Yves Mpawenayo, The First Ever Burundian Who Made an Electric Car in Bujumbura

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Founder of Electromeca, Yves Mpawenayo is a Burundian genius who succeeded in researching and developing a prototype of an electric car. As he informs, he was concerned about the shortage of fuel in Burundi as well as the problems of queuing for buses in the downtown especially in the evening when people return from work. Below is a detailed interview with him.

Yves Mpawenayo and his team

 

Andika Magazine: Would you tell us more about your company Electromeca how you made an electric car?

Yves Mpawenayo: I am the founder and director of the Electromeca company which produces electric cars. Initially, throughout the company, I started making bicycles for people with disabilities because I saw that they had difficulty moving and for that, someone had to push them and when they had no one to push them, they had to ride themselves and it required a lot of effort. Then I thought about making bikes that could help these people. We have made a large number of them although there remains a problem of lack of funds.

Then, I later realized that there was another transport problem because of the lack of fuel and that even when it is available, it is expensive. Therefore, as it was difficult to find fuel and its price increased accordingly, I thought of making an electric car. I also first wanted to reduce the air pollution that harms the atmosphere because cars that use fuel emit a lot of pollution and I think that electric cars can help reduce this air pollution that harms the atmosphere.

 

(YouTube full interview in Kirundi)

Andika Magazine: a Burundian who made an electric car. Where did you get such intelligence from?

Yves Mpawenayo: It is first of all a talent. It’s a gifted talent because there are many people who studied the same curricula like me, but who didn’t succeed to make such a car. But also, I studied science, I studied electromechanics, I am an electromechanical technician. Then having made such a car, first of all, it’s part of what I studied and also, I have this gifted talent so that I think about doing this thing. In addition to this, I did research on the internet and elsewhere, and other contacts I have here and there to consolidate the knowledge acquired at school, and to that I am a student at the university.

Andika Magazine: Okay, you told us that you studied electromechanics, you’re honing your skills, you’re doing research here and there, where are you doing that research? Is it here in Burundi? Or is it abroad?

Yves Mpawenayo : I do it right here.

Andika Magazine: How do you do it?`

Yves Mpawenayo : I go online and ask my elders who did the same thing before I make this car. They make them abroad for instance in Uganda, in Kenya, in China and in America. Then, I try to look for people who have done it before me, I ask them, I analyze what they did and I order materials to be able to produce this car. This is how I do research.

Andika Magazine: Well, do you make that car? Or do you join the car spare parts?

Yves Mpawenayo : Well, I may say that I make it because, for example this one, we started making it ourselves from a car frame. We then attach metals: there are metals we buy and attach them, weld them, cut them and give them a design and the form we need. What we buy is the engine from abroad. There are other components like tyres that we buy. But, the carcass and its components from the frame up to the shell, we do it here.

Yves Mpawenayo

Andika Magazine: Why did you give it such a design?

Yves Mpawenayo: First of all, the idea was to create something that could help people travel. That’s why I gave it this design or this shape that you see, because of the problem that I mentioned about today’s transport, you also see the queues at the bus stops in downtown. Then we said if we could have travel tools that don’t require fuel, that would be better, and it could help the people and the country so that this currency that we use to import fuel abroad can diminish while these things will be so numerous and multiplied. And I gave it such a shape to transport people and maybe also things, to travel using other strategies without using fuel.

Andika Magazine: It’s a new thing, a car that doesn’t consume fuel, and we know that the electricity is often cut off in Burundi. When you charge this car, how long can you drive it?

Yves Mpawenayo : It depends on the capacity of the battery you are using. The more you use a large capacity battery, the more you drive it. This means that on a single charge you can travel around 100 km. For special things we will add a solar panel on the roof so that it continues to recharge with the sun’s rays.

Andika Magazine : Are you still in the research or are you done, all that’s left to say is we’ll do 10 or 20 cars like this?

Yves Mpawenayo: The research is complete, we are now on the verge of multiplying it. The research is completed, you see that now we can drive it. All that remains is to finalize by adding something like the solar panel, we have not yet put it on its roof, and it will be able to add the distance. There will be the distance additional of 30 km.

Andika Magazine: What are these sheets of metal that this car is made of?

Yves Mpawenayo : There are ordinary sheets like those used to make gates: these are metal sheets. But we choose and use a solid sheet metal whose thickness makes it resistant.

Andika Magazine: You have already produced the first car. What kind of car do you plan to make in 5 years, or in the next few days? Do you have the means to achieve this?

Yves Mpawenayo: We have means. But you’d better ask me what that kind of means! Because the first type of means we have is intelligence. The bases we have are intelligence; we don’t have a lot of capital but the second is money: what we don’t have enough of. We don’t have it and it’s a big problem to multiply these cars. But when we have financial means, a large work space and materials, … for example, we still use few machines that are not high technology. But if we find a place and we have the means to buy machines called “Machine tools”, it can help us a lot to produce around 10 to 20 cars like these in a month depending on the machines and means of which we dispose. It’s really possible, it’s possible that we can produce 100 cars per year, it’s possible if there are means.

Andika Magazine: Do you want to make a big car like a truck in the future, big and small? How do you plan it?

Yves Mpawenayo: Of course. Everything is possible. Since we made this car that can carry 8 people, that means we can also make a bus that can carry 30 people. If you can make a car that can carry 8 people, you can also make a car that can carry 20 or 30 people. In Uganda, there are electric buses that can carry 100 people. We are still young in terms of money and resources, but it is really possible.

Andika Magazine : If there is someone who can help you, what can you ask them?

Yves Mpawenayo: Well, someone to help! What I can ask him is to be a trustworthy person. He can provide means that can boost activity. Because there is someone who can come and help and provide means that cannot help anything, you find it like a play. But this shareholder could come in and I could show him what it takes for a large factory to be able to produce large numbers of these cars. I have data. When the person is there, I can show them what we need and how to do it so that it goes well.

Andika Magazine:  Did you write your project so that you could apply for support from a government program PAEEJ that supports other young people, and the factory might just work?

Yves Mpawenayo : Well, the project is written. It’s there but only there is a problem at PAEEJ (Youth Economic Empowerment and Employment Program), I went there and I spoke to the representative here in Bujumbura, we discussed and I told him and showed the project. But there are barriers that I noticed in their laws: the project that they can finance is the one that does not exceed one hundred million of Burundian Francs (BIF 100,000,000). Therefore, a hundred million for a project like this cannot help. It’s a little money, yes, it’s a little money until this problem arises. Another thing is the age you mentioned. Even though I look young, but I’m over 40 and not to go beyond 100 million for PAEEJ laon, then it became a problem. They gave us a price in PAEEJ. They know that we are dealing with this project; for this project, the president gave us an award on Inkerebutsi day. To say that the PAEEJ is aware of this project, the only barrier was that. I think after listening to this show they might think about increasing it so that those who have projects like these can be funded.

 

Yves Mpawenayo

Andika Magazine: If it’s no secret, how much money do you need to complete the project?
Yves Mpawenayo: The money for the launch would be a billion of Burundian Francs (BIF 1,000,000,000).

Andika Magazine: What is the brand of your car?

Yves Mpawenayo: It is the brand of our company “Electromeca”. There are many models that will come out depending on the model we make. This is EV-BDI, i.e. Electronic Vehicle-Burundi. As soon as they are released, they will be but the brand will be Electromeca as you see TOYOTA CARINA, TOYOTA, etc.

Andika Magazine: Today, many young people are unemployed, but you are the one who tried to use his intelligence, talent and knowledge acquired in school to do entrepreneurship. What  would you you advise to young people?

Yves Mpawenayo: I call on young Burundians to wake up from sleep and not underestimate themselves because young Burundians, we can. Once we get up, wake up and stop competing with the sleeping people, the young people will progress. For example, for this project, I have three young people with whom we collaborate: two of them work here and another in the office. You hear that if these continue, tomorrow we will have other strong mechanical technicians capable of doing the same thing like them. And, when the project has the means and develops, it will be able to hire 50 employees to be able to work. You hear that if young people wake up, we would say that we have things that we care about, and when we take our arms out of our clothes, tomorrow can be bigger and everything will be fine.

Andika Magazine : Thank you
Yves Mpawenayo : Thank you so much, we appreciate it.

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