Electric motorcycle startup Zembo secures $3.4 million from Toyota, DOB Equity, and InfraCo Africa for expansion.


Mobility 54 Investment SAS, a corporate venture capital subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho Corporation and the CFAO group, DOB Equity, and InfraCo Africa have invested $3.4 million (€3 million) in Zembo, an electric motorcycle startup.

Zembo, a French startup with operations in Uganda, was founded in 2018 and provides a lease-to-own scheme for electric motorcycles. In the East African country, it also operates a network of solar charging and battery swapping stations.

Mobility 54 will help the startup in expanding its operations across Africa “by leveraging the group’s (Toyota’s) automotive footprint throughout the continent,” according to the company. Mobility 54 will also work with Zembo to form new partnerships, especially for its battery and solar panel businesses, which the startup expects to expand the most.

“Mobility 54’s investment in Zembo envisions to accelerate the carbon neutrality in Africa by electrification of the mobility industry. Toyota Tsusho and CFAO group will contribute to deploy Zembo’s business in Africa by leveraging the group’s automotive footprints throughout the continent,” Mobility 54 said in a statement.

The new funds will be used to increase the number of motorcycles in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, by about 2,000, as well as to establish more than 60 charging and battery swapping stations all across the city. On a single charge, its motorcycles can travel 37 miles (60 kilometers).

“We’re excited to partner with impact-focused institutions like InfraCo Africa, DOB Equity, and Mobility 54 to continue developing electric boda bodas (motorcycles) and charging stations for our customers,” said Zembo co-founder, Étienne Saint-Sernin.

“Zembo’s mission to improve incomes for Uganda’s boda boda riders while cutting air pollution is shared by our supporters and is a driving force for this partnership. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers and making sustainable mobility a reality in Uganda,” he said.

Zembo assembles the electric motorcycles in Uganda and works with external financial institutions to sell them through rent-to-own plans. Its battery-as-a-service model allows riders to swap discharged batteries with fully charged ones at a fee.

InfraCo Africa’s CEO, Gilles Vaes, said “… Zembo has a great track record of delivering electric two-wheeler vehicles to the market and our joint effort with DOB Equity and Mobility 54 to scale and develop the business will expand the company’s ability to cut urban air pollution, create jobs and promote economic development in Kampala. The project also aligns with global efforts to improve air quality and to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.”

InfraCo Africa, part of Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), which is funded by six governments and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), provides funding and expertise to infrastructure projects, while DOB Equity is a Dutch family-backed investor with an interest in East Africa.