Uber launches electric bike taxis in Kenya, a first in Africa

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Uber has announced the launch of electric motorcycle taxis in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in what it says is a first for the company in Africa.

By: AFP
| Updated on: 02 Sep 2023, 15:34 PM

Uber boda boda riders prepare to ride the first fleet of the company’s electric product during their launch in Nairobi, Kenya. (REUTERS)

The move by the US app-based taxi service comes as the Kenyan government prepares to roll out electric vehicles across the country as part of a green mobility scheme. Uber announced the introduction of the Electric Boda in Kenya on Thursday, with about 3,000 bikes planned initially, saying it would cut running costs for drivers by 30-35 percent and reduce fares by about 15-20 percent.

The vehicles are two-wheelers, with a place for a driver and a passenger, and instead of a petrol-powered engine are driven by an electric engine supplied by a battery.

“This launch also supports our global efforts to become a zero-emissions platform by 2040,” Frans Hiemstra, Uber’s regional general manager for the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement.

According to the World Bank, the boda boda (motorcycle taxi) sector in Kenya employs over 1.5 million young people and contributes about 202 billion Kenyan shillings ($1.4 billion) to the economy each year, the Uber statement said.

Kenya’s government says it is aiming for five percent of all registered vehicles in the East African country to be electric-powered by 2030.

Currently, the number of registered electric vehicles (EVs) is low, accounting for less than one per cent of the total 4.4 million registered vehicles, according to government figures.

Meanwhile, African startup Spiro said it has reached a partnership with the Kenyan government to roll out more than one million electric vehicles throughout the country.

Trade Minister Moses Kuria said the launch would take place later Friday in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa.

Spiro said in a statement it has already introduced nearly 10,000 electric bikes to countries such as Benin, Togo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

The company also said it plans to set up 3,000 battery charging and swapping stations in Kenya, in addition to 350 already across Africa, and establish a manufacturing base in the country. It gave no indication of the timeframe.

Kenyan President William Ruto, who has positioned himself at the forefront of African efforts to combat climate change, is hosting the first ever Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi next week.

Kenya generates most of its energy from renewable sources such as hydro-electric and geothermal power.

But the country suffers from frequent power cuts.

A massive outage last weekend left several regions without electricity for hours, including Nairobi and its international airport, which was plunged into darkness after a generator serving the main terminals failed to work.

Fuel prices at the pump have recently soared to their highest levels in more than a decade, adding to the economic hardship of Kenyans suffering from a cost of living crisis and a raft of new taxes.

First Published Date: 02 Sep 2023, 15:34 PM IST

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