African start-ups tackle climate change

Petrol-guzzling taxi industry goes green
Article first published by Independent News

African entrepreneurs are paving the way for a transport revolution on the continent through innovative technology and businesses. This comes at a time when the public and private sector are working together to review policies and regulations that are impeding the alternative transport market.

In Kenya, aeronautical engineer Alex Makalliwa and his team convert Tuk-Tuks – a popular means of transport in many African cities – to run on electricity.

This is the 26-year-old lecturer’s attempt at reducing pollution through lowered carbon emissions, and giving Tuk-Tuk drivers and owners new business options. His innovation could save drivers up to 50 percent in costs, which will translate to cheaper transport for the public.

He also aims to set up a network of off-grid, solar-powered charging and battery swapping stations. This will allow Tuk-Tuk owners to lease the batteries, return them when they’re depleted, and instantly receive a fully charged battery. The end result is a transport network that is entirely independent of the national grid, and importantly, of coal-fired power stations.

Makalliwa is one of the many entrepreneurs on the continent who are hoping to make inroads in sustainable transport.

In Rwanda, Joshua Whale is the founder of Ampersand, a Berlin-based company that is working to roll out electric bikes designed for tough roads. Using microfinance and mobile payments, Ampersand makes it easier for small businesses to fund their bikes and the solar chargers they build.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, Jeff Madibeng’s vision is also to promote ecomobility in cities. His company, RBJ Green Mobility imports and sells Segways – upright electric scooters – which can be used in almost any industry from tourism to security.

GridCars, another start-up company in the same country, are targeting small businesses which transport goods. Their eSpanBoni, or work donkey, is a three wheeler delivery cart which can be modified for different uses, such as delivering stock.

To make using public transport easier in the South African city of Tshwane, start-up WhereIsMyTransport developed the FindMyWay app – a point to point journey planner for commuters.

The app assists commuters to find their way across various modes of public transport and includes the most up to date route information using live data provided by transport operators in the city.

The South African government is also taking steps to evaluate the impact that transport has on emissions, and how that can be reduced. A recent study by the Department of Trade and Industry identifies taxes, regulations and policies which impact transport that emits lower levels of carbon than the traditional, inefficient internal combustion vehicles that dominate most roads. It evaluates legislation around electric, gas-driven and hybrid vehicles. The aim of the study is to identify where legislation is impeding growth in this new sector, or where it conflicts across departments.

In December 2016 the Electric Vehicle Industry Association (EVIA) was launched. Founding members include BMW SA, Nissan SA, GridCars, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). The umbrella association is made up of both government and private organisations, and aims to accelerate and coordinate clean transport in the country.

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