Friday, April 19

Here’s how tech is revolutionising transport for low-income communities in urban Africa

The transport and mobility sector have undergone significant change in recent years. Disruptive technology and the sharing economy have completely transformed the mobility space, creating new markets with a more on-demand, consumer-centric model. Taxi apps like Uber and Lyft have revolutionised notions of accessibility, convenience and predictability in public transport.

But in South Africa, approximately 42.4 million people still rely on traditional modes of public transport. In the Western Cape province, 52 percent of households use minibus taxis (unscheduled privately-operated minibus services carrying passengers), while almost 22 percent of households use trains.

Historically, the previous apartheid regime segregated South Africans by racial group and assigned specific race groups to specific areas. Through the Group Areas Act, people classified as coloured and black were forced out of the city and economic hubs, to live on the outskirts where there are few job opportunities.

The impact of this can be seen in the spatial layout of Cape Town, in that poor people often have to travel long distances in their daily commute. With no option but to use the inadequate and informal modes of transport, their journey is often unpredictable and high risk.

Decades of underinvestment in infrastructure and public transport have brought about the informal minibus taxi industry. The minibus taxi industry emerged to fill the unmet transport needs of most of the population. Over time it has become the dominant transport mode due to its expansive network of routes in both urban and rural areas.

However, in this competitive and poorly regulated system, taxi associations fight for passengers on high demand routes and commuters are often caught in the crossfire of taxi violence. In this over-traded environment, vehicle maintenance is often a low priority, and drivers can be unlicensed, which means that taxis are often unroadworthy or unsafe. Add to that the lack of taxi schedules, and there is no certainty that passengers will get to their destination safely and on time. Continue reading