EVs at the Growth Point – US$2 mil invested to solve Zim’s rural transport crisis

The GIST: InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), has signed an agreement committing US$2 million to scale the offering of Mobility for Africa, an electric mobility company delivering affordable, cargo-carrying e-tricycles and solar-powered battery charging solutions for underserved communities in rural Zimbabwe. The transport situation in Zimbabwe is seriously messed up…

InfraCo Africa, Elecrtric Mobility, Transport

The GIST: InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), has signed an agreement committing US$2 million to scale the offering of Mobility for Africa, an electric mobility company delivering affordable, cargo-carrying e-tricycles and solar-powered battery charging solutions for underserved communities in rural Zimbabwe.

The transport situation in Zimbabwe is seriously messed up right now. Earlier this week the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) announced that it was going to be shutting down its urban commuter train service due to debts owed to NRZ by ZUPCO.

While urbanites might cry at that announcement (although I am not sure how effective the train service was in actuality) for the rural commuter not much has changed since the turn of the 2010s, dear I say even as far back as the turn of the millennium.

61.4 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population lives in rural areas and if you have ever been where the tar ends and the dust roads begin, you’ll know that getting a lift is a complicated undertaking on a good day. The situation is even worse for those who rely on the frail transport network to ship goods to and fro.

That last point is important because agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy. According to the 2019 Zimbabwe Public Expenditure Review with a focus on Agriculture which was a joint report by The World Bank and The government of Zimbabwe; about two-thirds of Zimbabweans work in agriculture and many Zimbabweans, directly or indirectly, depend on it.

Many of those people live in rural areas and the markets where they sell their products are typically in metropolitan cities. And with the transport situation the way it is, the link between farms and the market is heavily compromised, although there have been efforts by the public and private sectors to remedy the issue.

The US$2 million investment from InfraCo Africa

The most recent of these efforts is by an organisation called InfraCo Africa, a subsidiary of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG). If either of those names sounds intimidating or unfamiliar there’s no need to worry because aside from the big words and the acronyms their roles are pretty easy to divine.

The Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) is an infrastructure project developer and investor which mobilises private money for sustainable and inclusive infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa and south and south-east Asia. PIDG investments are there to promote socio-economic development within a transition to net zero carbon emissions, combat poverty and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

If we, for a moment, are to imagine PIDG as a knife block, then InfraCo Africa would be one of the blades it houses to precisely act on aspects of its broad mandate.

What InfraCo Africa actually does is seek to alleviate poverty by mobilising money into sub-Saharan infrastructure projects. It does this by investing directly into early-stage projects or by funding experienced teams to provide project development leadership. Or in simpler terms, identifying a problem, assessing those looking to solve that problem, and enabling them through funding to execute.

To help with the transport crisis in Zimbabwe for rural communities InfraCo Africa has made a substantial investment of US$2 million. This investment is going to Mobility for Africa which is acting as the sharpest point of this operation.

We are delighted to be working with Mobility for Africa to scale its exciting electric tricycle and solar-powered battery charging offering in rural Zimbabwe

Beatrice Muthoni, InfraCo Africa’s Business Development Manager

So if we are to follow the chain:

  1. PIDG set out a mandate
  2. InfraCo Africa, under that mandate, identified the transport problem for rural Zimbabweans
  3. Mobility for Africa was identified by InfraCo Africa as the entity to fund to meet the challenge.

We are grateful to InfraCo Africa for this investment and their vote of confidence. It will allow us to demonstrate how our fleet management system can be replicated to many rural communities. But it also signals that a rural woman, our primary customer, should no longer be ignored and acknowledges the critical role they play in agricultural and economic development.

Shantha Bloemen, Mobility for Africa’s Director

It’s a zero-emissions game

Mobility for Africa stood out from the bunch because it produces low-cost, quality renewable electric tricycles built for a rural off-road environment. The company says that the electric tricycles are designed to cater to the user’s need for local mobility, provide long-term and low-interest financing to make them accessible and invest in longer-term off-grid community-based renewable power solutions. 

The electric trikes which are known locally as “Hambas” will service the daily transport needs of small-scale farmers, often women’s cooperative groups, who buy or lease the trikes to transport their produce to markets.

InfraCo’s investment will finance:

  • 400 electric tricycles
  • Six-Hundred Batteries
  • Eight Charging Stations in “strategic” locations across Eastern Zimbabwe

All of this will hopefully result in reduced journey times and access to markets in larger towns enabling farmers to sell their produce at more favourable prices whilst also minimising post-harvest losses, and increasing income generation.

Additionally, Mobility for Africa has secured grant funding from EEP Africa, the African Enterprise Challenge Fund and Toyota Mobility Foundation, with the latter providing technical support to ensure that vehicles assembled in Mobility for Africa’s Harare assembly facility are of high quality and are built to meet rigorous safety standards.

Balancing the scales

Mobility for Africa knows that by providing green shared mobility solutions to rural communities, especially women, we can have a catalytic impact on local economic activity, reduce gender inequality and contribute to building resilience against climate change.”

Shantha Bloemen, Mobility for Africa’s Director

That gender inequality was highlighted in Zimstat’s 2019 “Understanding gender Equality in Zimbabwe Report

Women and men play a key role in crop and livestock production. The 2019 LFCLS noted that 36 per cent of the employed population were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors out of which, 42 per cent were female


However, the report went on to say that there were more women than men in the agriculture sector who were in vulnerable employment. Additionally, women constituted about 81 per cent of workers providing for their families in the agriculture industry.

Source Zimstat

Furthermore, when it comes to remunerated work (or paid employment), there was a greater proportion of men. Women constituted about 38 per cent of the employees (in paid employment) in the agricultural sector.

What outcomes can we hope for?

InfraCo Africa should be commended for their efforts of investing in Mobility for Africa’s solution. The latter is coming into the market with a consummate solution for electric mobility providing both vehicles and charging stations.

I am delighted by news of this InfraCo Africa investment in Mobility for Africa, a woman-led start-up doing a great job providing climate-friendly transport to small scale Zimbabwean farmers, many of them women.”

Melanie Robinson, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, While vising Mobility for Africa’s Domboshava outpost

Moreover, their solution is rooted in renewable energy production as the proposed charging stations (with one already being available in Domboshava) have a solar component. This is especially important because Zimbabwe’s power generation capacity has been dwindling of late.

Source ZPC

More recently, the Zambezi Water Authority revealed that water levels were too low to properly service the Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station. All these factors would conventionally mean that anything that is reliant on electrons wouldn’t be a viable option without a backup like solar.

That being said, solar is not a complete solution because parts of Zimbabwe are experiencing rainfall, which means that there will be depressed power generation at Mobility for Africa charging stations due to cloud cover.

At any rate, we will be keeping a keen eye on developments around this project. The hope is that it can grow local communities and that Mobility for Africa might in the future transition from electric trikes to larger capacity-carrying vehicles and who knows maybe some fast charging stations in rural Zimbabwe.

Also read

Derry M7 review: Zim’s first solar charging electric car – A little while ago we talked about electric cars and how the revolution is still some ways away from Zimbabwe. It appears the universe has a sense of humour because we were invited to the official launch of the Derry V7 and M7 by Electric Vehicle Centre Africa (EVCA).