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E-bike riders benefit from lake shore businesses

“My electric bike (e-bike) has been a blessing to me since it has greatly saved me from the soaring cost of fuel. Nowadays, unlike before, I am able to cater for the basic needs of my young family because my daily earnings have increased tremendously as my clientele base widens.’’

As the world races against time to embrace clean energy solutions, this was the testimony of Philip Akach, an e-bike rider operating in Homa-Bay Town.

The 27-year-old boasts of being among the pioneers in the boda boda industry from the lake region who have fully transitioned from using gasoline-powered motorbikes to the more efficient e-bikes.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o during the launch of e-bikes to be used by Village Administrators in a move to save the environment from toxic carbon emissions. Similar bikes are set to be assembled in Kisumu. Photo by Robert Ojwang’

This is in line with President William Ruto’s clarion call for the introduction of E-Mobility in September 2023 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into ecosystems.

Achar, who shifted to using e-bikes in January this year, expressed approval of the innovative e-mobility as effective and efficient since they can survive in all weather conditions.

“I have been able to wade through rough and muddy-murram roads with less effort during the rainy seasons while some of my bodaboda colleagues either get stuck or struggle to manoeuvre,’’ he proudly said.

He adds that e-bikes are made with powerful features, as they can carry heavy loads and cover long-distance journeys in different terrains.

“I love it because it is environmentally friendly; it doesn’t emit any smoke, and this helps in preventing pollution,” the rider says.

What was his game-changer?

Achar recalls that when We!Hub Victoria Limited (WeTU), a social enterprise founded in 2019, came calling, he became hooked on the idea.

As the E-mobility pioneer in the western Kenya region, WeTu continues to promote and rent out e-bikes for cheaper and more eco-friendly mobility.

“We are the pioneer organization to commercialize and promote e-mobility to attain income sustainability and environmental conversation objectives in the lake belt region,’’ WeTu Head of Marketing and Communications Isaac Onyonyi said.

On this day, during an exclusive interview with KNA, we caught up with e-bike rider Akach as he was patiently waiting to serve his clients who were about to disembark from the Waterbus at the Mbita ferry pier.

Akach’s client destination is over 200 km away, at the far-flung and fish-rich Sori Karungu beach in Migori County. According to Akach, so many of his colleagues are yearning to own e-bikes, and he has been at the forefront of helping them acquire e-bikes at WeTu.

He says that the current payment method with the organization is based on battery consumption.

“Initially, we used to rent the e-bike for Sh. 600 on a daily basis, but now we pay Sh. 200 per fully charged battery. Mine has two, so I pay Sh.400. On good working days, I pay Sh. 800,’’ Akach reveals, further confirming that this is the best option as the payment arrangement offers better returns.

With his so far acquired knowledge and skills in handling e-bikes, Akach advises that a rider should move at a speed of 40 kmph and below and set it at module 2 for the battery to survive longer distances.

“If you use module 3, the battery consumption will be higher and deplete faster. Another advantage of using e-bikes from WeTu is that even if the battery is at zero per cent, one can ride at a low speed and reach the office to change it. You don’t need to call for backup battery replacement or push the bike,” he reassured.

Getruda Akomo, a fishmonger at Nyagwethe Centre in Suba South Constituency, is full of praise for the new e-bike; as she says, it is set to promote brisk business and open new opportunities among the youth and the fisher folks.

“I am happy because our fish catch and other goods will safely and quickly reach the markets in a few hours. Every time I use it, I have never gotten stranded on the road, as is the norm with motorcycles, which run out of fuel,” she testifies.

WeTu operates along the beaches, with its 12 hubs (operation bases) dotting the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, and Siaya Counties.

“As a noble initiative, we introduced e-bikes in a pilot phase in Katito town, Kisumu County, and HomaBay town. Currently, we have 12 e-bikes and intend to increase the number to 37 by the end of August 2023,” disclosed Mr. Onyonyi.

The organization also boasts of using solar energy to provide solutions with social impact, such as leasing solar fishing lanterns to omena (sardine) fishermen and providing clean and safe drinking water.

Mr. Onyonyi further emphasized that “We pump, filter, and dispense clean drinking water by solar-powered ATM machines, make cooling ice flakes for fish preservation and agricultural produce, and make eco-friendly lamp floaters to minimize the destruction of marine twigs from further destruction.”

Kisumu County Director of Climate Change Evans Gichana avers that a Baseline Emission Inventory Report released in 2022 estimated that the road transport sector, including vehicles and motorbikes, in Kenya accounts for 85% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is an all-time high record.

To keep our environment clean, Gichana called upon motorbike riders to shift from gasoline to e-bikes for them to benefit and pointed out that the e-mobility transition is a global trend which needs support.

He stressed the need for a community-led approach to critically sensitize the public on how to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“Governor Anyang Nyong’o’s administration has partnered with key stakeholders such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN-HABITAT, and organizations like WeTu to conserve our ecosystem in the county. We launched e-mobility in 2021 and have put in place policies and Climate Action Plans to drive this agenda,’’ Gichana said during an interview in his office at the new Nyanza Provincial Headquarters.

He posits that Kisumu City is among those that are earnestly working towards clean cities. “We urge our residents to embrace initiatives like “Free Car Day” in order for them to leave their cars at home and walk to work to reduce greenhouse gases,” Gichana appealed.

WeTu reiterates that they are in a good position to share experiences with the public and also demystify e-mobility as they prepare Nyanza for imminent change and adoption because it’s the future of mobility.

They reassured the local residents that they will continuously strive to offer safe, reliable, fully compliant, and professional e-bike services in the Western Kenya region.

‘‘I always encourage my fellow riders to migrate from fuel-consuming motorbikes and use clean and pro-efficient mobility bikes. In this way, they will be able to work stress-free, adequately cater for their families, and save some money for individual development as they take care of the environment,” Akach emphasized in his parting shot.

By Robert Ojwang’ and Rolex Omondi

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