Rwanda’s position in Africa as a preferable destination for technological advancement is taking deeper roots as the country is set to be the first in Africa to introduce Volkswagen’s electric car, the e-Golf. Volkswagen is one of the world’s ten leading manufacturers of electric vehicles.
For Rwanda, getting fuel comes at a price. The fuel is imported from the Middle East and passes through Dar es Salaan, Tanzania. It is a stretch of nearly 3,000 km. This has given Volkswagen the impetus and drive to launch their electric cars in Rwanda. The electric car, known as the e-Golf, will be introduced as a new initiative on 29 October 2019 at the Kigali Convention Centre.
According to Andrew Kirby, President, and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors, only 66 electric vehicles were sold last year and close to zero in the rest of the continent. This made Volkswagen look towards Rwanda as their next destination for this ambitious investment, bolstered by what they termed the mental readiness of Rwandans to embrace electric cars.
Thomas Schaefer, the chairperson and managing director of VWSA, said this in February: “We did a grid check-in Rwanda together with GRZ (Technologies) and Siemens last year and they are ready. They already get their electricity from 70 percent renewable energy and that will change to 100 percent in the next 10 years.
“They are tracking their fuel from the Middle East to Dar es Salaam, then 3000 km by road into Kigali. What for? They could immediately go electric.”
It is this perspective that has necessitated and actuated the introduction of electric cars in Rwanda. It is a market that they hope to get the best and the maximum from. They are ready to make it work. Thomas Schaefer argued that since fuel is expensive for Rwanda, it hampers their foreign exchange reserves and the only way to mitigate this is through the use of electric cars.
The biggest advantage of using electric cars is how they are friendly to the environment and the rest of the ecological system. For an electric car to be considered truly ecological, renewable energy is supposed to be harnessed. This means that an electric car must be charged with renewable energy coming from the wind, sun, hydro and biomass.
The VW electric cars are also a vital part of their ride-hailing plans. Their ride-service app, “Move” now has over 23,000 registered users in Kigali. Only around 2,200 are active users. For VW, this is still pretty much of an experiment.
VW is combining new car sales, ride-hailing, car-sharing, used car sales, parts and service in making solid investments in Rwanda which it hopes will be worthwhile, and can be spread to other African countries and regions as well.
New car sales for Africa is an important development so that the continent develops a culture of being detached from second-hand cars.