Anyone who has been to cities such as Beijing, China or Amsterdam, Netherlands must have noticed the large uptake of bicycles as a mode of transport, facilitated by ride-sharing technology.
Rwandan cycling enthusiasts could soon enjoy similar services of renting electric bicycles for rides following the debut of a start-up introducing the innovation.
GURA, a local start-up is the company introducing renting of electric bicycles for rides to the Rwandan ecosystem, aiming to increase the use of bikes as well as an attempt at clean energy transport systems. This is part of the country’s efforts towards smart cities.
The innovation is already popular in a number of cities across the world like Taipei, Singapore city, Seoul, Beijing and Amsterdam. Kigali is set to be added to the list in by June this year alongside Huye, Rubavu and Musanze, according to the investor.
Tony Adesina, Founder and the Chief Executive of GURA, said that basing on the several government clean energy initiatives, the model of business will not be a challenge in penetrating the local the market.
“We are here in Rwanda because of the approach we have seen the government taking in reducing the use fossil fuel (such as car-free day) as one of the key aspects towards achieving a cleaner environment,” he said
The company’s business model is unique in the Rwandan market as it allows residents to ride without having to own a bike.
Bicycles will be fitted with smart locks on the tires with the commuters required to download a mobile Application which they will use to unlock the electronic bicycle from charging docks across the city.
Those without smartphones will use smart-cards issued by the company to access the bicycles.
To make payments, Adesina said that their customers will use options such as mobile money as well as bank transfers while card users will rely on agents to load their cards.
Adesina said that considering that cyclists do not require certification permits such as licenses like other road users, there will be fast and easy uptake.
“We are targeting all classes of the society, from students to middle-class. Since cyclists don’t require a permit we believe that we will have majority customers signing up to our system,” he said.
Adesina said that the firm is constructing solar powered charging stations as opposed to using electricity from the national grid.
Adesina added that the bicycles will be assembled locally and that they will work with local technical institutions in the process.
With the firm’s lead engineer being a lady, he said that they are keen on working with girls to build assembly capacities as well as recruitment.
“We are soon signing a Memorandum of Understanding with local technical institutions. We are seeking to work with students to have skills by training and working with them”, he added.
Asked on whether the bicycles could be a challenge given Kigali’s traffic set up Adesina said that most of the recently constructed roads in Kigali have provisions for cyclists.
The electric bicycles will first be available in Rwanda roads in May after the establishment of charging and dock stations.
Ike Erhabor the company’s president told The New Times that the initial investment is around $13 million. The firm is planning on rolling out 3,000 electronic bicycles, 2,500 smart bikes and 1,500 electronic scooters.
The firm is in the process of setting up about 1000 charging and parking docks across the city and in three other towns in the country.
Potential clients are upbeat about the development saying that it will create more options in the local transport sector.
Emmanuel Kalisa, who resides in Kanombe and works in Kimihurura said that he is looking forward to having options of riding to work without having to own a bicycle.