Solar-powered tricycles are enabling mobility for rural communities in Zimbabwe. The e-tricycles, also named “Hambas” in the local language, are custom-built and includes solar-charged battery packs. They are rented out to users for a monthly fee, or they can pay for the bikes upfront or opt for a lease-to-purchase.
According to the latest Zimbabwean census, 67% of the population is rural-based. Road networks are poor, making it difficult for the rural population to access essential services like clinics and business centres, and for those in the agricultural sector to deliver their goods and services on time.
Now, a company that has started building electronic tricycles is offering to alter this narrative.
The off-road three-wheelers are being offered by Mobility for Africa (MFA), a company registered in Mauritius and operating in Zimbabwe. It provides environmentally sustainable mobility services to rural communities, particularly women.
The e-tricycle is a custom-built electric tricycle powered by swappable solar-charged battery packs, as a fleet system with a central charging station.
A 70-year-old, who hails from Domboshava, a rural community located 30km from Harare, previously had to physically carry 60 litres of milk daily over 5km from his homestead to a collection point where he sells milk to the biggest dairy farm in Zimbabwe. Now, he and his wife are spared the heavy physical labour, thanks to a solar-powered tricycle.
“Before, my wife and I had to make numerous trips carrying buckets of milk on our heads. It was time-consuming and tiring. With the e-tricycle, my work is so much easier, and I have time to do other things around the house,” said Khumbula.
The tough, sturdy renewable energy-charged tricycles allow marginalized and low-income families to overcome distances to services, and contribute to dynamic local economies. MFA imports the semi-knocked-down kits from China and assembles them in Harare.
The company was formed in 2018 and launched its product in Wedza in February 2019. It has since increased operations to include rural Domboshava and Chiredzi.
“E-tricycles are and will provide the incentive for increased economic opportunities, creating new local markets, tackling gender inequality and enhancing rural livelihoods,” said Shantha Bloemen, the managing director for MFA.
She added that many women living in rural areas carry the burden of providing for their families; the e-tricycles will also help them ease the burden.