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Rwanda goes electric with locally made motorbikes

One of the African countries making strides in terms of development is Rwanda. According to recent reports, a local startup identified as Ampersand is rolling out an initiative to reduce emission in the country through the production of electronic motorbikes to replace the current ones running on fuel at expensive maintenance rates.

The Rwandan government which always create enabling environment to support private sector growth has welcomed the initiative. The Paul Kagame administration has offered free lands for charging stations, capped electricity tariffs, built road infrastructure for electronic vehicles, made provisions for preferential parking and travel lanes across Kigali.

Speaking to reporters, Josh Whale, chief executive of the company explained the relevance of the initiative, especially in line with climate issues. “Motorbikes make up more than half of all vehicles in this part of the world; their simple engines lack the sort of costly emissions reduction tech that you see in modern cars, or in motorbikes in the global north. Meanwhile they are being run for over 100km per day, so that’s a lot of pollution, a lot of carbon [dioxide].” He said.

Touching on the economic benefit of the electronic Motor system, Mr. Whale added that, “in Rwanda, drivers spend more in a year on petrol than the cost of a new motorbike. We’ve shown that we can offer an alternative in the same style as their current motorbike [that] costs less to buy, less to power and less to maintain.”

One Didier Ndabahariye who has been in the motorbike business for 12 years narrated his experience with the initiative to the BBC. “In the first days, things were not good because I was not used to riding e-motors and the bike sometimes cut-off. However, I went on working, and soon I knew many things about how the bike works and how to ride it. Then I started saving more money.” He said.

Didier added that, “now I like the bikes – an e-moto can last for a long time without any problems unlike with an engine motor – and it goes well, it is very smooth to ride.”

To make the initiative sustainable, the company has established a station to make it easy for riders to exchange their depleted batteries with charged ones. The CEO revealed that, “we are still small and we want to move fast – as the climate crisis demands – and do some hard things quickly. So we’re very happy to team up with big existing players where we can.”

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