MIA Spotlight: The Solar Powered Motorcycle for Africa

MIA Spotlight: The Solar Powered Motorcycle for Africa

January 27, 2020

Find out how going electric can create jobs, increase a driver’s income, provide a lower carbon emissions transport option and revolutionise the boda boda industry in East Africa.


Booming urban populations, fuelling congested roads, where everyone competes for space, along with the absence of reliable public transport systems - has led to the growth in popularity of motorcycles - with their affordability, ease of maintenance, speed and adaptability to local roads e.g. gridlocked traffic and mud paths of informal settlements.

Motorcycle taxis, locally known as boda bodas - account for over 40% of the trips in Uganda’s capital Kampala, and have become one of the biggest drivers of the economy.

Whilst they serve as a much needed form of transport and are essential to access social amenities such as health care, school, or a job - they are one of the largest causes of carbon emissions and pollution in Kampala, where air quality is rated amongst the worst of all cities globally!


Two engineers, Daniel Dreher and Etienne Saint Serin, with experience working in the renewable sector in Uganda, were faced by the following concerns:

i) The number of boda boda drivers on the road, that often drive beyond the motorcycle’s intended lifespan - the need to improve transport conditions, making the experience safer for users

ii) Noxious exhaust fumes and oil emitted from the internal combustion engines of the motorcycles - the need to improve air quality for everyone

iii) Global climate change and the release of greenhouse gases - the need to find a solution to reduce CO2 emissions

iv) High fuel prices and maintenance costs putting a strain on driver’s daily income and the lack of financing solutions meaning they can never quite save enough to buy their own motorcycles - the need to ultimately improve driver’s income stability, especially amongst unemployed youth.

Daniel and Etienne intensively researched and analysed the large industry that needed to be targeted: Uganda represents one of the largest importers of motorcycles in East Africa, with over 600,000 boda bodas. In Kampala alone, there are currently around 150,000 drivers earning their daily income by driving a conventional boda boda, serving a population of approximately 2 million people.

In 2017, the two founders came up with a motorcycle and battery solution that is developed and designed for the needs of the Ugandan population, especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid.


The motorcycle parts are imported from China but designed and assembled locally, to create vehicles that are reliable, durable, comfortable, clean and automatic (easier to handle) - this comes in handy where motorcycles carry all manner of loads.

With safe and high capacity lithium batteries emitting no CO2, no particles, no pollution. The batteries are recharged in 3-4 hours with solar energy at charging stations across the city, where a full battery charge can last 50-80km.

Their battery swap model means that drivers do not need to buy vehicle batteries, or wait around while they recharge. Drivers can rent batteries and replace a discharged battery for a newly charged one in under 2 minutes at the various battery stations.

Zembo also offers an affordable lease-to-own solution where drivers who lease vehicles become owners after 2 years. Furthermore drivers do not need to buy batteries but rent them out, and with the reduction of electric vehicle costs, over 60% more income can be generated by drivers.

Zembo hires local talent to assemble the bikes, and in the future they hope motorcycles can be produced entirely in Uganda to create further job opportunities, reduce dependency on imports and allow easier repairs.

The Facts


Given the importance of informal transport in Africa, and the fact that East Africa alone has 3 million people who earn their livelihood as boda boda drivers, with millions of people who rely on them for getting around - Zembo plans to scale and expand to other African countries.

Although some of these countries may be tough nuts to crack, as Africa is lagging behind in the electric revolution - we believe Zembo is stepping in the right direction and bringing important socio-economic and environmental benefits, with a notable increase in drivers’ income whilst reducing noise and CO2 emissions.

We would like to give special thanks to the work of Zembo for facilitating the transition to renewable energy and as such, avoiding the depletion of natural resources to tackle climate change.

Zembo is one of our social business startups from our corporate impact accelerator MAN Impact Accelerator. If you wish to get in contact, please reach out to Solene, Head of Impact Accelerator Communications.

Previous post

There is no previous post

Next Post

There is no next post

Yunus Social Business Turns 10 Years Old!

6 Female Founders Changing the World with Social Business.

We are delighted to share the Yunus Social Business 2018 Impact Report.

We've been featured in the Hauck & Aufhäuser Magazine (German)

The Need of the Hour Amid COVID-19

Join Yunus Social Business on the Global Climate Strike this Friday!

Why Now? Is the Social Business Movement Reaching A Tipping Point?

Ist „#Social“ das neue „#Digital“? Unsere Gründerin Saskia Bruysten schreibt in Capital Magazin

We are delighted to share the Yunus Social Business 2018 Impact Report.

What are the Yunus Social Business team listening to? We list our favourite podcasts.

Remote Work is Here to Stay

It goes without saying, we are living through unprecedented times.

Corona Pandemic: Time Is Running Out Fast, A Letter From Prof. Muhammad Yunus

Thinking Ahead: Securitization Structure Helps to Democratise Technical and Medical Education in Bra

Yunus Social Business Co-Initiates New Alliance With World Economic Forum to Help Social Entrepreneu

“Going Back to That World Is Equal to Committing Suicide.” - Professor Muhammad Yunus on the Opportu

Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis, MBA Students Go Online to Support Our Social Businesses in India

“I Was Truly Blown Away When I Heard the News” - Yunus Social Business Has Distributed 650k USD to H

The Quick Social Business Christmas Gift Guide

Read Our Latest Impact Report

The Life-Savers Now Need Saving

COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, Initiated by YSB and WEF’s Schwab Foundation

Building The COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs

Fuelling social-business entrepreneurship in Kenya and beyond

YSB Launches Coursera Courses: Education For A World of Three Zeroes

Yunus Social Business and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship partnership

Your mission is bigger than your job.

Living Up To Our Mission: Our 2020 Annual Report

How Social Intrapreneurship Can Shake Off The Corporate Dust

So, here we are. The time for change and personal re-shaping through resolutions is upon us already. But this doesn’t just mean an opportunity for personal improvement, it also means a time for professional self-development too.

IKEA Foundation and Yunus Social Business launch the Enterprise Support Landscape Study series

IKEA Foundation and Yunus Social Business (YSB) announced the launch of their Enterprise Support Landscape Study series, a collaborative research project into the social-business landscapes in India, Kenya, Colombia and Brazil.

Godson Commodities - The entrepreneurs who quit their jobs and sold their home

We spoke to the founders of Godson Export Commodities, Godfrey and Marketing Director Anne Macharia to understand why they started the business and what they have learnt along the way. Godson Export Commodities collects, processes and exports chia, quinoa, and sesame grown by smallholder farmers in Uganda.

A fruitful partnership – An Interview with Lisa-Katharina Guggenmos, from MAN Truck & Bus

Yunus Social Business’s ‘Social Business Accelerators’ help corporates connect to exciting social entrepreneurs and engage their employees in unique mentoring experiences for social change.

Yunus Social Business and Upaya Social Ventures Join Forces

Yunus Social Business (YSB) and Upaya Social Ventures (Upaya) today announced the launch of their 2022 Accelerator Programme to help small and growing businesses (SGBs) in India scale and create jobs to lift people out of extreme poverty.

Take Part In Our Social Intrapreneurship Survey

Are you a social intrapreneur? Do you transform the way companies think about business? At Yunus Social Business we want to better understand the key challenges and success factors social intrapreneurs are facing. Our work maps out the emerging sector of intrapreneurship in collaboration with leading academic institutions and practitioners.

Cookie Consent

We use cookies to provide necessary website functionality, improve your experience and analyze our traffic. By using our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our cookies usage.