Overview: Transport and Technology in Africa

Overview: Transport and Technology in Africa

Alexis van Schalkwyk
January 9, 2023
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Overview: Transport and Technology in Africa

As we’ve talked about on this blog before, travel and technology and intricately connected. From the invention of the wheel, to ships and carbon-fuelled transportation, we’re now in an age where we can travel more than ever before, and track and send things all over the world (in a very short amount of time).
While many people in Africa still drive long distances to get to work, or sit in hours of traffic to do the same, there are a number of exciting new developments in the transport and technology sector that are set to improve the way we travel in the future.
Here is just a brief overview of some of the many transport and technology-related projects happening on the continent:

1. Mass Transit Systems

In densely populated African cities, there has been a concerted effort to implement integrated transport systems that serve a growing population. Some of these kinds of projects include:

  • Contactless Card Systems (Nigeria): Lagos is notorious for its heavy traffic, so to create more effective transport solutions, a contactless card payment system has been introduced to streamline travel between buses, rail and ferries (which is especially relevant considering other kinds of payment integrations like mobile money).

2. Micro Transit Systems

It’s clear that Mass Transit Systems are key to addressing congestion (and related problems like loss of productivity, expense and unwanted carbon emissions), but they are also very expensive to build and implement. So while there is a lot happening on a broader infrastructural scale, a lot of innovation is also taking place in the micro sector, where projects are less expensive to implement and require less resources.
Some of these Micro Transit Systems projects include:

a. Ride Sharing Apps

  • Ugomyway: Carpooling apps are one way to reduce congestion on the roads, and even though it can be difficult to sync schedules, new technologies provide the means to coordinate with others, share costs and save on car mileage
  • Little Cabs: As a hub of software development in East Africa, ride-sharing apps like Little Cabs have also taken off in cities like Nairobi, where there are congestion problems too.
  • MAXgo: As we mentioned above, Lagos is well known for its traffic, so instead of a car ride-sharing app, which only adds more cars to the road, MAXgo uses motorcycles, which can more easily manoeuvre their way through congestion.
  • SafeBoda: Uganda is another city where motorcycles, or “bodas”, are used to get around, but due to the many accidents, SafeBoda was launched to provide an easy way to get around, with the assurance of safety with helmets and drivers trained in First Aid.

b. Real-Time Tracking Apps

While ride-sharing apps are very convenient, the majority of people still rely on mass transport for traveling long distances. With problems like strikes, power outages, and other kinds of obstacles, one of the most important benefits that technology can bring to transportation is being able to get a real-time view on transport networks.

  • One example of this is FindMyTaxi, a South African app that won a hackathon in 2017, and is now being used as part of another app, WhereIsMyTransport. Together, these apps connect minibus taxi routes and bus/rail systems in different African cities for more efficient commuting.

c. Logistics

Transporting people around is one thing, but when it comes to operations, being able to transport goods across the world has become an integral part of doing business for many companies.
Unfortunately, poor service delivery is a problem throughout Africa, which has lead creative entrepreneurs from around the continent to come up with creative solutions in the areas of transport and logistics:

  • Kamtar is a app from the Ivory Coast that works to improve logistics and transportation with a more cost-effective, transparent and flexible technology solution
  • In mountainous areas like Rwanda, getting essential medical services can be a challenge, but with the use of delivery drones and associated GPS technology, medical items can still be sent and tracked to make sure they end up in the right place (which lays the groundwork for more of this kind of transportation!).

3. What other kinds of transport developments are happening in the EMEA region?

While cities all over the world work to improve their public transportation systems, the EMEA region has some exciting new developments on the go:
* In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a hyperloop rail route is being developed, which is exactly the high-tech futuristic kind of travel we’ve always dreamed about, and will radically reduce the time spent travelling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
* There are definitely a lot of challenges still to be addressed when it comes to Autonomous Vehicles (AV’s), but with a trial coming up in South Africa as part of the Future Mobility Africa event in October 2018, it’s exciting to think about the possibility of drastically reducing the number of cars on the road, and people sitting in traffic.
The scope for transportation and technology to grow in Africa (and EMEA) is exponential, and it’s encouraging to think about all of the innovative ideas that are still to come. We’ve only touched on a handful of examples here, but even without going too in-depth, it’s clear that we do have the technology available to improve our transportation systems, it’s just a matter of integration and making them more accessible (both physically and digitally).

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