Kenyan company Globology Ltd intends to scale up the provision of water bus passenger transport services on Lake Victoria to help reduce the deaths that occur each year due to reliance on old ferries, boats and canoes.
Globology has received $3.8 million in equity funding from impact investor InfraCo Africa to fund the construction of five new passenger and freight ferries across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the three East African countries that share the waters of Lake Victoria. The ferries will be delivered over the next 24 to 36 months.
The funding will also allow the company to pay for upgrades to its existing shipyard, located in Kisumu, Kenya.
InfraCo Africa provides equity to finance the development and construction of pioneering projects. It is part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group, a multi-donor organization established in 2002. The Shell Foundation also provided Globology with an $800,000 grant to pilot the retrofit of a solar booster system on two of its vessels, which is expected to reduce fuel consumption. by about 15 percent.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand the reach of the waterbus service and expand our journey to save lives and facilitate development for transport-challenged communities in Africa,” said Malcolm Ormiston, Founder from Globelogy.
Globology, commonly known as Waterbus, is the first passenger-focused service to offer regular ferry routes on Lake Victoria. It currently operates two modern 132-seater catamarans and one modern 80-seater catamaran for passengers and light cargo.
Lake Victoria is the second largest body of fresh water in the world and the largest in Africa. It is also the largest inland fishery in the world, supporting more than 40 million people according to the World Bank. It is a source of income for millions of people and generates over $500 million in revenue per year.
However, the lake is considered one of the most dangerous bodies of water due to the number of deaths recorded each year. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people die each year on the lake as a result of ferry, boat and canoe accidents. In September 2018, for example, a total of 136 people died in one of the worst ferry disasters on the Tanzanian side of the lake.
The lack of proper transport services means that access to transport between the mainland and island communities of Lake Victoria is limited, with passengers relying largely on open wooden canoes fitted with polluting two-stroke petrol outboard engines. Lake Victoria is home to more than 80 islands, and their inhabitants need transport to access key services and bring their produce to markets.
According to InfraCo, unscheduled canoes are inherently dangerous, slow and lack shelter, so passengers are exposed to the elements and fresh goods and produce are vulnerable to spoilage. Severe, fast-moving storms can capsize open canoes, which have little or no safety measures in place for their passengers.