Embracing e-Mobility in Africa: Mbita Town Fishermen Pioneer Electric Propulsion by Dutch Startup
Thousands of fishermen head out on their boats daily to Lake Victoria fueled by expensive and environmentally damaging gasoline engines. A German Startup, ASOBO, has set up a social experiment in Mbita, a small fishing town located in Homa Bay County on the shores of L. Victoria. The Dutch startup has come up with an electric alternative that’s cheaper and causes less air and water pollution.
ASOBO is part of a more significant global sustainability movement. According to the startup’s Co-founder and CEO Laurens Friso, “electric mobility on land and water is a no brainer since humans need to care for the natural environment. Resources are limited, but sunlight, unlike other natural resources, is unlimited.”
How is environment-friendly solar-powered e-mobility improving the lives of fishermen in Mbita?
Local fishermen from the region get the chance to rent the electric engines at a monthly fee that covers training, maintenance, and a solar-powered charging service. According to the startup, their services are 25% cheaper than what it costs a fisherman to run a conventional petrol-powered boat engine.
ASOBO’s monthly fee charged on the motors depends on the type of boat and how far the fishermen plan to travel. This social experiment couldn’t have come at a better time when the country is experiencing a government-induced hike in fuel prices amidst tough times brought about by a global pandemic. Businesses that rely on fuel, including local transportation ‘boda boda’ operators, fishermen, and taxis, have been forced to increase their operational costs to remain afloat.
What Impact is Electric Propulsion Having on Local Fishermen?
One of the locals, Linnet Achieng Rogo, a boat owner, during an interview with DW News, stated that even on a bad day when fishermen make no catch, ASOBO still offers them the engines and batteries, and are allowed to pay later. There are more advantages to the project. ASOBO’s e-motors are well suited for propelling the local long-thin wooden boats. The 3.5kWh batters offer enough juice for a day’s fishing trip. Additionally, the electric motors are silent, offering a fishing advantage for fishermen both in terms of noise reduction for marine life and comfort.
Lake Victoria, located in East Africa, borders Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania is home to more than 200 plant and animal species. The startup aims to help massively reduce the adverse effects on the world’s largest freshwater body. Currently, more than 76% of endemic fish species are at the risk of extinction, affecting the lives of more than 50 million people who directly or indirectly depend on it.
E-mobility is the Future of Sustenance
Reducing our carbon print on the earth is becoming more and more important today. While a day on a boat might feel enjoyable and relaxing, environmentally, it poses a risk to an already endangered marine life. Over time, small amounts of fuel, oil, and detergent become a problem, poisoning the fish when they accumulate. Consequently, fish that depend on the waterbody ingest these chemicals that end up on our tables, leading to health complications.
ASOBO was launched in 2019 to help alleviate environmental issues by offering local fishers a better way to make the eco-shift from gasoline-powered engines to sustainable electric motors. The startup leases a Torqueedo’s Cruise 4.0T motors to the local fishermen equivalent to the conventional 9.9hp boat engine. ASOBO is not the only startup raising the occasion by adopting green energy in Kenya.
Several organizations such as Electric Drive Africa are pushing for adopting and raising awareness on e-mobility for sustainability in Africa. The startup has high hopes of expanding its program to more fishermen not only in Lake Victoria but in all emerging markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines islands. Boat users, just like road-going vehicles, need to embrace e-mobility and adopt green energy.