There Is A Silent Revolution Happening In Africa

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The African continent is home to more than 50 countries and more than 1.3 billion people. A lot of exciting things happen on the continent, and a lot of them just fly under the radar or don’t get a lot of attention. That is why I like to share stories from the continent that are related to all the cool stuff happening in clean energy and electric vehicles.

One of the reasons why some of these developments don’t make headlines and reach more people is that at times (actually most of the time), it is quite hard to get any data, even from the responsible authorities. Sometimes the data is distributed across different departments with different classification methods, making it quite a tough job to comb through all of it and analyze this data. This situation is not across the entire continent, and across all sectors, don’t get me wrong. I am simply using this as an example from some of my personal experiences.

I get really excited when I randomly bump into some new developments, especially in the electric vehicle space. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been seeing an increasing number of electric scooters and bikes in Harare, Zimbabwe. A couple of weeks ago, I spotted several young men on electric scooters during rush hour traffic on their way home. This was quite fascinating for me, as traditionally there has not been a real culture of using scooters (even ICE ones) for personal commuting here. As the cost of petrol keeps going up and a serious public transport crisis persists in Zimbabwe due to a clampdown on private minibuses as well as a shortage of high capacity buses, could more young people be enticed to embrace electric scooters as a mode of transport? Let’s see how this evolves.

So, a handful of scooters sighted doesn’t say much, however, I have also started to see more delivery companies utilizing electric scooters. I have seen a few whizzing around the city and at speeds that meant that I couldn’t really stop and take some nice pictures, but these scooters seemed to be associated with different companies. Yesterday at lunch I was fortunate to bump into one that was parked at a shopping center. I finally got my chance to take a picture with consent from the rider. I also managed to have a short conversation with the rider.

The rider said they have tens of these electric scooters, and he was really enjoying using them. He said that they have good acceleration and can get to speeds of over 80km/h. When I asked how many km he covers per day, he said, “I don’t know,” and he really didn’t seem bothered about that. I asked why? He said, “Well, one battery covers a good distance and after that, I simply just swap them.” This rider simply didn’t have to worry about range, he just goes about his business seamlessly. As I was preparing to ask more questions, he got a notification on his app. He had just received another request for a delivery, and he had to go.

The big takeaway for me was the fact that this rider just simply goes about his business using the electric scooter. He was not too bothered about the specs; the electric scooter just works fine for him. I had asked to see the battery and I saw it was a 2.3kWh lithium pack. It didn’t say on the data plate if it was LFP or NMC. I didn’t get a chance to check the specs of the electric hub motor, but I know that scooter is pretty fast. One of the days prior to meeting this rider, I had tried to “chase” one  when I spotted it, but it went quite fast and couldn’t catch up to him.

Another interesting event was when I bumped into a shop in the industrial area that sells ICE motorcycles. To my surprise, they had some small electric scooters in stock, and they said they had sold over a hundred of these scooters. This was a different type of scooter to the ones being used by the delivery companies I have been bumping into. A lot more is going on behind the scene, it seems.

This silent revolution seems to be happening in a lot of African countries that I have visited recently. In 5 years or so from now, I believe the numbers of electric vehicles ranging from 2-wheelers to 3-wheelers to the larger vehicles in Africa are going to surprise a lot of people.

Image by Remeredzai

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