Going green!

Silicon Valley Is Now Paying Attention To East Africa’s Motorbike Taxis

By  |  April 9, 2021

The biggest ever investment for an e-mobility startup in Sub-Saharan African has been made.

San Francisco-based Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) just pumped USD 3.5 Mn into Ampersand—a Rwandan startup among the leaders in the region’s motorbike taxi market and Africa’s first electric motorcycle company.

“This investment shows that e-mobility in 2021 is just as much about motorbike taxi drivers in East Africa as it is about the launch of the large electric SUVs, pickups, and sedans around the world,” says Josh Wale, Ampersand’s CEO.

There are more motorbikes in Kigali than cabs in the Big Apple, and Ampersand is the tech startup that is making the entire fleet go electric. It’s no longer news that Rwanda is one of the cleanest cities in Africa.

Promoting a carbon emission-free initiative for mobility in the country and other East African markets is an ideal way to go green.

In Rwanda, motorcycle taxis are a very common means of movement. Rather than abolishing this mode of transit as Lagos did, the government is pushing to make every one of them on the streets of the country run electric.

As of 2019, 20,000 to 30,000 motorbike taxis were operating in Kigali alone.

2 years ago when the government tried to rub minds with motorbike companies and riders—for them to ditch fuel and diesel—Ampersend’s waiting list exploded. Being the first electric motorbike company in the Kagame-led country, 7,000 drivers were queued up to get their electric bikes as of last year.

Eastern Africa is the busiest region for electric motorcycles in the continent. It is also the region with Africa’s fastest-growing population, set to more than double by 2050.

While the majority of investments in this part of Africa go into creating sustainable electricity grids and renewable energy, the e-mobility markets are getting in on the act.

Speaking of renewable energy, cleantech already accounts for nearly 90 percent of the energy supply in some East African countries—chief of which is Kenya.

The investment in the Rwandan motorbike startup does not just consolidate the country’s going-green efforts, but also signals that Silicon Valley investors are paying attention to the market(s).

However, Ampersand isn’t riding electric in Rwanda alone. Safi is another player in the market.

The rides are often called boda-bodas in Kenya, where similar companies like ARC Ride Ecobodaa, and Solar E-Cycles among many others a vying for market shares. These companies provide the electric version of motorcycles to local drivers.

Before now, Silicon Valley has mostly had an interest in African fintech. After all, among all other innovation-driven sectors of the continent’s economy, fintech is the one that produced an exit and a unicorn in a space of the last 5 months.

With e-mobility as the newest market in the portfolio of a Silicon Valley VC, it’s only a matter of time before other investors from San Francisco follow suit with interest in similar firms. Ampersand has many competitors in Eastern Africa.

Lastly, recall that the USD 3.5 Mn pump is the largest ever investment for an e-mobility company in Sub-Saharan Africa. The funding sky just changed levels.

Featured Image: CDN

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