Vaya Africa, a ride-hail mobility venture founded by Zimbabwean mogul Strive Masiyiwa, has launched an electric taxi service and charging network in Zimbabwe with plans to expand across the continent.
HARARE – Vaya Africa, a Mauritius-registered Transportation as a Service (TaaS) company, has launched an electric vehicle service in Zimbabwe as part of the company’s rollout strategy across Africa.
“We are excited to launch the ‘VAYA Electric’ vehicle today as we start our journey of deploying innovative ways of harnessing clean, renewable energy to provide safe and convenient transportation services to the public on the African continent,” said Mrs Dorothy Zimuto, the CEO of Vaya Mobilty in Harare today.
She said VAYA Africa planned to roll out the VAYA Electric vehicle in West and East Africa soon, saying the vehicles would include a range of multi-purpose vehicles.
“Our e-vehicle fleet will include passenger vehicles, motorbikes, vans, buses and dump trucks, all utilizing our VAYA hail riding platform. We believe this dovetails well with our vision of driving inclusive technology growth across Africa,” Mrs Zimuto said.
The VAYA Electric will be part of VAYA Africa’s VAYA Premium service, a passenger service available on the VAYA Africa application that offers a wide variety of VAYA services – including logistics services.
Describing the customer fulfilment process, Mrs Zimuto said to enjoy a ride, one simply downloads the VAYA Africa App and looks for the Mobility Option. “They select the Electric Vehicle and this prompts them to choose the pickup and destination addresses, before requesting a ride,” she said.
She added that the App provided for convenient payment options, including mobile money payment, payment by VISA, MasterCard or any other international debit or credit cards options.
“Electric vehicles have zero emissions and our aim is to ensure that all vehicles we have on the VAYA platform in the next ten years are electric vehicles,” said Mrs Zimuto, whose VAYA Africa service currently operates the largest hail riding service in Zimbabwe.
She said electric vehicles will provide cost savings of up to 40 percent on the major running costs of fuel and regular maintenance, in comparison to vehicles that run on fossil fuels.
“The benefits of the use of e-vehicles will be less frequent services and fewer scheduled vehicle maintenance check-ins than ordinary combustion engines. They will require minimal scheduled maintenance for their electrical systems, such as the battery and electrical motors. Other parts such as brakes also last longer because of their regenerative braking systems, where the battery is charged when breaking,” Mrs Zimuto said.
Mrs Zimuto said e-vehicles would be charged on solar or on grid-tied electric charging stations across the country.
“Our electric vehicles will be charged on charging stations deployed across the country, built by Ugesi Energy, a subsidiary of Econet Global, to offer e-vehicle owners charging options just about anywhere around the country,” Mrs Zimuto said.
She added that VAYA Africa had provided for financing for the purchase of the VAYA Electric.
“VAYA Africa has positioned itself as an enabler in the hail riding value chain. So we will import the electric vehicles of various brands and at the same time facilitate loans to qualifying clients and VAYA partners through Steward Bank specifically for the purchase of the e-vehicles,” Mrs Zimuto said.
Many global vehicle manufactures have been shifting towards electronic vehicles. Volkswagen recently announced it will cease making gasoline powered vehicles altogether by 2026. Similarly, the Chinese government says it is stepping up the manufacture of electric vehicles in a bid to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuel vehicles.
The South Africa headquartered company has acquired a fleet of Nissan Leaf EVs and developed its own solar powered charging stations.
The program goes live in Zimbabwe this week, as Vaya finalizes partnerships to begin on-demand electric taxi and delivery services in markets that could include Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.
“Zimbabwe is a sandbox really. We’ve moved on to doing pilots with other countries right across Africa,” Vaya Mobility CEO Dorothy Zimuto told TechCrunch on a call from Harare.
Masiyiwa has become one of Africa’s Gates, Branson type figures, recognized globally as a business leader and philanthropist with connections and affiliations from President Obama to the Rockefeller Foundation.
The initiative comes as Africa’s on demand mobility market has been in full swing for several years, with startups, investors, and the larger ride-hail players aiming to bring movement of people and goods to digital product models.
Ethiopia has local ride-hail ventures Ride and Zayride. Uber’s been active in several markets on the continent since 2015 and like competitor Bolt, got into the motorcycle taxi business in Africa in 2018.
Over the last year, there’s been some movement on the continent toward developing EV’s for ride-hail and delivery use, primarily around two-wheeled transit.
In 2019, Nigerian mobility startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round backed by Yamaha, a portion of which was dedicated to pilot e-motorcycles powered by renewable energy.
Last year the Government of Rwanda established a national plan to phase out gas motorcycle taxis for e-motos, working in partnership with EV startup Ampersand.
Vaya Mobility CEO Dorothy Zimuto, Image Credits: Econet Group
The appeal of shifting to electric in Africa’s taxi markets — beyond environmental benefits — is the unit economics, given the cost of fuel compared to personal income is generally high for most of the continent’s drivers.
“Africa is excited, because we are riding on the green revolution: no emissions, no noise and big savings… in terms of running costs of their vehicles,” Zimuto said.
She estimates a cost savings of 40% on the fuel and maintenance costs for drivers on the ride-hail platform.
At the moment, with fuel prices in Vaya’s first market of Zimbabwe at around $1.20 a liter, the average trip distance is 22 kilometres for a price of $19, according to Econet Group’s Oswald Jumira.
With the Nissan Leaf vehicles on Vaya’s charging network, the cost to top up will be around $5 for a range of 150 to 200 kilometres.
“It’s the driver who benefits. They take more money home. And that also means we can reduce the tariff for ride hailing companies to make it more affordable for people,” Jumira told TechCrunch .
The company has adapted its business to the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. Vaya provides PPE to its drivers and sanitizes its cars four to five times a day, according to Zimuto.
Vaya is exploring EV options for other on-demand transit applications — from delivery to motorcycle and Tuk Tuk taxis.
On the question of competing with Uber in Africa, Vaya points to the reduced fares offered by its EV program as one advantage.
The CEO of Vaya Mobility, Dorothy Zimuto, also points to certain benefits of knowing local culture and preferences.
“We speak African. That’s the language we understand. We understand the people and what they want across our markets. That’s what makes the difference.” she said.
It will be something to watch if Vaya’s EV bet and local consumer knowledge translates into more passenger flow and revenue generation as it goes head to head with other ride-hail companies, such as Uber, across Africa.
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