‘Our solar transporter will create new jobs’

Three questions for Boubaker Siala, founder and Managing Director of Bako Motors, Tunisia’s first manufacturer of solar vehicles

Text: Sofia Shabafrouz Illustration: Julian Rentzsch

Boubaker Siala studied electrical engineering at the Technical University of Munich, and after that spent many years working for German tech companies. In 2021, Siala decided to set up his own automotive company in Tunisia. GIZ assisted him with the certification and marketing of the solar-powered van.

How did you end up starting the business in Tunisia?

For years, I was employed in good positions with a number of automotive and tech companies in Germany. In 2021, when coronavirus struck, I had to spend a long time in Tunisia. It wasn’t planned, but I enjoyed the quality of life there and being close to my family. I decided to swap my fixed salary in Germany for the adventure of being an entrepreneur in North Africa. The business idea came to me on a bike tour with my son, who said he wanted an e-bike. I converted a normal bike into an e-bike using a kit I bought online. Then I thought to myself: why not convert cars and use the African sun?

What is special about your company, Bako Motors?

We began by fitting lightweight, three-wheeled vehicles with a solar panel on the roof and replaceable lithium batteries. That became our first model, the Bako B1, which can be powered using either solar energy or mains electricity. It is sustainable and, above all, inexpensive – both to buy and to operate. The 2,000-litre cargo space makes the Bako B1 interesting for delivery companies. It also has a socket and you can use it as a charging station or generator in rural places without a power supply. That’s particularly useful in African countries. I’m convinced our solar transporter and the small four-wheel electric vehicle we have just developed will create new jobs.

Bako B1 Bako Motors

Who gave you support for your start-up?

GIZ was an important partner for us. With them at our side, we could move everything forward step by step, analysing the market and then launching a product that people really need. Above all, they assisted us with certification and for appearances at trade fairs. To date we have sold 150 vans. My business partner and I employ 40 people. Now we’re planning to open new branches in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, and we are developing more innovative vehicles.

Bako Motors and GIZ

The project Job Partnerships and Promotion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Tunisia II supports the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups in becoming more climate-friendly. It gave Bako Motors advice during its approval and certification processes, as well as on product development. Apart from that, the start-up also benefited from coaching on company formation and development offered by the Programme on Migration & Diaspora (PMD).

Finally, in February 2023, the project City-to-City Cooperation Maghreb-Germany purchased six of the electric and solar-powered vehicles to support the municipal vaccination and prevention campaigns of regional health service providers in Tunisia.      

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