Rwandan electric motorcycle startup Ampersand secures $9m debt facility for expansion.


The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has granted Ampersand, a Rwanda-based electric motorcycle startup, a US$9 million loan facility to develop its operations in Rwanda and Kenya.

Ampersand, which began operations in May 2019, assembles and finances electric motorcycles that are less expensive to buy and operate and outperform the five million petrol motorcycle taxis in use across East Africa.

The network of battery swap stations and fleet of batteries that Ampersand creates and operates are at the heart of its business, allowing drivers to swap batteries faster than they can fill up their gas tank and shielding vehicle owners from the hefty upfront cost of a lithium battery pack.

Ampersand’s team has performed over 50,000 battery swaps since its commercial launch in May 2019, powering its fleet of 56 drivers for over two million kilometres. The Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) and TotalEnergies invested US$4 million in the startup earlier this year to help it scale.

With a US$9 million loan from the DFC, Ampersand will be able to increase the number of electric motorcycles on the road in Rwanda and Kenya to several thousand by the end of 2022. The loan is part of DFC’s Portfolio for Impact and Innovation (PI²) initiative, which supports the company’s commitment to the US Energy Compact and its goal of allocating one-third of its assets to climate change by 2023.

“We’re thrilled to have DFC on board with this historic investment, which is building momentum to electrify all of East Africa’s five million motorcycle taxis by 2030. DFC’s support underlines the viability and investability of electric two-wheelers for mass-market customers in the Global South, and the importance of this market to reaching net zero. On the eve of COP26 in Glasgow we believe more bold, fast-moving and innovative funds like PI² are urgently needed,” said Josh  Whale, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Ampersand.

“DFC is proud to support Ampersand in their important and innovative work bringing e-mobility and electric motorcycles to Rwanda and Kenya,” said DFC’s chief climate officer Jake Levine. “DFC is focused on making impactful investments in developing countries that will help communities progress and grow while simultaneously building resilience and prosperity for a clean energy future — this investment and the incredible growth that Ampersand has demonstrated in the market represents a great step in that direction.”