/ 23 December 2023

Kemet Automotive gives an insight into the future of electric vehicles in Africa

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While Africa may not currently lead the electrification transition, the 2023 Intra-Africa Trade Fair in Cairo, Egypt, has highlighted significant developments on the continent.

The truth is that plug-in hybrids and hybrid vehicles seem to work, especially in South Africa, where electric vehicles (EVs) cost more than Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicles and the electricity situation is questionable at best.

In South Africa, EVs have tariffs of 25% when being shipped into the country from another market, compared to the 18% paid on imported internal combustion engine vehicles. This disparity in import tax is a significant contributor to the higher costs of EVs in South Africa. If you’re curious, the cheapest electric car in South Africa is the GWM Ora, which carries a price tag of R686,950. Imagine a world where the government subsidises EVs, making them more accessible to the average consumer. The dream of zero driving emissions would inch ever closer to reality.

The IATF Auto Forum brought this issue into sharp focus, and the panellists emphasised the need for local production and support to accelerate the transition to EVs. This brings us to Kemet Automotive, which is the first EV carmaker with African origins that seeks to transform the landscape of the vehicle industry. The visionaries behind the groundbreaking initiative are Rui Mendes Da Silva and Nissi Ogulu, and the marque is based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

That said, we sat down with Nissi Ogulu, co-chief executive and co-founder of Kemet Automotive, whose experience can be traced back to 2021, when she was one of the Jaguar Land Rover engineering team members who designed and put together the outstanding fifth-generation Range Rover model.

As we settled into the rhythm of our conversation, Ogulu’s passion for electric vehicles was palpable. She spoke of Kemet Automotive not just as a business but as a mission to bring sustainable, affordable electric mobility to Africa and the world.

Brand expansion 

While the brand is still in its inception stages, it has plans to expand to various markets across Africa that will operate on different levels and, according to Ogulu, there are plans to establish manufacturing plants in Senegal and Ghana. The brand aims to have more plants as the demand for Kemet Automotive EVs continues to grow.

“We plan to start with only one plant; who knows what the future looks like 10 years from now? We can’t limit ourselves, especially as the demand for our EVs grows. The company is also growing, and we plan to become a company that exists in as many African countries as possible.”

Because Kemet is manufacturing its electric vehicles locally, it is eliminating the hefty import taxes that often inflate the prices of electric vehicles. These taxes have long kept electric vehicles out of reach for many potential customers. But Kemet aims to make EVs accessible to a wider range of customers while creating jobs, boosting the African economy, and fostering a sense of pride in African innovation.

Kemet models

Although they may not have production models on the road just yet, their vision is already taking shape in the form of six concept vehicles, each one a testament to their commitment to sustainable mobility and African creativity. First, there’s the Gezo, a futuristic tricycle that promises to redefine urban mobility. Then there’s the Nandi, a compact SUV designed for the modern urbanite, and the Mansa, a premium SUV that combines indulgence with sustainability. For those needing speed, there’s an exclusive GT, and for the public transportation sector, Kemet has designed a large shuttle bus.

When asked about the possibility of expanding to the South African market, Ogulu says the brand is looking at expanding to other African countries, so it can’t rule out the idea of bringing its cars to the local market.

Charging infrastructure and range

When it comes to charging infrastructure across Africa, Kemet Automotive says it plans to create many partnerships with specialists, small and medium enterprises, and other electric car manufacturers.

“We are working on creating as many alliances as we can. We already have traction in that space, and we have established two partnerships with EB Manufacturing in the United States, so we really redefined the design going into partnerships, and the distribution pipeline and manufacturing pipeline are already in place. So it’s just about rolling it out,” said Ogulu.

As for their first car, slated to launch in the first quarter of 2027, Kemet is setting the bar high. The EV maker targets a range of up to 500km on a single charge, putting it in the same league as the BMW iX M60 and Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+. And while the brand remains tight-lipped about the battery capacity, they said it will take roughly an hour and a half to recharge the pack from empty to 100% when using what Kemet calls a supercharger.

The most exciting part is the promise of affordability. With a price tag that’s more accessible, Kemet’s model could be the spark that ignites the electric revolution in Africa.


Kemet Automotive says it has plans to have a base price of $25,000, which translates to roughly R470,897 at the current exchange rate, and this, if we look at the current EV market, will be the most affordable electric car ever to grace South African roads.

“Besides our cars being affordable, we do want to create a product that is of high quality and robust to be able to accommodate our African terrain. We have considered affordability. It is one of our pillars. It’s one of our targets, and we will ensure that the African market can purchase our vehicles.”Regarding the possibility of a bakkie, especially for the local market, Ogulu said it remains a possibility, and if that reaches production stages, it will rival the likes of the upcoming JAC T9.