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Wahu! Mobility - The triple-impact e-bike from Ghana will be produced with solar power in future

E-mobility is also a megatrend in Africa. The sustainable and affordable mobility provided by the Wahu! bikes and the associated app open up several job markets and are intended to give women in particular access to the emerging gig economy. Today we introduce you to the Ghanaian entrepreneur, her ideas and the investors behind the mobility start-up, which will produce solar power in the future.




This week, we signed a contract with Ghanaian e-bike manufacturer Wahu! Mobility for a 42 kWp system on the factory premises in East Legon in Accra. The plan is for the system to be built in two to three stages and be expandable up to 200 kWp. These dimensions make it clear that the boss and series founder Valerie Abena Konyo Labi has big plans. 

With her company, she wants to produce 200 e-bikes per month in Ghana's capital Accra in the future. Wahu! - formerly Mana Mobility, or Africa Cargo Bikes - designs and produces its own e-bikes tailored to the Ghanaian market and makes the fleet available to the Bolt and Glovo delivery services, which are very popular in Ghana. However, Wahu! also targets private individuals who deliver all sorts of things as couriers.

Wahu mobility

Sustainability professionals meet automotive aristocracy

The company name is a play on words in two Ghanaian languages: In Dagbani, "Wahu" means "horse", while "W'ahu" means "you have seen" in Twi. The company also brings together two spheres, namely sustainability and mobility expertise. Wahu Mobility was only founded in this form last year by Valerie Labi and former BMW manager Toni Heigl. They were backed by another German automotive expert: Peter Schwarzenbauer, former board member at Audi and BMW.

Labi, who completed her Master's degree in Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge, doesn't just want to produce e-bikes. The mother of three envisions an entire e-mobility-as-a-service ecosystem that enables customised vehicle design, maintenance and insurance and offers access to delivery orders. An African success story, the BBC has already reported on the start-up in its "Focus on Africa" podcast.

African solutions for African problems

Her company is based on her experience in Tamale, in the north of Ghana. Here, she recognised the great need for a micro-mobility solution, as logistics were unaffordable, unreliable and unsustainable. Initially, Labi, who has lived in Ghana since 2008, bought up used bicycles, converted them to electric and, from 2020, put them into use in rural areas under the name "Cargo Bikes Africa". People used them to get from A to B, but were not yet able to carry heavy loads. 

Like everywhere else in the world, the coronavirus pandemic suddenly caused e-commerce and delivery services to spring up, especially in major cities. The new "gig economy" suddenly provided jobs, at least in theory. In practice, a suitable mobility solution was often lacking. The next logical development step was to manufacture a vehicle that was geared towards the specific requirements of Africa. 

The extremely robust Wahu! bikes are cargo bikes with thick tyres and reinforced front and rear suspension, which are suitable for off-road use in both rural and urban areas. The two-wheelers have pedal assistance and a "throttle" function. They are supplied with two easily replaceable batteries, which are sufficient for a range of around 140 kilometres. Customised and developed by Ghanaian engineers, only the batteries are not produced locally. 

Rent-to-own and access to the gig economy

 

In addition to green mobility, Wahu! - as well as EWIA - is about turning its users into owners. A rent-to-own programme promotes the financial independence of bike entrepreneurs. The e-bikes cost around USD 2,000 and a financial plan provides for payment in instalments of USD 30 per week over a period of 18 to 24 months. 

The bikes are intended to generate income for women in rural regions in particular, which is important to the founder. The company thus achieves a triple impact in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals: Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8) and Climate Action (SDG 13). And basically, Wahu! also makes the city more liveable (SDG 11)

A dedicated app provides drivers with information on the battery charge status, distances travelled and CO2 emissions saved (for which users even receive "carbon credits" and "loyalty points" that they can turn into money). The app also lists local mechanics and charging options for all e-vehicles available in Ghana (not just your own) on a map.

Electric power significantly reduces operating costs - and creates jobs

Labi's calculation shows that the couriers save a lot of money through the electric drive alone: delivery service drivers spend around 120 dollars on petrol per month. Refuelling with electricity, on the other hand, costs them an average of around 4 dollars per month. The massive savings in maintenance costs should ensure that delivery services (e.g. also for medicines) become attractive for both customers and drivers. Labi is thinking even further ahead and assumes that obstetricians, for example, could also significantly expand their radius of action with a Wahu! bike. 

Significant investment from the Schörghuber Group promotes expansion

 

Blue Lion, the family office of the Munich-based Schörghuber Group (real estate, hotels, Paulaner), recently invested an undisclosed and considerable sum in Wahu! The investment will be used to expand production capacity, invest in research and development and expand marketing and sales. Wahu! already operates not only in Accra, but also in Togo's capital Lomé. There are also plans to expand to the Nigerian megacity of Lagos and to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

There is no question that a company like Wahu! needs sustainably generated and reliably supplied electricity for its production. Anything else would be out of the question for a company that enables sustainable mobility.

 

We are very much looking forward to working together and are very excited about the development.

EWIA @ WAHU Mobility

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