VENTURES AFRICA – Mobius Motors (MM) is a car manufacturing company based in Kenya. MM is a social business that builds vehicles specifically for Africa’s degraded roads at an affordable price. Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Prof. Muhammad Yunus, first coined the term Social business.
A social business is a non-loss, non-dividend company designed to address a social objective within the highly regulated marketplace of today. It is distinct from a non-profit because the business should seek to generate a modest profit to help the business grow.
MM is led by British social-entrepreneur, Joel Jackson. A graduate of the UK’s prestigious Imperial College London, Joel gave up a lucrative career in management consultancy to start MM.
Although the company has a British founder, it employs many innovative Africans as part of its team- for example, Kazungu Mwaringa (Lead Mechanic) and Said Tsuma (Lead Welder). MM hopes to use local talent to help the company grow further.
Africa’s Transport Problem
Africa’s poorest people tend to live in the rural parts of Africa, far from the main cities. Due to their lack of employment and tangible assets, this group of people can’t afford suitable transportation. This immobility creates a number of problems for them:
- poor access to clean water
- housing issues
- inability to access the best schools
- unable to access health services, and medical care
- can not travel to jobs located in the major cities
- isolation from the rest of society
MM wants to alleviate some of these problems with its brand of vehicle.
With a retail price of about $6000 USD, MM’s vehicle is comparable to the auto rickshaw, which is much cheaper than other vehicles used in Africa of similar purposes. The manufacturer has some ambitious aims:
- build a platform for mobility across Africa
- affordable transportation for Africans and businesses operating there
- a new vehicle and brand specifically for Africa
- encourage businesses to use the vehicles to deliver services to the poorer rural areas of Africa
- connect the poorer rural areas of Africa to hospitals, schools, markets and employment mainly located in the cities
- prosperity of ordinary Africans
MM is part of a growing number of companies operated by social entrepreneurs. These social entrepreneurs recognise that the best way of solving problems in Africa, uplifting it’s people and economy, is through entrepreneurship.
MM plans on targeting entrepreneurs. The company’s statement:
Mobius aims to empower transport entrepreneurs across Africa not just with more appropriate vehicles, but with the financing and business advice needed to operate a sustainable transport centric business. As well as leveraging the existing privatised public transport model (already proven by auto rickshaws and minivans), entrepreneurial buyers can also use their modular Mobius cars to operate a range of other services such as local school buses, mail delivery or mobile medical care.
Encouraging entrepreneurs to use its vehicles will help deliver the resources and services so lacking in the poorer parts of Africa. It also helps the entrepreneurs develop a new consumer base- as people in these areas access better resources and services to uplift themselves. With this new prosperity, they become valuable consumers for the same entrepreneurs that helped lift them from poverty. A simple solution but one that may prove difficult to execute fully without coordinated support from governments and major businesses.
Mobius Motors is presenting a huge opportunity for the poorest in Africa. For too long they’ve lived on the margins of society and have been unable to benefit from the changes and economic advances that Africa is seeing. Local African entrepreneurs will shape the future of Mobius Motors. If they fully embrace its philosophy, they can use the vehicles to tap into new supply and delivery routes; access consumers neglected by major corporations; and help their fellow Africans receive basic resources and services such as medicine, clean water and education. African governments need to support more initiatives like this- dramatically improving transport links which will attract other forms of new investment.
The positive rippling effect is enormous!
What do you think?