Earlier this year, tech entrepreneur Francis Obiakor found himself in a chat with a friend who lamented about the never-ending traffic gridlocks that dominate Lagos roads. So he thought to himself that something had to be done about the situation.
Then he came up with a solution to make transportation more convenient and less troubling: electric bicycles. Yes, you read that right.
Being one of the over 20 million Lagos residents exposed to air pollution caused by traffic congestion, Obiakor decided to start Electric Bikes Lagos, a company dedicated to the sales of luxury electric bicycles as an eco-friendly alternative means of transport.
“It [the project] came up as an idea from two friends sitting in the corner. We told ourselves: ‘Look at the traffic situation in Lagos. How can we bring something that will make transportation easier for us and other people?’,” he told Technext.
But first, he had to bring the idea to life. He would go on to set up a five-man team which worked on the project from March to September 18 when the company’s physical store was launched in Lekki Phase 1 in Lagos.
A game changer
Tapping into the growing leap of e-mobility in Nigeria, Obiakor said he entered into a partnership with three international companies to facilitate the importation of electric bicycles into Nigeria to sell to Nigerians.
For the Anambra-born entrepreneur, this isn’t just another business opportunity, but a game changer in the transportation sector in the country, which already boasts of its first electric bicycle manufacturing company and one of the very few on the continent.
In Obiakor’s words, Electric Bikes Lagos is an innovation, referencing how countries across the globe have embraced the use of electric bicycles to address climate change.
He then called on the Nigerian government to emulate other countries and create dedicated cycle lanes. This, according to him, will create safety to cyclists in Nigeria and reduce incidents of road traffic crashes.
Features and costing
According to Obiakor, there are currently two models of electric bicycles in stock.
The Matt Black e-bike which comes with features like a 350W battery capacity, 26 inches all-terrain flat tyres, dashboard display meter, LED light, back carriage and 1-7 gear, is currently priced at N1.5million.
And, the Luxury Black/Red Sport e-bike has similar features, albeit with some upgrades such as a 400W battery capacity and a LED dashboard screen. It costs N1.8million.
“With a six-hours full charge, these bikes can last you for a day or two, depending on the distance covered. Not just that, they can also move as fast as regular vehicles “ he said of the capacity of the bikes. He added that they are now available for sale at their physical store.
He, however, admits that access to electricity is still a problem in Nigeria. According to the Energy Progress Report 2022, Nigeria has the lowest access to electricity globally with about 92 million Nigerians lacking access to power.
“This is why the e-bikes have a manual option. When there is no power, you can simply use the pedals,” he said.
Poverty remains a hydra-dreaded problem in Nigeria. According to a World Bank report, the number of poor persons in Nigeria will rise to 95.1 million in 2022, almost half of the country’s estimated 200 million population.
So, acquiring these highly-priced bicycles will be particularly challenging to many Nigerians. To put into context, it would take 50 months of earning Nigeria’s minimum wage of N30,000 to be able to afford the Matt Black model.
When asked by Technext about making electric bicycles accessible to Nigerians regardless of social status, Obiakor said the company is already designing a framework that allows customers to make payments in instalments.
Government regulation is no problem
From experience, the Nigerian government claims to love tech, but frustrates it with a troubling regulatory landscape. For instance, in January 2020, the Lagos state government banned the operations of motorbikes in the state, dealing a huge blow to ride-hailing startups such as ORide, Gokada and MAXOkada.
However, none of that is playing on the mind of Obiakor who believes his company is just selling bicycles and nothing else.
“I don’t know where in the world the government ban the sale of bicycles. It’s just like every other business. I have no reason to be afraid of government regulation because I’m not doing anything illegal,” he submitted.
What’s next for Electric Bikes Lagos?
For Obiakor who prides himself as an entrepreneur who wants to revolutionise the transportation space in Lagos and Nigeria at large, e-mobility is central to the future of transport in the country.
He also believes that electric bicycles will help address environmental challenges the country currently faces due to fossil fuel-based transport.
Speaking on what’s next for Electric Bikes Lagos, he says the company will be investing in more e-bikes with improved and better features to serve its growing base of customers.
“Nigerians shouldn’t sleep on us. We are here to change the face of transportation in the country”, he adds.
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