attract up to 5,000 people from locations near and far (such as Tanzania). Off-grid solar panels make businesses and private homes independent from expensive imported sources of fuel while enabling energy self-sufficiency for transportation and personal mobility.
Improved local and regional connections to markets and climate-neutral transportation is an important element of sustainable development in Western Kenya. WeMobility and its partners work together to ensure that parts of vehicle production and maintenance take place within the project regions. Encouraging local production and creating full-time jobs diversifies a labor market otherwise dominated by agriculture, while also contributing to broader economic development.
WeMobility works with partners from the private sector that develop and provide mobility solutions while investing in training and continuing education. This allows WeMobility to create sustainable solutions. Positive dynamics are created in the formal and informal job markets through access to new technologies, markets, and products.
With its WeMobility branch, WeTu has already created jobs and hired new employees. Cost-effective access to e-vehicles leads to new business opportunities such as delivery services, creating additional jobs and income opportunities.
Advanced training opportunities for “e-mobility mechanics” have also been planned to introduce informal labor market participants – such as motorcycle mechanics – to the new demands of e-transportation. This helps establish and expand value creation in Western Kenya.
Climate and environmentally-friendly transportation
Kenya’s commitments to the UNFCCC Paris Agreement prioritize efficient transportation systems with low carbon emissions paired with renewable energy creation. Two-stroke motorcycles are quite popular in Kenya, but they create more particle emissions than a car. All the same, experts agree that two- and three-wheeled vehicles should have a priority in the transition to e-mobility. Some 50,000 fishing boats on Lake Victoria also provide significant potential for reducing fuel costs and CO2 emissions.
The e-vehicles deployed by WeMobility will reduce CO2 emissions and improve air quality. WeTu sites are being equipped with electric charging stations powered by the sun’s energy. More than 30 locations along the entire Kenyan coast of Lake Victoria are scheduled to be operational by the middle of 2020.
Facilities for collecting and sorting electronic waste are also being planned. The “E-Waste pilot” is funded by the Global LEAP Fund, which is supported by organizations including USAID and DFID.
Providing open source data
The project is receiving scientific support from local and German partners. Data is published using an open-source approach, which means all results from technical evaluations and evaluations of the business models are publicly available. Interested stakeholders can access information showing what factors advance or inhibit the project, a practice that contributes to increasing the scale of e-mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa. These studies are supported by the German development agency GIZ.