According to Gartner.com, Electro mobility (or e-Mobility) represents the concept of using electric powertrain technologies, in-vehicle information, and communication technologies and connected infrastructure to enable the electric propulsion of vehicles and fleets.
In this interview, we discuss the Rwandan and African E-mobility sector at large with serial entrepreneur Tony Adesina.
Please kindly introduce yourself to our audience and tell us how you’re changing the face of Africa.
Tony B. Adesina, a Pennsylvania State University Engineering Alumni, is a serial entrepreneur, founder, investor, innovator and philanthropist. He is the founder of GURARIDE, SAFIRIDE, SAFIRUN, EVPLUGIN, and SUL MOBILITY,
With a background as an Industrial Engineer which borders around system operations, simulation, and integration, I decided to venture into green transportation with focus on (E-Mobility) alongside EV charging station infrastructure in Africa.
.I would like to know. Why electric cars? What’s your inspiration for being part of the e-mobility sector in Rwanda?
My passion and love for the continent of Africa drove me to explore the potentials and endless opportunities in the clean energy/EV sector starting with Rwanda, a country known for its favorable policies on electric mobility.
What attracted you to the land of thousand hills and mountains as your investment destination? Why Rwanda?
As a country with a clear vision, Rwanda has put in place measures to develop clean mobility and transportation of goods, services, and citizens. For example We can talk about the recently unveiled plan to incentivize the e-mobility sector through tax exemption and industrial rated tariffs for energy/electricity consumption.
“As we look forward to development, we are not making a choice between environment and prosperity. We are rather looking at how we combine both, because one supports the other…” H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.
It is on that note that we take pride in aligning ourselves with Rwanda’s vision to being a leader in Africa and in environmental sustainability by embracing a cleaner and healthier mode of transportation and low carbon emission.
With the discovery of Oil in Uganda and with the Ugandan government pushing to flourish in this sector. Do you think this poses a threat to the adoption of electric vehicles in Uganda and East Africa at large?
The transition to electric or other green forms of mobility is still in its infant stages in Africa and worldwide. Even though countries are currently on different levels of eco-consciousness, there is a global climate change stimulus that urges all nations to take action. I think it’s a matter of finding that gradual balance between fossil fuel and renewable energy consumption as we look for ways to drive the necessary uptake for this transition.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), in particular, is undergoing a mobility revolution spurred by rapid urbanization, rising population numbers, growing energy demand and economic growth. In your opinion, how do these factors play in favor of the quick adoption of e-mobility solutions like yours?
Looking at all these factors, you can almost foresee a common denominator which is high levels of energy consumption. Rapid urbanization and rising population trigger huge increments in daily population distribution which translates to high rates of fuel consumption overtime.
On the other hand, economic growth in general relies on energy for production and service provision which also includes significant use of energy. In an Area where oil and petrol, as natural resources, are significantly minimal, the demand comes at a very high importation cost to nations in this area. This expensive price tag attached to oil and petrol products thus drive governments to look for alternative means of satisfying their respective energy demand at a lower cost.
E-mobility now becomes the ultimate alternative as it provides more added value than just reduced costs of energy. It also contributes to a cleaner & healthier environment by curbing co2 emissions, boosts local economies as the demand of locally produced electricity spikes up, and provide massive employment opportunities as a new emerging technology.
Together with your partners; Ike Erhabor (Seasoned Businessman), Agenor Jean-Louis (fellow Industrial Engr. PENNSTATE Alumni/best friend) and Dipo Adesina (brother), You have co-founded powerful brands like GURARIDE, SUL E-mobility, SAFIRIDE, SAFIRUN Logistics and your most recent launch of EVPLUGIN “EVP Charger”. All these are e-mobility solutions you have pioneered in Rwanda. Tell us about these brands, how different they are and who they mainly target.
GURARIDE is a public bike-share (PBS) transport system company committed to the sustainability of Micro-Mobility in Africa that combines smart bikes, electric scooters, electric bikes, and electric mopeds sharing in a single app for last mile green transportation.
MISSION – To provide affordable transportation, reduce carbon emission, improve air quality, and ease congestion by developing alternative means of green transport (Micro-mobility) using advanced innovative technology.
SAFIRIDE founded 2018, is an on-demand e-mobility ride-hailing company committed to the sustainability of the environment through the use of electric motorcycle. We use cutting-edge technology to provide on-demand ride request services, products for mobile app solutions, cashless easy to use payment system, transport services for Corporate Businesses and Organizations.
MISSION – To disrupt the transportation sector by innovating and re-inventing mobility in Africa alongside providing our customers a sense of belonging, comfort, and safety while enjoying their ride.
SAFIRUN Logistics Ltd founded in 2018 is an all-in-one Eco-Friendly product delivery & logistics technology company that connects people with the best local merchants/stores in their cities via convenient delivery, pick & drop, and catering.
We offer cost effective logistic solutions to local businesses, government and non-government organizations, and home delivery companies all over Kigali. Our approach allows us to assume our partners’ logistic operation workload by reassigning all fleet management responsibilities to ourselves while generating new revenue streams for their businesses.
MISSION – To make life easier for our customers with lightning-fast eco-friendly delivery while protecting our environment by cutting down carbon-emissions. Being part of your day-to-day lives by delivering quality services while leaving a lasting/memorable impression and going the extra mile to ensure customer’s satisfaction.
EVPLUGIN is one of the leading EV charging station network in Africa, with focus on aiding the transition to electric mobility while creating worldwide awareness on the importance of e-mobility to our environment and providing the best charging experience to all its users.
MISSION – To lead the evolution of e-mobility by promoting green transport, zero carbon emission vehicles, and by providing a reliable charging network across Africa.
SUL MOBILITY is an electric mobility solutions hub with the sole aim of providing a complete value chain for EVs (electric vehicles), service & maintenance, capacity building through training courses for technicians, mechanics and riders.
MISSION – Building a strong ecosystem for sustainable transport using 21st century cutting edge technology to ensure smooth transition from other forms of mobility towards Green electric mobility all-over Africa, and worldwide.
Do you plan to scale your brands out of Rwanda? If yes, how do plan to do this and which country would be your next destination?
Indeed, we do! We remain committed to the sustainability of green transport in Africa in order to help cities reduce carbon emissions, pollution, and make point to point transportation become more convenient and affordable for the public.
We are looking at strategically expanding through the entire East African Community as we gear up for a continent-wide coverage.
Countries of interest where we currently have some traction are DRC, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, Haiti, Namibia, Burundi, and Uganda.
Most African countries are already grappling with mobility challenges in terms of congestion, inadequate infrastructure, air pollution, health issues and the fiscal burden high fuel prizes and subsidies place on the economy. How do you e-mobility solutions plan to solve some of these challenges?
With the introduction of E-mobility, we anticipate a downward spiral on fuel dependency across the whole transportation ecosystem in Africa. We are looking at significant relocation of funds from fossil fuel importations to other high priority sectors depending on the country concerned.
We are also seeing job creation and employment placement rising up due to the demand attached to the launch of e-mobility solutions across the entire eco-system which guarantees increments in GDPs across the continent as more e-mobility players come in.
Part of solutions we are bringing in is micro-mobility whose direct mission is to drastically reduce congestion and overburdened infrastructure across urban cities in Africa. For the specific case of Rwanda, the government is determined to now include bike lanes and cycling infrastructure as part of its strategies to reduce traffic congestions which, according to statistics, significantly contribute to high levels of air pollution.
As a startup entrepreneur in Africa operating in a sector in its growth stages, what challenges are you currently facing and how do you plan to mitigate them?
All businesses face a certain amount of anticipated or unprecedented drawbacks. It all comes down to the agility you have to build mechanisms across your business model to directly address these occurrences.
In our own case, being a startup with a relatively new disruptive technology is one matter itself. Our research and case studies show low levels of eco-consciousness, and reluctance of switching to other forms of Mobility. As part our market penetration strategy, seminars, training, and awareness campaigns have been rolled out through our SUL E-MOBILITY ACADEMY with the sole purpose of educating the transportation sector and vehicle operators about the importance of electric mobility. This academy is also in charge of generating certified EV mechanics, drivers, riders, technicians, and EV assemblers that will feed the entire e-mobility ecosystem.
On the other hand, there is need for policies and measures that facilitate this transition across African nations. In Rwanda’s case, the government is putting tremendous efforts in setting policies that drastically reduce the expense load of installing the necessary e-mobility infrastructure, provide cost effective electric vehicles, and offer affordable after-sale services to operators. These are measures that other African countries can adopt to attract e-mobility players and collectively progress towards a green continent.
Africa fits all criteria for an electric vehicle (EV) revolution: the continent has the richest renewable energy resources on the planet. Temperatures in the region are rarely below zero degrees and people travel an average distance of less than 80km daily with an average speed of 60 km/h, making EV solutions technically and economically the perfect fit. Why has the adoption of electric vehicles in Africa been slow?
In a global context, the climate change crisis is the major driving force towards electric mobility revolution as part of many solutions set forth by the world elite nations. We can say there was a limited level of eco-consciousness on a global scale before the climate change revolution.
Talking about Africa, it is true that our continent is suitable for electric mobility. However, we have always relied on external manufacturing technology including automobile and vehicle production. Africa has the richest resources, but it lacks the necessary industrial power to turn them into modern day finished products.
Consequently, Africa imports products/vehicles that are originally its own in the making (in terms of raw material and energy) at a much higher price. This is also applicable to electric vehicles. The manufacturing process of Electric vehicles is considerably expensive and requires sophisticated industrial technology and capacity.
As a result, there are a few nations, if not none, that currently manufacture EVs on our continent. As a result, the end consumer price of EVs is very elevated for consumers to even consider. This is why you see countries like Rwanda opting for heavy incentives such as importation tax exemption and industrial rated energy costs for EV operators.
We are currently pushing our limits by completely assembling all our EVs in Rwanda to enhance our bid in supporting made in Africa programs such as the Made in Rwanda project. We hope to one day fully manufacture all our technologies on the African continent.
With more than 60% of Sub-Saharan Africans living outside of urban areas, rural transportation and mobility are of utter importance. Roads represent a lifeline for economic and agricultural livelihood as well as a number of indirect benefits including access to healthcare, education, credit, political participation and social interaction. How are your e-mobility solutions helping Africa’s largest group of rural dwellers?
This is where our EVP Charging Network comes into play. Other than making EVs accessible to everyone, our aim is to build a strategic charging network across Africa starting with Rwanda, EAC, and so forth.
One of the major challenges of EVs is that no matter what battery capacity your vehicle possesses; you need at least one or two refills on a daily basis. The number of refills can increase in cases of long trips like you mentioned, and battery swaps centers are simply not efficient in this case.
EVPLUGIN provides a public charge on the go model similar to fuel stations approach that allows EV operators to charge on the road. In Rwanda, we have launched the first public charging stations in Kigali that can accommodate 6 EVs simultaneously. We plan to have a total of 26 countrywide before the end of this year as we look forward to bringing this technology to other African nations.
EVPLUGIN also has an app, soon to be launched, that allows users to locate the nearest unoccupied charging stations thus improving users charging experience across our charging network.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of using electric vehicles compared to fuel consumption vehicles?
We can break this down into 3 categories: User friendly Operation, Expense capping, and the Social welfare. On the operators’ technical view point, electric vehicles do not use the conventional automobile engines. EVs fully rely on 100% electric powered engines. This eliminates the regular maintenance and servicing that comes with using fossil fuel dependent vehicles.
On the other hand, EV operators can save between 50-70% on their regular expenses such as fuel consumption and maintenance fees as opposed to fuel vehicles.
EVs promote social welfare by curbing co2 emissions to improve the lifestyles of our inhabitants, creates new employment opportunities, reduces fossil fuel importation, and triggers high consumption of locally generated electricity.
Let’s talk climate change and government policy on the EV sector. The repercussions combustion fuels have on climate change and their impact on human health, agricultural production and economic losses are severe. The global transition to a low carbon economy has never been more urgent than it is today. What policies can be put in place to support this agenda and the EV sector? And what role are your EV solutions playing to support this transition?
Starting with your second question, our EV solutions are here to provide the complete value chain of E-mobility and build a sizeable pool of skills and capacity building that will feed the whole ecosystems for generations to come.
I mentioned SUL E-MOBILITY ACADEMY that has now successfully trained and certified 700+ alumni of whom 40% are women and 60% are men. Apart from making EVs accessible, we have successfully trained 1000+ moto drivers on the concept of operating electric motorcycles and other EVs including beginner riders and expert drivers.
We have installed different dealerships, maintenance, spare parts, and other after-sale services shops that serve as job placements for our alumni. We have partnerships with different vocational institutions and NGO’s that will ensure this is long lasting program that will feed the E-mobility sector for years to come.
Back to your first question, government policies may vary across different countries depending on many factors such as population size, energy consumption levels, energy production rate, population distribution, local mobility practice, landscape topography, literacy levels, trade norms & regulations, and so on.
Perhaps designing and implementing these policies can be under the umbrella of how to make e-mobility and other non-fossil-fuel forms of mobility the ultimate transport option for every household. By asking yourself this question, as a government, you’ll be able to maneuver around technical, financial, social, and all sorts of limitations that are slowing down the imperative switch to green forms of mobility.
As we wind up this conversation, where do you see the future of e-mobility sector in Rwanda, East Africa and Africa at large?
Rwanda is making huge stride towards its “Vision Green Transport” which I strongly believe will be achieved in a very short time. Other African countries are gradually waking up and embracing the idea of adopting e-mobility. We believe with time it will be embraced across the continent.
Any last remarks to our audience and how they can connect with you or reach out to you.
I just want to encourage all entrepreneurs, innovators and working class to #staythecourse and don’t stop chasing your dreams. You can reach out to me on: Twitter: @tonybadesina, Instagram: @tonybadesina, Facebook: Tony B. Adesina, LinkedIn: Tony B. Adesina.