Electric Moto-Taxis Innovation in Low Income Countries: A Rider’s Perspective in Kampala

by: Nathalie Prime, Akil Amiraly, Mansoureh Hasannia Kolaee, Peter Kasaija

Publication Date: October 10, 2023
Length: 18 pages
Product ID#: 8-364-643

Core Disciplines: Base of the Pyramid, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Information - Technology & Management, International Business, Social Impact, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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First Place Winner; 2023 Energy Innovation in LMICs Global Case Writing Competition

Sammy Kalunji, 36, a low-income self-employed motorcycle taxi microentrepreneur in Kampala, Uganda, decided to buy an electric motorcycle with a rechargeable battery. He is one of about 250 such pioneers in low-emission transportation in this major (and air-polluted) city in west-central Africa at the end of 2022. However, operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, he does not receive enough income to fully provide for his family. This is true, despite the fact that his electric motorcycle (known as an E-boda) has substantially lower operating costs than his former petroleum-powered one (known as a P-boda).

This case elaborates on four financial, operational, commercial, and social organization models and alternatives Kalunji must navigate so that he and his fellow E-boda riders can harness economic opportunities emerging from this new low-carbon urban transportation solution, and be recognized as making an essential contribution to the transition to green urban mobility in Kampala.

Ultimately, the case takes the perspective of low-income groups adopting low-carbon mobility innovations while working in generalized informal market conditions. It reflects and critiques the global Northern concept of social and environmental “sustainable innovation” as it is exported to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with the risk of making such innovations unsustainable by themselves.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Assess the controllable internal and uncontrollable external factors faced by self-employed, low-income entrepreneurs adopting low-carbon innovative energy to operate a business that involves a personal financial investment in a volatile economic environment and informal market conditions.
  • Analyze the determinants of pioneer riders’ daily income when utilizing the technology that involves battery range and location of battery swapping stations.
  • Evaluate diversification options to increase operators’ daily income with E-boda given their lack of resources and the context of multiple disruptions (technological, economic, and social), especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Propose alternative financing, operational, commercial, and social organization models that can be adopted by low-income entrepreneurs to harness economic opportunities that emerge with low-carbon transport solutions.
  • Reflect on and critique the global Northern concept of “sustainable innovation” compared to the “livelihood” and survival realities of sustainability transition in the global South.