KIGALI—On December 11th, 2019, Africa’s first electric vehicle company (Ampersand) celebrated 250,000 kilometers traveled by its 20 motorcycle taxis in Rwanda, with an event in Kigali. The distance—equal to circling the Earth more than 6 times!—is proof that electric motorcycles work in Africa and are ready to be scaled. In attendance were Infrastructure Minister Amb. Claver Gatete, U.S. Ambassador Peter Vrooman, German Ambassador Thomas Kurz, Head of DFID Rwanda Sarah Metcalfe, and Director General of REMA Coletha Ruhamya.

In Rwanda, more than half of all vehicles on the road are motorbike taxis. But these motorbikes are not cheap, the fuel they burn is expensive, and they produce serious amounts of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. But Ampersand, the Rwanda-based company, has the solution:

“With our electric motorcycles and battery-swap model, we make it cheaper to buy and operate an electric motorcycle than a petrol motorbike. Going electric can already double a driver’s income now, and leapfrog Africa towards a zero-carbon future,” said Josh Whale, Ampersand Founder and CEO, at the Kigali event.

Josh Whale, Ampersand Founder and CEO

Based in Kigali, Ampersand assembles and finances electric motorcycles (e-motos) that are cheaper, cleaner and better performing than the 5 million petrol motorcycle taxis currently in use across East Africa. Ampersand’s vehicles deliver superior driving performance and emit 75% less carbon than petrol motorcycles, with zero tailpipe emissions.

Africa’s first electronic taxi motorbike driver

Since its launch in May 2019, twenty Ampersand e-motos have been operating on a commercial basis, taking passengers and goods across Kigali. Drivers rent batteries from a network of Ampersand charging stations around town that they swap out in less than two minutes.

“The whole team at Ampersand is incredibly proud of this achievement. We’ve proven that our electric motorcycles, assembled locally in Rwanda, can replace petrol bikes while doubling drivers’ incomes, reducing harmful emissions, and saving drivers time,” says Whale.

“We couldn’t have reached this milestone without the strong support of the Government of Rwanda and we are looking forward to working together to achieve the first mass-market shift to electric vehicles in the world.”

“We are very, very excited that you have reached 250,000 kilometres. I congratulate you for that. I think most importantly, when history will be written in Rwanda, your name will keep coming back as the first who started this proof of concept for the motos. This is a very good beginning. All of us, everybody in the country, all policy makers including the Head of State are supporting you…It works, it’s made in Rwanda, we want it in Rwanda and we want it in the region”, Infrastructure Minister Claver Gatete said.

Rwanda Green Fund CEO Hubert Ruzibiza sent the following message from the sidelines of COP25 in Madrid: “Congratulations Ampersand for reaching 250,000 e-kilometres travelled in Kigali. This achievement in a testament to Rwanda’s commitment to sustainable mobility and investing in innovative solutions. Electric motorcycles will improve Kigali’s liveability by reducing air pollution and providing green and clean transport for residents. The Rwanda Green Fund will continue to invest in the transition to a low carbon economy and we are proud to support Ampersand.”

Sarah Metcalfe, Head of DFID Rwanda, said “To ensure taxpayer funds are spent well, a lot of traditional grants expect the grant recipient to already know most of the answers, and the outcomes and impacts of the grant. But to find out if there’s a new way of doing things, a different approach is required. We encourage development agencies to follow DFID’s lead and feel empowered to make more small, smart investments testing out new ideas with a big potential impact, and be willing for some of them to fail. Because if one or two projects like Ampersand succeed and scale up, that’s an excellent overall result for not all that much money. And I’m not so sure this is even optional: To meet the urgent challenges of development and address the climate crisis, many bold new solutions need to be tested quickly.”


Umusozi Jali