Ampersand Rwanda has struck a deal with Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer BYD to build 40,000 electric motorcycles in Kenya and Rwanda by the end of 2026. Ampersand’s long-term goal is to win a majority of Africa’s electric motorcycle market. Revenue from Africa’s motorcycle market is estimated to reach US$4.87bn by the end of 2024, according to data from Statista.

Founded in 2016 by Josh Whale and backed by institutional investors like the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIP), Ampersand manufactures and deploys electric bikes in Rwanda and Kenya. It also owns 18 charging stations in Kenya and 27 in Rwanda.  

Ampersand will use BYD’s expertise in making smaller inexpensive batteries to grow the East African market.

BYD, which has suffered setbacks to its global expansion goals after the US government increased tariffs fourfold on electric vehicles and advanced batteries from China will consider Africa’s nascent market a great opportunity.   The Chinese company set up a production facility in Kenya to produce 500 units of electric vehicles this year and plans to produce 4000 cars and buses next year. 

“They have already done this on a significant scale in China but they are facing some difficulties in markets in Europe where taxes have been increased,” Andrew Amadi, a board member of the Africa Electric Mobility Alliance and CEO of Ubuntu Solar Power Africa, told TechCabal. “Africa offers them a new opportunity to scale their market.”  

Rwanda and Kenya have become investors’ first port of call for electric vehicles thanks to the friendly policies initiated by both governments. There are no import duties on electric cars and motorbikes in Rwanda and the country’s e-mobility policy also allows companies to set up charging stations, rent-free. In May, Spiro, an Indian electric vehicle company secured $50m from investors to increase production and deployment of electric motorbikes in Rwanda. 

Kenya also unveiled the first draft of its National E-mobility Policy in April which supports local battery manufacturing, recycling, and repurposing initiatives. It also encourages the production of EV components like charging systems. The policies have pushed several investors like BasiGo, Roam, and Ampersand to grow their EV production levels. 

“Electrifying the intensively used commercial motorcycles found across Africa is a logical first step to decarbonising a very large potential market of motorcycles across the Global South,” Sihai Zhang, BYD Company, said.

Ampersand believes decarbonising transport, especially electric two-wheelers will clean up the air and save drivers on average 45% a year on fuel and maintenance, improving lives and livelihoods, and driving entrepreneurship and social mobility.

“Switching the millions of taxi and delivery two-wheelers to EV energy tech represents one of the world’s best value-for-money decarbonisation opportunities. At the same time, this transformation will save millions of hardworking motorcycle riders $600 each a year, driving clean economic prosperity,” Josh Whale, CEO of Ampersand, said. 

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