Ghana: Fast-expanding Solar Taxi eyes East Africa

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Monday, 24 October 2022 15:00, updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2022 17:18

Solar Taxi (photo supplied)

Ghanaian e-mobility company Solar Taxi has set eyes on East Africa’s market for a planned expansion, taking on the challenge of competing in a space already saturated with flourishing EV startups.

Banking on its business model in Ghana – which essentially involves assembling electric vehicles and, starting early this year, operating trips – Solar Taxi considers East Africa to be a key market to tap.

“We are definitely having a [assembling] plant in East Africa,” CEO Jorge Appiah tells The Africa Report.

“We are confident about our product and our strategy is solid. That is why we are able to make it work in West Africa so going there will not be a challenge for us.”

Fuel prices have risen 116% in Ghana since January, which is playing to Solar Taxi’s advantage. The company’s proposition against combustion engines – the most common motorised vehicles on Ghana’s roads – is that it could cost 70% less to charge an electric vehicle than to fuel a car covering the same distance.

Dominance in Ghana

Solar Taxi is Ghana’s most dominant e-mobility innovation.

Starting out in 2018 by producing two-wheelers before introducing four-wheel cars two years later, the company already has eight different vehicle models in the West African market.

In Ghana, Solar Taxi sets no boundaries for its client base growth, with Jumia and Bolt Food jumping on their electric motorcycles for deliveries in Accra. SolarTaxi Ride, its exclusive electric vehicle ride-hailing service, currently receives about 120 orders per day.

Following an undisclosed new investment early this year by climate venture builder Persistent, Solar Taxi hopes to get all public university shuttles in Ghana run on electricity and expand to other parts of the continent with an eye keen on East Africa.

“We are on the quest to find sustainable transportation solutions for Africans made by Africans for Africans. The demand is huge and so we are expanding our production to meet it. Many Ghanaians understand this shift to electric vehicles and even across Africa,” Appiah says.

Strong competition

While EVs play an important role in reaching net-zero emissions worldwide, their uptake remains low in most of Africa.

From Lagos to Nairobi to Cairo, however, many e-mobility startups are springing up to take advantage of the continent’s growing demand for mobility due to urbanisation, in particular climate-safe means of transport.

The East African market is a sweet spot for electric vehicle makers in Africa, thanks to favourable policies including reduced import duty on EVs. There are plans to install charging stations countrywide in Kenya, while Rwanda has a zero-rated Value-Added Tax on EV imports, such as spare parts, batteries, and charging station equipment.

BasiGo, Kiri, Nopea Ride, EVM Africa, Caetano, and Agilitee Africa are big players Ghana’s Solar Taxi will be taking on in the eastern part of the continent.

Hefty import bills

Solar Taxi aims to assemble 10 motorbikes and one vehicle per day by 2023, a 10-fold increase, to meet demand in Ghana. However, the company sources its vehicle parts from China and India, incurring soaring import bills, thanks to the Ukraine war and a local currency in the cedi’s free fall.

“We are hoping that the policy will make it easy to bring in more EVs to the market,” Appiah says.

With Ghana’s recent discovery of lithium – a critical mineral for producing batteries that power electric vehicles – Solar Taxi hopes that the company’s battery development lab in Kumasi will be able to produce more batteries and reduce reliance on imports.

“I see a lot of Africans switching to electric if the means is provided,” Appiah says.

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