Tanzania is going through a population boom. Dar es Salaam, the country’s biggest city, is currently the third fastest growing city in Africa and the ninth fastest growing city in the world. It’s population of five million will easily leap to 10 million people by 2030. Unfortunately, the infrastructure of the city cannot keep up. Waiting hours in traffic brought to a standstill is not uncommon and driving the 15 km to the airport from the city center can take 15 minutes in the middle of the night, and as much as two hours during the day.
Adding on to this is pollution. Pollution has recently been categorized as the leading cause of death in the developing world, killing double the number of people as Malaria, HIV/AIDs and Tuberculosis combined. The vast majority of these deaths occur in the developing world. While there are many causes of pollution, transportation is a major one, contributing more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air. As a subsector, road transport is the largest contributor to global warming and transport in general accounts for 15% of global CO2 emissions. While vehicle emissions have been reduced up to 90% since 1998, car ownership in Tanzania is growing at alarming rates with mostly older vehicles being imported.
While the city does have recognizable sprawl, the density is also quite impressive. Average commute times for citizens may take over an hour, but the distances are relatively short. Most of the city center, industrial areas and suburban areas are all within a 35-kilometer radius. The city is also incredibly flat, with very few hills.
Dar es Salaam has recently launched a Dar Rapid Transfer System with success that is formalizing some of the largest transport problems. However, this system makes only a small dent on demand for transport as there are still thousands of local buses, motorcycle taxis and auto Rickshaws (bajajis) attempting to cater to a population on the move.
In fact, Dar es Salaam is home to around 30,000 auto rickshaw drivers (locally called bajajis) and an additional 30,000 motorcycle taxis, the majority of which are driven by young adults. This is unsurprising as these vehicles are able to deftly navigate through traffic saving precious commute time. These vehicles are also guilty culprits when it comes to pollution, with one liter of petrol producing around 2.3 kilograms of C02 and cities like Delhi outlawing petrol based auto rickshaws, forcing them to change to autogas. But even autogas only reduces CO2 emissions by 15% compared to petrol.
There is a better way to create affordable and sustainable transport.
The majority of bajajis drivers do not own their own vehicle, but instead rent it for a daily fee. They are then required to pay the petrol costs in addition to the rental fee. Average rental fees are around $10 per day and petrol costs vary from around $5 to $15. This puts their daily costs around $20 per day, though that is not the end, as the renter is often the one to pay for any mechanical or service rated issues.
Moreover, in order to enter into town, motorcycle taxis and bajaji drivers are required to get permits that must be paid in advance and cost around $200 per year. This is to limit the number of taxi vehicles in town to control pollution and crime. This is a large upfront fee for the drivers and the majority are unable to pay.
E-tatu’s plan is to create electric vehicles in Tanzania that can reduce pollution in the city and provide affordable and sustainable transport. The company looks to first introduce electric powered bajajis in Dar es Salaam on the basis of a rental scheme. The company will charge $15 per day which will include rental of the vehicle and one free battery swap per day. We desire to replace both the rental of the vehicle and the purchasing of petrol. In addition, our daily lease would have public liability insurance, a town permit and access to a hailing app. We will also fit our bajajis out with advertising for additional revenue. All batteries will be charged at night during lower demand times and with a percentage of renewable energy – such as solar.
We will be assembling the bajajis in Tanzania, but sourcing the best battery and chassis technology from companies all over the world. We will also train local mechanics across the city to do rapid battery swops, allowing for two fully charged batteries per day.
During the pilot phase we will trial the project with 10 vehicles, but would hope to scale up to over 100 in two years and 1200 before the end of year five. This is still just two percent of the market in Dar es Salaam.
The core team members of E-Tatu are William George and Andrew Soper. William has been working across Africa researching climate change issues and developing various renewable energy projects. Andrew has several businesses based in Dar Es Salaam that work with solar power and innovative energy solutions. Andrew's company RISE, was created in 2014/15 PCL created which distributes pre-financed Pay-As- You-Go (PAYG)
Solar Home Systems (SHS) to rural Tanzanian farmers. RISE has already won several awards. The team is also joined by Matthew who acts an adviser to the team and has developed successful award-winning start-ups in Tanzania.