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Warren Buffet-Backed China’s Electric Car Maker BYD Launches in Rwanda

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China’s BYD, the world’s leading seller of pure electric vehicles beating Tesla by shipment has launched in Rwanda, East Africa, its very first African market in a move set to disrupt auto car sales and manufacturing in Africa.

Rwanda recently saw the launch of another electric mobility startup BasiGO in the country. The electric bus firm has designed buses that can seat 36 passengers with the option of  18 standing passengers and other buses that can hold 33 to 41 passengers. The busses can be recharged in 2 hours at BasiGo’s DC Fast charging depots and can drive up to 400 km per day with a mid-day charge.

Another firm, Ampersand, Rwanda’s electric motorcycle battery producer recently raised $19.5 million in funding to ramp up electric motorcycle battery production, expand swap station network and accelerate R&D on battery tech, software and swap systems.

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“Exciting News from Rwanda!,” the firm announced on its X account. “Thrilled to announce BYD’s new entry into Rwanda with the stylish electric model, illuminating a new star on the BYD Middle East and Africa map! Get ready to ride into the future with BYD – where innovation meets sustainability!”

With over 526,409 all-electric cars sold tween October and December 2023, BYD surpassed Tesla’s 484,507 in the same period. BYD saw record-breaking sales volume in 2023 which surpassed the 3 million annual sales target and made it the global new energy vehicle (NEV) sales champion, for the second year in a row. Tesla made 1.84m cars in 2023 compared to BYD’s 3,024,417 vehicles sold throughout the year.

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With more than 3.02 million cars sold last year, including both pure electric models and plug-in hybrid ones, BYD is one of the many NEV producers that have seen booming sales as China, boasting the largest number of motor vehicles in the world, transitions toward greener technologies.

Established in 1995 as a battery producer, BYD was an early starter in the pursuit of NEV manufacturing in China. In 2004, when BYD’s new energy cars made their debut at Beijing’s international auto show, the company was the only carmaker there to exhibit NEVs.

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“When we first announced our electric vehicle production plan, not many people had confidence in us,” recalled Wang Chuanfu, chairman of BYD.

“But we had confidence in our prediction that the traditional auto market would have a market size ceiling due to environmental and climate change factors,” Wang said.

On the manufacturing end, BYD has benefited from the mature NEV industry chain in the city of Shenzhen, ranging from battery packs and intelligent cockpits to charging piles. The southern tech hub also boasts many internet and artificial intelligence companies that are making inroads into the intelligent driving sector, said Yu Xiquan, head of the city’s bureau of industry and information.

As the world’s largest producer and market of NEVs, China had more than 18 million NEVs in use as of September last year, accounting for more than half of the world’s total. This vast and burgeoning domestic market, coupled with the government’s push for low-carbon development, is believed to have pushed Chinese NEV companies to the global forefront of innovation.

German carmaker Volkswagen Group in July reached an agreement to buy a 4.99 percent stake in the Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng and co-develop two NEV models for the Chinese market. The deal attracted much attention as it gave Volkswagen access to Xpeng’s technologies, including the advanced driving assistance system (ADAS), breaking the mold of one-way technological transfer from foreign auto firms to Chinese ones.

The Chinese government has also rolled out a range of policy incentives in recent years to promote research, pilot new NEV applications and construct more charging facilities, especially in the vast countryside.

The Rwanda launch of BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, which produced 3.02m new energy vehicles in 2023 in China means a lot for the African EV consumer market. BYD which made 1.6m battery-only cars, and 1.4m hybrid cars sells its cars at a lower price point than Tesla, meaning it will not be a struggle for buyers in Rwanda or Africa to buy either the full electric models or the hybrid models with less importation duties and taxes involved.

BYD, which sells five models in Europe and has plans to launch three more had plans to build a new factory in Hungary and another in the UK with a target to sell about 800,000 cars sold annually in Europe by 2030. The Hong Kong-listed BYD, has a big chance of being the darling of Africa as the first mass EV manufacturer.

On a recent visit, Chairman and President of BYD, Wang Chuanfu, underscored the strategic importance of the MEA market with a visit to Dubai. Engaging with authentic dealer Al-Futtaim, the visit signals BYD’s commitment to the region.

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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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