Image source: Anthony Quintano, Flickr

After the excitement of the first day of Smarter Mobility Africa 2021, presented in-person in Johannesburg, speakers and participants of the event were ready for the fully digital days two and three. From topical webinars and engaging roundtable discussions, here are the highlights of the digital portion of the hybrid event.

Smarter Mobility Africa aims to use its platform to address challenges in transport such as mobility poverty and giving safe, affordable, and clean mobility for all. The second mandate is to reduce high carbon emissions produced by transport.

Transport is the highest sector that contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in South Africa which has been reported to be the highest carbon emissions transmitter compared to other developing countries.

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Highlight from Smarter Mobility Africa Hybrid Event – Day 1

It is with this imperative that as a nation we must lead the country into cleaner modes of mobility, from just surviving in life to thriving in life, from high carbon emissions to low carbon emissions, from dirty air that we breathe to clean air, from mobility for few to mobility for all and finally from low economic activity to high economic activity.

Following the buzz from day one, delegates were ramped up and ready for days two and three for a fully digital day. Slip into a taxi, catch a ride on the train or hop onto a bus using a single ticket or payment method. That’s the vision the Gauteng government is working on for an integrated or single ticketing transport system. But what will it take to achieve this?

Giving the green light to a single ticketing system for public transport was on everybody’s lips. Shaun Mhlanga, Transport Economist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), couldn’t wait to moderate this panel discussion.

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Highlight from Smarter Mobility Africa Digital Event – Day 2

Mhlanga opened up the discussion by asking the panellists about the current challenges faced with the current ticketing system and the regulation causing the fragmentation. Tsepho Kgobe, Chief Operating Officer at Gautrain Management Agency responded saying the regulation around ticketing in South Africa is very outdated.

“The challenge with those regulations is that they were written in 2014 and technology has moved on since then,” says Kgobe. He further elaborates on the complexities of Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) payment scheme currently in use at the Gautrain and keeping up with technology.

“Technology moves quite fast and creating regulations actually holds you back. By the time we (Gautrain) started implementing EMV ourselves, the technology started to change and things were no longer juxtaposed with each other,” he said. After outlining the challenges involving tech he suggested using a virtual software ticketing system so the customer can choose the device they are comfortable using to pay for a ride.

Theo Malele, National Spokesperson for the National Taxi Alliance was also amongst the panellists. He said the taxi industry was excited to modernise as this would help them track data and profits made daily. His only concern was the governance around implementing this system.

He said the government needs to make sure the implementation is fair and beneficial for the taxi operators and owners. “We need to come up with a way to incentivise the taxi driver and owner to accept the integrated ticketing system as a solution going forward,” said Malele. He also harped on the need to educate the commuter, taxi driver and owner to ensure that everyone understands what it will take to formalise the taxi industry.

Vuyisile Majola, CEO of Ubunye Capital also echoed the same sentiments in showing concern for implementing such a system in the province and nationwide. “The taxi industry itself has become quite an anomaly in normal public transport settings because in the South African context it has become the backbone of public transport,” said Majola.

She laid down the statistics to substantiate her statement by saying: “3.7 million workers use a taxi to commute to work on a daily basis and there are 122,000 individual taxi operators in Gauteng alone – generating revenue in their own capacity.” Spheres of government would need to ensure there is fair management, fair control and fair fare prices.

MEC Jacob Mamabolo from the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport went on to explain the importance of including the taxi industry in the development of transport in the country. He further went on to address Majola’s concerns around governance by stating they have a governing body called the Gauteng Transport Authority.

GTA is a legislated governing body bringing together municipalities, different modes of transport and fleet owners under one roof. It is working extensively with the different transport bodies to achieve this integrated system. “We are not inventing anything new,” Mamabolo said. He adds that the South African banking system is already advanced and one of the best banking systems in the world. He believes it will not be difficult to get everyone on board.

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Highlight from Smarter Mobility Africa Digital Event – Day 3

After the lunch break and networking session, the next panel was due to start. Why is it increasingly difficult to grow the micro-mobility market? How can startups leverage off a potential high-demand and growing market in Africa?  Tolulope Olukokun, Founder at ThinkElectric Africa Initiative was the moderator for this panel. He began the discussion by asking Victor Radebe, Co-Founder of Mobility Centre for Africa, about the role of micro-mobility in the last mile. “Anyone who drives into the urban city centres the concern is where will I find parking?”, Radebe said.  He notes that this is a gap where micro-mobility can fit and startups should use a problem like this by offering a solution.

Edem Foli, uYilo Programme Manager at uYilo Electric Mobility Programme went on to discuss the issue of not integrating micro-mobility into the public transport system. She also mentioned we need to take a mindset shift approach when it comes to adopting non-motorized transport and micro-mobility in the city. “There needs to be a mindset shift we don’t see micro-mobility options as an opportunity,” Foli said. There was quite an engagement from the live audience who steered the panellists’ conversation to focus on the need to either regulate or not regulate models used for micro-mobility.

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Panellist Haya Douidri, VP Global Market Development, Policy and Strategy at Superpedestrian says regulation is not the key issue. She makes an example of good regulation in the United Kingdom where government and regulatory bodies can capture data and track how many people are making use of micro-mobility.

However, she mentioned the danger of over-regulating and making the process to practice micro-mobility too cumbersome. She suggested a facilitation process where the government runs pilot projects along with selected startups to address the challenges facing micro-mobility. She also touched on the perceptions surrounding micro-mobility in Africa in comparison to the Netherlands. “We need to move away from micro-mobility being leisure towards a mode of transport that is viable and convenient,” Douidri said.

Radebe later concluded the panel discussion by refocusing on Southern Africa. He said micro-mobility is not supposed to compete with mass transit the two are supposed to complement each other but that’s not the case in this country. “Micro-mobility has to be front and centre if you are planning for mass transit in cities,” he said. Following this panel, there were many case studies, presentations and podcasts which continued to feed into themes such as walking, cycling and public transport.

Day two provided a good framework for day three. It created context and a build-up towards the roundtable discussions. Day three was dedicated to technical roundtable discussions which were centred around mobility as a service (MaaS), start-up pitches, electric vehicle manufacturing in East Africa and enablers for a new energy paradigm. The roundtable discussions summarized the challenges faced by the mobility industry. The panellists on this day were also able to identify windows of opportunity, bring forward solutions to drive change and examine the potential for growth in transport.

This third edition of Smarter Mobility Africa was hosted by the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport, Powered by Alstom and in partnership with Arigo, Agilitee, AutoTrader, Sanral and various media partnerships. We await an exciting year ahead to bring you our 2022 Electric Vehicle Road Trip in April and once again another edition of Smarter Mobility Africa in October 2022.

Register now for your free ticket to Smarter Mobility Africa 2022.