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A webinar about mobility shaping the new Urban era in Africa

Written By: Anazi Piper 

Cities across Africa are experiencing rapid growth on all fronts – population, infrastructure, energy supply, and transport. It’s an exciting time to live in Africa! However, this rapid growth comes with many challenges and opportunities, particularly around how we move people and goods. 

Smarter Mobility Africa hosted its first webinar for the year titled “The role of mobility in shaping a new urban era in Africa”. A diverse lineup of distinguished speakers discussed challenges and opportunities regarding the development of the urban landscape in Africa. 

The first key challenge brought to the conversation was the effects of rapid urbanization on access to mobility. According to Malaika Mahlatsi, Doctoral Researcher from University of Bayreuth said, “African cities are the most rapidly growing in the world. in 2022 there were 7,600 cities on the continent. According to the African Development Bank report that’s titled ‘Africa’s Urbanization Dynamics 2022, the economic power of African cities’, the cumulative population of African cities has increased by 500 million people since 1990. So, between, in just 30 years, we’ve had 500 million people moving out of rural Africa into the cities. And interestingly, 70% of this population that is now residing in African cities is young people below the age of 30 in sub-Saharan Africa.” 

At the hands of rapid urbanization are uneven levels of development between rural and urban areas. People are moving from rural areas to cities in search of better opportunities, but this is straining the infrastructure of cities. 

“The creation of colonial or apartheid cities has meant that development and industrialisation has been happening in centralized spaces. In South Africa, for example, development has often taken place in the province of Gauteng, which is the most industrialized province that also contains three of the country’s eight metropolitan municipalities, which are very big cities,” said Mahlatsi. 

Another challenge is climate change. Climate change is causing more extreme weather events, which is displacing people from their homes and making it difficult to travel. 

To mitigate these challenges the Gauteng Province are taking a mixed mode approach to their transport planning According to Freeman Masuku, Chief Director at Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, there is currently a lot of development taking place. “We’re looking at how we apply our planning in terms of transportation, how people can walk, how they can cycle, how they can use e-bikes, and how the minibus taxi industry can play a role, buses, trains, rapid rail in particular, and bus rapid transit. So, it’s a mix of technologies which moves people from in the last mile, the first mile, and rapidly throughout the province in the shortest space of time.” said Masuku. 

The issue of mobility equality and cost of transport was discussed, Moses Nderitu, Chief Revenue Officer at BasiGo in Kenya, argued that in a price sensitive economy, there needs to be mechanisms in place to adapt to this sensitivity to make sure mobility is inclusive for all.“ Electric vehicles are very hard to acquire because there is a huge upfront cost. To encourage adoption, especially to a price sensitive market, who are our public service operator in this part of the world, we then devised a kilometre-based financing model. So what we have done to encourage adoption is charge these operators a similar price as to what they would pay for a diesel vehicle.” 

Simisola Elegba, Senior Engineer at Lamata in Nigeria spoke about increased population growth in Lagos and the results of dilapidated infrastructure, and how they have come up with solutions against these challenges. 

“The ability to move people at mass is big on our agenda.  Over the years we have identified various technologies to optimize the existing transport systems to make sure the customer and commuter needs are satisfied. In 2020 we introduced the first integrated automated fare collection system, with that card now you can travel across the entire value chain of public transport seamlessly. That has significantly improved affordability and accessibility in Lagos.” 

The audience took away some solutions to apply and practice towards future cities. Inanc Karabulut, International Market Researcher from Kentkart in Turkey presented a short case study to illustrate the possibilities of achieving a sustainable urban landscape in future. 

The audience took away some key insights from this discussion which included: 

  • More investment in public transport, such as electric buses and trains. 
  • Innovative financing models, such as pay-as-you-drive, to make electric vehicles more affordable. 
  • Account-based ticketing systems that makes it easier for people to pay for public transport. 
  • Government incentives to encourage the adoption of cleaner mobility options. 

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