Just as in most cities across Africa, motorcycle taxi drivers are in almost every corner of Nairobi. Josephat Mutiso is among the first drivers here to make the switch from fossil fuel to electric motorcycles, thanks to a partnership between Uber and Opibus.
“This is way efficient,” he said. “It is even way easier to ride than the other one. You see, this one you don’t have so ma”ny controls, you just have the throttle, no clutch. The only thing you are focusing on is just the front brake and the rear brake. That way it gives you even more control of the bike. And it is pretty light, it does not vibrate. So even clients like this one better.”
Motorcycle taxis have become increasingly common as public transportation in cities across Africa.
Joyce Msuya, the deputy executive director of UNEP, the U.N. Environmental Program, notes that motorcycle taxis have become increasingly common as public transportation in cities across Africa.
“The number of newly registered motorcycles, commonly used as taxis or boda boda, was estimated in 2018 at 1.5 million and will likely grow to five million by 2030,” she said. “Most are inefficient, poorly maintained and heavily polluting. UNEP’s study shows that boda boda drivers can more than double their income if they make the switch.”
In March, the U.N. Environment Program launched the first electric bikes project in Kenya, creating the momentum for Africa’s shift to electric mobility. The partnership between Uber and Opibus seeks to accelerate that shift.
“We are just excited to get as many people exposed to the new technology that we built as possible so they know there is an option,” said Alex Pitkin, the chief technology officer at Opibus. “Uber provides, obviously, a lot of boda boda riders, that’s our target client. They often don’t know how beneficial electric motorcycles can be in terms of money-saving, safety, fuel savings, maintenance savings, you know that kind of thing. And longevity of the product as well, they don’t know that.”
Across the world, there is a shift toward electric vehicles due to rising pollution and climate-damaging emissions from vehicles.
The African continent has not been left behind in that movement.
“Targeting Africa and African countries is also part of that movement and as Opibus, that is where we are targeting,” said Lucy Mugala, an engineer at Opibus. “We want all of us to move together. We all move towards a greener energy, a greener economy. And we can only do that if we all come together and empower and build capacity locally.”
Mutiso says he is earning more money now.
“Everything I used to earn and save for the maintenance of the bike,” he said. “Right now I’m saving it. So right now, I’m making more.”
Experts say that a global move to electric mobility is essential to the future and that drivers like Mutiso will benefit.