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Kenya emerges preferred startup hub for electric vehicles

Kenya emerges preferred startup hub for electric vehicles

Kenya is positioning itself as a global leader in renewable energy, through its wide tech adoption, and the government’s push for electric vehicles through friendly policies and is fast emerging a hub on the continent.

This development is allowing BasiGo, Opibus, Kiri, Nopea Ride, EVM Africa, Caetano, and Agilitee Africa among others take advantages of investment opportunities to set up shop in Kenya by championing electric vehicles on Kenyan roads, in what may turn the country into a hub for EVs in the continent.

“Some of the startups that have set their bases in Kenya and from the look of things, more and more are set to join the bandwagon,” Rose M Mutiso, Research Director of the Energy for Growth Hub said in a research note.

In 2019, Kenya reduced the import duty for fully electric vehicles. The following year, it released a strategy to increase adoption of EVs while reducing the amount it spends on importing petroleum and cleaning the environment.

Read also: How Fintech-as-a-service can bridge gaps in financial inclusion

Measures in the strategy include having public buildings and new estates incorporate charging stations.
In a more recent show of support for clean energy, Kenya said it would only use electric and hybrid vehicles for its bus rapid transport system that will be launched in the country’s capital, Nairobi, in June.

“Kenya already boasts a small but growing EV startup ecosystem, with many capitalising on the growing opportunity to electrify its growing fleet of two- and three-wheeled vehicles,” Benjamin Maina, a commercial bus driver told Voice of Africa.

Starting in February, Nairobi-based electric vehicle (EV) and finance company BasiGo will pilot-test two electric buses with public transport providers, offering a model for how Kenya can move towards an electrified and sustainable transport future.

The e-mobility startup, which launched in November last year, plans to bring over 1,000 electric buses with 25 and 36 seat capacities to Kenya for purchase by bus operators over the next five years.

The buses are being sourced from BYD Auto, the largest manufacturer of electric buses globally, and although the pilot buses were imported fully built, the eventual goal is for BasiGo buses to be locally assembled.

“We have partnered with two different public service vehicle operators in Nairobi for our pilot programme,” says Jit Bhattacharya, CEO and co-founder of BasiGo.

BasiGo is not the first EV provider in the market. Opibus, a Swedish-Kenyan EV manufacturer, EkoRent Africa, a Finnish-Kenyan company that operates a fully electric taxi-hailing service, Ecotrify, an e-mobility infrastructure supplier and installer, and Kiri EV, an electric bike producer, are all introducing parallel schemes for electric transport.

In December 2021, after successfully completing a pilot programme, Opibus partnered with Uber to deploy 3,000 electric motorcycles for African drivers by 2022. Uber’s presence in 16 African cities will enable Opibus to accelerate the mass adoption of EVs across the continent, the partners say.