M’Bay means to cultivate in Wolof,the main language in Senegal. The aptly-named Mbay wants to help cultivate and grow the green mobility sector in West Africa, starting in Dakar, Senegal. Mbay wants to play a key role in the transition to electric mobility by being the first mover in the electric car sector in Senegal and the wider West African region, which is still at the nascent stage.
Mbay is looking at the entire ecosystem and working with key stakeholders such as insurance firms, banks, government, international donors, and garages in Senegal. Mbay has helped curate a comprehensive e-mobility-focused insurance package and received a €75,000 grant from The Netherlands to execute a maintenance training program for technicians, which it carried out in collaboration with the Senegalese Ministry of Education and SolarTaxi Ghana.
Mbay is also working with the government and other partners to explore ways of incentivizing the adoption of electric mobility, namely by replacing the very high 70% import tax with taxes that only kick in after the EVs are on Senegalese roads and generating savings for their users.
Two of the main problems Mbay is tackling are increasing air pollution and carbon emissions, caused by a large number of aging internal combustion vehicles in congested cities. Essentially, all the cars on Dakar’s roads use low quality fossil fuel and contribute to about 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, with a calculated social cost of $97m per year. These numbers are increasing rapidly. Furthermore, a quarter of infant deaths in West Africa are now related to air pollution. Air pollution also leads to other diseases that lead to increased public health costs, lower learning outcomes at school, and reduced productivity in the workplace.
Aging taxis are some of the worst contributors to this pollution. There are about 16,000 taxis in Dakar, Senegal, and although they account for less than 5% of Dakar’s vehicle population, they constitute about 45% of the traffic flow on average as they zoom through the city all day looking for customers. These taxis contribute at least 20% of the air pollution in Dakar, so switching them to electric would have huge benefits for everyone in the city
Mbay imports and retails electric cars, and the taxi industry is one of its key target markets. Mbay says that its EVs will provide attractive savings for EV taxi owners, better working conditions for drivers, and better comfort and security for passengers. These EVs are also adapted for the local context, with higher ground clearance to cater to non-paved roads and domestic-plug charging to avoid infrastructure constraints. Their range is about 250 km, in line with the daily requirements of the average distances covered by taxis in Dakar. The average taxi in Dakar does about 175 km per day, so the 250 km range is more than adequate.
Mbay calculates that taxis switching over to its electric cars will make a savings of about $33 per day as a result of the lower “fueling”costs, as well as the lower servicing and maintenance costs. This works out to about $12,000 in annual savings per car, and about $150,000 dollars over the lifecycle of the vehicle in the taxi industry. Mbay also offers brand new electric cars, which will be a major step up from the ICE taxi industry that is dominated by used and aging ICE cars.
To lower the barriers to entry, Mbay is working with banks and other financial institutions to offer financing packages. Mbay will couple this with a geolocation and immobilization software package in cases of non payment/default. This PayGo function deactivates cars at distance, enabling cheap financing by reducing payment risk for banks. The banks are also interested in this project, as it gives them a platform for financing green projects, in line with some of their ESG targets and mandates.
The daily savings generated by Mbay’s EVs cover the monthly payments and interest payments for the bank loans, so this should accelerate adoption, but otherwise there are currently no incentives for electric cars in Senegal. Mbay says if incentives such as reducing the import taxes and duties were introduced, this will lower the costs of the cars to the taxi owners and accelerate the clean transport revolution that it is trying to trigger. Mbay is also offering domestic charging services for its customers.
Mbay’s consultations with drivers in the taxi industry highlights some of the challenges drivers and operators face. A driver who drives a 1995 Peugeot says, “I pay $17 per day to rent my car. As it is over 25 years old, it is not very comfortable and needs maintenance every Sunday. It sounds like the Mbay car doesn’t need weekly maintenance and is much more comfortable, so I would love to switch to one of their cars.”
Another driver who uses a 1998 Toyota says, “It is hard being a taxi driver, fuel is very expensive and I pay half of the maintenance costs. I would like to use an Mbay EV so I can reduce maintenance costs and earn more.”
Another driver added, “The pollution is very bad for our health. My kids have breathing problems. If I could drive a cleaner car I would do that. I could easily charge the car at my home.”
Mbay’s work fits in nicely with Senegal’s green development plan Le Plan Sénégal Emergent Vert, which is seeking to promote green growth and sustainable development.
Mbay is also looking at expanding to Abidjan and Accra in the near future, once its scale-up in Senegal is well under way. Mbay was founded by Matthew Sellar, Thebean Gilfillian, and Stefan Heijboer.
These types of financing platforms have a great potential to really transform the taxi industry in this region, as well as transform the transport and mobility landscape ecosystem. A lot of focus has been on electrifying the motorcycle sector in several countries on the continent, however, in countries such as Senegal where motorcycle taxis are restricted in large cities such as Dakar, ICE cars are a major segment in the transport sector. There is a big opportunity to improve the quality of service through programs that facilitate the financing of modern vehicles and in the process lower operational costs, thereby improving incomes and transforming lives.
Images courtesy of Mbay
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