Sakpata Motors Developing Electric Bikes in West Africa. Conversations with Olou Kucoi – Part 2



  • Conversion of ICE bikes to electric bikes
  • The name SAKPATA
  • Mission and Vision of SAKPATA Motors
  • Entrepreneurial experience


Tony: Welcome back we are very pleased to have Mr. Olu all the way from Benin. He was giving us his history on how he managed into the University of Pennsylvania without even knowing. That is what happens when you are smart and brilliant.  So, Olu we are going to talk about one of the revolutions of the continent. I have talk about that in my introduction because I strongly believe that definitely we are seeing something happening there. I guess this question will always came back to me, do we see EV’s revolution happening in Africa? And my response is am sure it will happen at one point but I don’t think it is going to be immediate for some reasons. However, we do have some EV’s from Africa.

Olu, I just want you to tell me more about those electric bikes. We are going to the second part to this very interesting interview and we are going to talk about revolution that is happening in Africa. In every part of Africa definitely in West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and most likely in South Africa. Am talking about electric bike because a lot of people are talking about EV’s in different part of the world; China, India, USA, UK, Germany, France and so on and so forth. Some kind of question is are we going to see the same change happening in Africa? My own opinion in that perspective is that it is going to take some time like two years for reasons I don’t want to go to so deeply into but I want you to talk about electric bikes because I believe you strongly believe in electric bikes because you have just launched another company again. You said that you are the kind of person who likes to solve societal problems. So, why EV’s?

Olu: Okay Tony. Thank you for that question. This is still what I was doing when we met in Ghana for the renewable energy conference to provide electricity for people in a more renewable way. We are using solar and we have now come to an age where we have perfected this industry in away. Solar energy as an electricity distribution tool has been perfected close to perfection already. We have been innovative and pioneers enough and advocating for this enough. So yes, some websites still say one billion people do not have electricity in Africa, the number is never going down because they want to stay in business. But to be honest with you when you travel to Nigeria or Benin or even Kenya or Rwanda, in most off grid villages you will see either a micro grid or panels on about every roof. We have come to a term where we know today that people in off grid rural areas in Africa trust solar energy as a source for energy reproduction and they are gaining it from the market. Enough of local electricians are then trained to insert these solar systems. That is why providing electricity is reaching to appoint where most of our people can afford electricity. Not everyone wants electricity like in Europe and United State of America. Some people do not have micro grid or they do not want to use it for multiple reasons.

So, when we say access to electricity in Africa, I am always telling people often that we should talk about affordability of electricity not access of electricity anymore because we have the tool to force electricity already in place, the sun and the solar panels. We have access to electricity and the problem is affordability. So, yes, we have come to appoint where we can see today that electricity is available to our people in Africa and off grid location around the world and that electricity is for home use, for business and now we want to provide electricity for mobility.

Tony: OK.

Olu: This is where a matter of switching to mobility, powering– mobility and slowly fading away from powering homes and businesses. There are other companies involve in this already. I think it is time for me and some of my team members to move on to mobility. Your question was why mobility? I think one of the main courses of pollution in our series from my experience in Africa, I do not know about Asia but a lot of people also talk about India and China series being polluted, but what I know for African series the major cause is from the fumes. The exhaust from the motor cycles and cars. We are importing used cars in our series and those cars produce a lot of fumes into the atmosphere. Another form of air pollution comes from motor cycles because they use petrol and their engines produce a lot of CO2 and CO emissions. Now that we are getting close to mastering of batteries, I think it is time to start converting ICE motor cycles into electrical. When I say motor cycles am talking about any type of vehicle that uses motors.

Tony: OK.

Olu: Any vehicle that uses motors can be a motor cycle with two wheels, a boat or even a car. But for my company we have started with motor cycle because we are in West Africa and I call Benin “the great way to Nigeria”. Benin and Nigeria series combined import around half a billion US dollars of motor cycles. The two countries are the largest importers of motor cycles in Africa and that is why we are focusing on accelerating the convention of petrol motor cycle into electrical motor cycle.

Tony: That is very interesting because in one of the videos that we delivered on our channel, we talked about the main source of CO2. We were explaining that if you are looking at the main producer of Co2 definitely transportation was part of it and in transportation there are three main drivers and within transportation 6% is coming from oversees and that is why we have to carbonize the fleet of vehicle. You are doing the same here in Africa because the situation is most likely to be the same. The difference is that in West Africa we are very close but we have a lot of cars. So, it is actually quite smart on you to move into that sector to address them all because as you said, there are already other people looking at other aspects in terms of producing power for businesses and also producing power for residentials in Africa. Coming back into the business of the day, what is the name of your company and what exactly is your company aiming to do exactly? Let us imagine I am a potential customer and you need to attend to me. Who is your target customer? Can you say customers are not beneficiaries? What is the company and what is the company aiming to do?

Olu: Ok. Thank you. The company name is Sakpata Motors.

Tony: What does Sakpata mean?

Olu: Sakpata in the West African religion Vutu which lower people says originated from Benin I say West Africa because most of the tribes in West Africa have the style of worshipping nature. We took the name Sakpata to mean that we are the keepers of the earth.

Tony: Excellent

Olu: Sakpata Motors means “design motors that meets the needs of the earth”. Also, in the local language in Southern Benin when something is great or when you have a great idea, you say something that is on point, I can say in rural language “Sakpata”. It means fast, furious and smart so we use that as a strong key meaning fast and smart. The name set everything that we do already. Therefore, I want to apply in people involve with this new organization that we are creating when they came to work or when they see or hear hear the name, or when they think about the name to think about protecting our environment.

Tony: Okay Olu, we have been talking about what the name Sakpata motor means and you say it means the god of earth. It also means smart, fast and furious. Now I want to understand more about the vision and the ambition of the company and who is the company really looking to serve. Can you tell us more about that – please?

Olu: Alright Tony. Thank you. I will answer the question but before answering the question I am going to make a note. The company is always moving. A company may grow, move to different directions, adapt to different times and I am told in the future about one hundred years, I don’t know what will happen but right now I can tell you the vision that we have is to build this organization.

Tony: Ok

Olu: Two years ago, we started slowly the dream of Sakpata motors. We started building a center for E-mobi reaching which was called Makoni center for E-mobi reaching. We have constructed the whole building already. We are now recruiting engineers and technicians. We have tools and the idea of the Makoni center is to be a place where we accelerate the cooperation of the electric vehicle. So, what we are doing is that we tell people to bring their existing motor cycles which we turn into electrical for them. Meaning that it is a convention Centre. We are also in negotiation with other companies with a lot of freight of motor cycle like Telcom to do the conversion of their motor cycle. That will help accelerate the waste that we have today. The idea of Sakpata motor cycle company is to have existing motor cycles being converted into electrical while slowly building and manufacturing new prototyped electrical motor cycles. Today, we are building on existing ones.

Tony: That is brilliant and the fact that you are in conversation with large companies says that definitely the idea is appealing to a number of people. Thank you very much I really appreciate. Can you please clarify when you say you built a building are you saying that your company Sakpata has first of all build a premise for yourself and that this is where you are operating your business?

Olu: No, the energy company worked on building a Centre where we are slowly training local mechanics and electricians to master our conversion kits so that we can start transforming the regular mostly used motor cycle in West Africa into electrical motor cycles. The Centre is almost ninety percent finish and we will start converting motor cycles in the next two or three months. For now, we are still recruiting people and setting up the whole workshop.

Tony: So Olu just to make sure I understand that part correctly, what we are saying here is you have partnered with an energy company locally that is building a Centre where you guys; you and your team will be converting some motor cycles into electric motor cycles and therefore you are going to train a whole team of welders and electricians who can do that. Is that what you were saying?

Olu: Yes, that is it. However, it is not another local energy company. It is our solar energy company. It is still under our management and that is why we are building the center.

Tony: Ok, are you building the Centre with your own money?

Olu: Yes

Tony: Ok, so basically you have a solar business, so your century is century that is expanding?

Olu: Exactly

Tony: Ok that is brilliant, I have learnt that you have built so far three motor cycles. Are they currently running as we speak?

Olu: Yes, they are currently being use as we speak. We launched in May 2nd and we did a test drive with the motor cycle taxi drivers. I know you are familiar with motor cycle taxi riders in West Africa. In Nigeria they call them “Okada” and in Benin they call them “Zeam”. Motor cycle taxi riders are the main users of motor cycles in our region. We therefore did a lot of test drives with them. They are the people who used our motor cycles and gave us feedback. Today, the motor cycle is being used by the people in their daily activities.

Tony: Ok. So, do you mean that at you have some customers who bought it and have been using it.

Olu: Yes

Tony: Excellent, by the way as we are talking about the name in Nigeria, Benin and Cameroon; just for your information they call it “Bensyking”. There is a whole story behind the name anyway that is the local name in Cameroon.

Olu: That is good to know.

Tony: Exactly because that may be another market for you. I have a question Olu. This finished products, assuming that I am an investor interested with what you are saying because I found it very incredible and very interesting business as well, would you say that you know exactly what is the cost to turn the motor cycle into an electric one.

Olu: Yes, this is a good question. We do know the appropriate cost of motor cycle convention to electric. You know with electrical EV’s the main element is the storage unit. We are using the ion battery because they last long and also you can recharge them when you want to use them. The most expensive part of electrical motorcycle is the battery. The business approach now is to rent out the battery otherwise it would be too expensive for people to afford it. The mechanical and electrical part is not that expensive. The convection of motor cycle to electric cycle always takes around one or two hours. The customization of the motor cycle is what takeS some more time because some customers may want their own design. Otherwise, the compression is quick and quite easy for us.

Tony: That leads to my next question. It looks like you have definitely mastered the process of turning an ICE motor cycle that quickly into a brand-new electric motor cycle. Is that the process that you watch and hear and it functions or is it an everyone process that anybody can go and do because it seems to me that taking an hour or two to change a motor cycle to electric cycle is quite fast. Is this something that is protected and you develop or it is quite well known?

Olu:  I think the process is quite well known by mechanical, electrical engineers for increasing mobility but it is rarely used and most people build electric motor cycles from scratch. While the design process is still pending, our process is a prefatory process but the general process of conversion from piston to electrical is well known. How to make it very fast and efficient also need a process and that needs a design which that we did.

Tony: Ok that is very good, I just love all the idea. So, looking at all that journey that you have covered so far with Sakpata Motors, has it been exiting, challenging or depressing in your own words?

Olu: I will say “ololokosa”.

Tony: I love it, so that means you get ready to go for your own reader car so it does not mean you go to pick Paris car, right?

Olu: It is going to be Benin and Cameroon

Tony: Exactly we are going to do all the countries in Africa. That is the end of the second part allow me to say it was just brilliant to find out more about the company. Just quickly before we move on to the last part, how many are you in Sakpata Motors at the moment?

Olu: At the moment we are around ten people. We have business developer, myself, chief advisor and we have local technicians. I call them technicians because they are not engineers from school, they have just learnt it on the way. They are mechanics, welders and electricians. We are still training them. They help us do the three prefatory motor cycles and we are still training them so that they can get perfection into assembling and converting motor cycles.

Tony: This is excellent because one thing that you have just revealed here is that in all this adventure you are also training people on the ground, passing skills and building the past to here which is effectively what the African society needs, not only in Benin but the whole of the continent. So that is the end of the second part Olu. Thank you very much. So, fur we have had a brilliant conversation and I am pleased to say it is not finished, so stay tuned.


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