The International University of East Africa, in partnership with Clean Air Initiative Africa and with support from the United Nations, is set to produce electric motorcycles. The motorcycles are expected to reduce gas emissions, which cause pollution.

The Clean Air Initiative was developed as part of the Social and Political Drivers Action Area of the 2019 Climate Action Summit, led by the World Health Organisation, together with the Governments of Peru and Spain, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the International Labour Organisation.

The pilot project has been ongoing and is in its fifth year; with three prototypes already done. The university is also working with the energy ministry and the assistant commissioner for technical planning

Dr Gerald Banaga Baingi,. He said:

“The project will cause a paradigm shift to a low carbon development path. This is the beginning of the greening of the transport industry in Uganda and the region.”

Dr Banaga has been involved in the research and concept development in this initiative.

The motorcycles use electric power and a charge of sh2,500 can go for a distance of 70 km. This is equivalent to over two litres of fuel estimated at sh9,000, which is more expensive.

The university already had 50 motorcycles and the plan is to have 10,000 and more motorcycles to cover the entire country, as well as the region. The project has been made possible with the support of the United Nations.

This will be used to inform the business on the development of appropriate motorcycles for the Ugandan market. The result will be mass scale and uptake of electric mobility in the country.

The university vice-chancellor Dr Emeka Akaezuwa, said:

“Will facilitate a shift to electric motorcycles for Uganda through awareness raising, policy reforms, fiscal incentives, communication activities and creating an enabling environment for local manufacturing of electric motorcycles.”

Dr Emeka added:

“Motorcycles are considered the low hanging fruit of electric mobility and thus a first priority to moving to electric mobility, because they provide net carbon benefits, regardless of the “upstream” electricity carbon mix, are more cost competitive than electric cars, don’t need new infrastructure and are a key solution in addressing urban air pollution.”

The university’s resident director, Hassan Alwi, said:

“The project will lead the country to shift the motorcycle fleet to electric, so that by 2022, at least 30% of new sales will be electric motorcycles with a long term target of a complete switch over to electric motorcycles.” 

Alwi is also in charge of youth development and local and international partnerships.

“This will result in at least 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved in a seven-year project. The projected carbon dioxide savings for the first fleet turnover after the project (7 years) is at least 6.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide,” he said.

Alwi said the future savings will be even higher because the fleet will continue to grow, and a larger percentage of this growth will be electric, until it reaches 100% electric in the future.

“At that point, savings will be at least three million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The project is using lessons from China, where more than 250 million electric motorcycles have been introduced and where petrol motorcycles have been phased out in favour of electric versions in their major cities,” he adds.

Alwi also said there is a need for the government to reduce taxes, for the importation of the materials to assemble the bikes. He added: “The initiative will make the bodaboda business more lucrative, on top of making it cheaper for students and the common people to use the new stronger bikes. Most importantly, we will be saving the environment from pollution.”

He also appealed to wellwishers and government to join them so as to ensure that the project succeeds

Dr Emeka said the transport fares for people using motorcycles will be reduced by over 55%. To take off, the project has included testing the electric motorcycles. The objective is to assess their performance and to raise awareness for electric mobility in order to act as a launch pad for the mass scale up of electric mobility in the country.

The motorcycles will be distributed to different stakeholders to test them, so as to provide the much needed information on their performance and also to create awareness. The recipients include public and non-public entities, such as local governments, hospitals, community service organisations and commercial motorcycle operating companies, among others.

Why care?

Motorcycles are the fastest growing transport mode in many developing countries, and have major climate and air quality impacts. According to WHO, each year, air pollution causes 7 million premature deaths, of which 600,000 are children. According to the World Bank, air pollution costs the global economy an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses, and in the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, health impacts of air pollution are estimated to cost more than 4% of GDP.

Meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change, however, could save over 1 million lives a year by 2050 and yield health benefits worth an estimated $54.1 trillion — about twice the costs of mitigation — through reduced air pollution alone.

Uganda has the highest growth of motorcycles of any country in the world. Currently at 9 units/1,000 people, it is also the densest fleet in Africa. The two-wheeler growth rates are high, surpassing the growth of motor vehicles, with focus to passenger cars. Over the recent years, motorcycles have increased from under 5% in 2005 to over a remarkable 17% by 2018.

This trend is projected to continue for the foreseeable future. Emissions of motorcycles are of great concern, mainly because of air quality issues, and thus there is a key interest in Uganda to address this and introduce cleaner motorcycles.

Uganda has considerable renewable energy endowments, hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and many others. This accounts for 90.5% of primary energy in 2018. Therefore, a transition to electric mobility is more sustainable for the potential to reduce emissions significantly.

Dr. Emeka said:

“Electric motorcycles don’t need special infrastructure, are cost competitive with petrol versions, and provide a stepping stone to a wider electrification of transport.” 

How the project works

The UN environment and the global partnership for cleaner vehicles is currently supporting countries and cities worldwide with the introduction of electric mobility.

The UN environment support is informing of removal of barriers and the introduction of policies to promote electric mobility. This includes the promotion of electric motorcycles in Africa. The project aims to support the introduction of electric motorcycles up to a tipping point.

The tipping point is defined as the level of penetration after which the market will continue to automatically replace the majority of the remaining petrol motorcycles with electric motorcycles with minimal support and intervention. Initial modelling done for this project shows that, possibly, the tipping point will be reached with 30% market penetration.


Carbon dioxide savings will be at least three million tonnes per year. The project is using lessons from China, where more than 250 million electric motorcycles have been introduced and petrol ones have been phased out in their major cities.

By: Conan Businge

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