Leading Chinese electric car maker, Build Your Dreams (BYD), announced an entry into the Rwandan market after great success in Kenya.
With a strong push into the central and eastern parts of the continent, BYD electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more and more popular, indicating that African consumers are savvy environmentalists.
Transforming Kenya's matatu ecosystem
A Kenyan start-up company focused on e-mobility, BasiGo serves the 5 million residents of Nairobi, its capital, with affordable electric transportation options. BasiGo entered the market with a fleet of K6 electric mini buses, which were manufactured by BYD, and were small- to medium-sized buses with seats ranging from 14 to 36.
Under its pay-as-you-drive business model, BasiGo provides its buses to matatu companies, these are privately-owned mini-buses used for public transport. Matatu customers who would rather pay less up front can opt to purchase an electric bus without a battery. A pay-as-you-drive membership, which takes care of the battery leasing, is another alternative. Benefits like free maintenance and charging at BasiGo stations are also included with this subscription. A $0.14 per kilometre subscription is required for the K6 electric bus, which has an initial cost of $35,600.
Following success in Kenya, BasiGo decided to take advantage of the fleet deficit in the country and extend its electric bus services to Rwanda in the middle of 2023.To assemble electric buses in Mombasa, Rwanda, BasiGo partnered with local automaker Associated Vehicle Assemblers Ltd (AVA). Over the next three years, the partnership expects to produce over 1,000 BYD electric buses, generating over 300 new jobs in manufacturing and an additional 300 jobs in the ecosystem related to finance, maintenance, and charging.
BYD's African Lithium Plan
The partnership with BasiGo in Kenya and AVA in Rwanda, comes at a time when BYD further announces plans to acquire six lithium mines on the continent.
Battery cell technology uses lithium metal as its primary raw material. Just three nations account for 90% of the world's supply of this extremely rare metal (130,000 tonnes). However recent exploration projects have identified vast lithium deposits in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali and Ethiopia.
As the thirst for battery cell technology sharply increases to fuel the EV race amongst EV car makers, lithium demand is projected to sore sixfold between 2022 - 2035. Discoveries in recent exploration and historical teachings from other abundant metals and stones like gold, diamonds, oil, platinum and cobalt are signaling a new Lithium Rush in Africa. Vigilance against corruption and equitable beneficiation of indigenous communities must be gauged and promoted.