Tech­nol­ogy to tame Africa’s trans­port chaos

Lesotho Times - - Business -

lon­don — Cars, lav­ishly dec­o­rated buses, reck­less matatu minibus taxis, and dare­devil mo­tor­bike rid­ers in­ter­min­gle with the odd herd of cows to cre­ate a grid­locked maze, and a night­mare for the com­muter try­ing to get home. Not only is the trans­port sec­tor in much of africa sim­i­larly chaotic, it is also no­to­ri­ously danger­ous — africa has the high­est rate of road traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties in the world, ac­count­ing for 16 per­cent of the world’s road traf­fic deaths, de­spite be­ing home to only 2 per­cent of the world’s ve­hi­cles.

Com­pared to the global av­er­age of 18 road traf­fic deaths per 100 000 mem­bers of the pop­u­la­tion, the re­gion sees an av­er­age of 24.1 deaths for each 100 000 peo­ple — a sig­nif­i­cantly higher fig­ure.a ris­ing num­ber of young start-ups are work­ing to make sense of the mad­ness, cre­at­ing new tech­nol­o­gy­based so­lu­tions to sim­plify trans­porta­tion in african cities, and im­prove safety.

Taxi-hail­ing in Nairobi While taxi app Uber is rush­ing to launch in africa, taxi-hail­ing tech­nol­ogy is al­ready popular in Kenya, tap­ping into the coun­try’s fa­mous love of novel mo­bile so­lu­tions.

ac­cord­ing to lau­ren Gray, mar­ket­ing direc­tor at lo­cal mo­bile taxi-hail­ing ser­vice Easy Taxi, in­no­va­tive uses of tech­nol­ogy are key to im­prov­ing the tax­i­trans­porta­tion mar­ket in Kenya. in par­tic­u­lar, Ms Gray says tech­nol­ogy can bet­ter connect con­sumers with re­li­able, safe ser­vices, and en­sure height­ened ac­count­abil­ity within the mar­ket.

“Tech­nol­ogy al­lows for greater mon­i­tor­ing within the taxi trans­porta­tion mar­ket. This is ben­e­fi­cial for the end con­sumer, as higher qual­ity ser­vices are guar­an­teed and ser­vices are brought to con­sumers with both trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity,” she says.

By us­ing mo­bile tech­nol­ogy, Ms Gray says the lack of re­li­able trans­porta­tion in Nairobi can be ad­dressed, and se­cu­rity can be im­proved — a key con­cern in Kenya.

“Cus­tomers [in Nairobi] have be­come used to know­ing that if they need a driver to take them to a des­ti­na­tion, it would need to be planned hours in ad­vance and re­quire call­ing mul­ti­ple driv­ers to see who is avail­able, who is nearby, and who will charge the low­est price,” she says.

“in ad­di­tion, cus­tomers are very wary of tak­ing rides with driv­ers they do not know. This is be­cause of the lack of re­li­a­bil­ity but also due to se­cu­rity con­cerns. Th­ese gaps are what tech­nol­ogy within the taxi trans­porta­tion sec­tor and Easy Taxi is ca­pa­ble of ad­dress­ing and chang­ing.”

Boasting the largest taxi net­work in Nairobi, and fer­ry­ing thou­sands of pas­sen­gers to their des­ti­na­tions each month, Easy Taxi’s lo­calised taxi-hail­ing app is widely used in Kenya’s cap­i­tal, and poses the big­gest com­pe­ti­tion to Uber’s african ex­pan­sion.

On your bike Mo­bile tech­nol­ogy is also be­ing used to shake-up an­other of africa’s favourite forms of trans­port — the mo­tor­cy­cle taxi, known as the boda boda.alas­tair sus­sock, co-founder of Ugan­dan com­pany safeboda, says tech­nol­ogy fo­cused trans­port sys­tems will play an im­por­tant role in build­ing de­vel­oped cities across africa.

“Tech­nol­ogy can help the mar­ket serve cus­tomers bet­ter and safeboda is work­ing on ex­actly that,” he says.

“The larger [ques­tion] is how can we use low-cost trans­porta­tion and tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the rapidly grow­ing cities of africa and other de­vel­op­ing re­gions.”

Dub­bing it­self the “Uber for mo­tor­cy­cle taxis”, safeboda al­lows con­sumers to call a net­work of mo­tor­bike driv­ers via a mo­bile app.

How­ever, as the name sug­gests, safeboda also goes a step fur­ther,

Elec­tric dreams ac­cord­ing to Neil du Preez, founder of south african com­pany Mel­lowcabs, peo­ple need to start fo­cus­ing on ways to use tech­nol­ogy to stem the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of trans­porta­tion, par­tic­u­larly as cities grow and con­ges­tion wors­ens.

“The more the world ur­banises - and we’re fore­cast to be 70 per­cent ur­ban-dwellers by 2050 — the more crit­i­cal clean, ef­fi­cient, safe trans­porta­tion be­comes,” he says.

The Mel­lowcabs team are im­ple­ment­ing tech­nol­ogy in ev­ery as­pect of their fully-elec­tric three­wheeled elec­tric taxis, which are cur­rently in the testing phase. The cabs con­vert the ki­netic en­ergy that is usu­ally lost in the brak­ing process into elec­tric­ity and stores it, im­prov­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency. An LED light sys­tem is in­stalled in the shell of the ve­hi­cle, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the body of the ve­hi­cle, mak­ing it more vis­i­ble as well as be­ing aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing.

The ve­hi­cles are hailed us­ing a mo­bile app, which al­lows cus­tomers to see where their taxi is, pay with a bank card, and rate driv­ers. They are also fit­ted with con­sumer friendly tech­nol­ogy such as in­ve­hi­cle charg­ing points, wifi, and en­ter­tain­ment tablets — aim­ing to cre­ate the per­fect tech-savvy ride for africa, when they hit the roads of south africa. — BBC

THE safeboda app lets you hail boda bo­das that have driv­ers trained in road safety and bike main­te­nance.

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