There are more than 700,000 motorcycle taxis, commonly known as “boda boda”, in Uganda, representing one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. Boda bodas are the main form of transportation for most people in the region for several reasons: affordability, the ease with which they move through dense traffic, and limited public transportation. Boda bodas provide an important form of income for 5% of the population and are often the only available and affordable transport in rural areas.
However, a new model of motorcycle taxis powered by electricity offers a game-changing innovation with both economic and environmental advantages. Not only do they improve the revenues earned by drivers due to their lower energy and maintenance costs, but they also reduce pollution by cutting emissions and noise.
Zembo (Zero Emission Motorcycle Boda) is a start-up company that provides sustainable mobility solutions for Africa. Zembo’s electric motorcycles and network of solar charging stations have been revolutionising the boda boda market in Uganda since 2019. With PREO’s support, and co-funding from GIZ Zembo has extended its off-grid solar station network to peri-urban and rural Uganda, along the Masaka Road, a major 120km highway connecting the capital city of Kampala to the southwestern town of Masaka. This is the first intercity route with a dedicated charging infrastructure for e-vehicles in Africa.
The PREO grant fund has enabled Zembo to operationalise the e-corridor by recruiting drivers, training them, and financing the sale of e-bikes in the catchment area of the corridor. The grant will also enable Zembo to expand its fleet by 6 e-motorcycles for every off-grid station that serves local villages and surrounding areas, thereby creating long-term additional revenue for drivers and so significantly impacting their household income.
The new infrastructure will especially impact low-income boda boda drivers whose daily revenue is typically €5. By going from Kampala to Masaka (120km) on an electric bike, a driver will save around 3€ of petrol and 276 kg of CO2 per trip.
This project will be key to proving that e-mobility can be scaled further in the country and across Africa.