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The Rise of Digital Transportation Solutions in African Countries

By Guest Writer on June 21, 2023

digital mobility africa gsma

Across the world, effective transport systems are integral to the growth and development of cities. However, in Africa, these systems face a few challenges which limit the cities’ economic potential and lower the standards of living for their residents. For example:

  • The poorest 20% of the population in African cities spend a significant proportion of their household income on transport services – more than other urban residents around the world.
  • Safety is also much of a concern as the continent bears the greatest burden of road accidents. Despite having only 3% of the world’s vehicles, 20% of road fatalities happen in Africa.
  • Pollution from vehicles is also having adverse effects on health and livelihoods, exacerbated by increased congestion.

African cities are also expanding horizontally, complicating planning, and increasing logistical costs. These urban transport challenges dictate how city residents access work, education, health care and other essential services, all of which have a direct impact on standards of living and urban growth and productivity.

Digital solutions have a key role in ensuring transport services are affordable, effective, reliable and safe.

Technologies such as big data analytics, IoT, GIS tracking and mobile payments offer unique opportunities to tackle some of the challenges mentioned here. These solutions are also influencing the growth of innovative business models, which are being deployed across a range of use cases in African transport sectors. Some of the areas where digital solutions are gaining momentum include bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, e-mobility and platforms.

Digital solutions are a key enabler of effective BRT systems, with seven cities having operational systems and nine of them about to or planning to deploy the system. The growth of the e-mobility ecosystem and the proliferation of digital platforms are also taking place at an opportune moment as the use of frontier technologies in transport gathers momentum. The expansion of mobile connectivity will also play a major role in accelerating the digitalisation of the transport sector.

Financing transport infrastructure and availing funding to innovations in the sector is key to promote digitalisation. Transport infrastructure heavily relies
on governments, and there is a role for the private sector to play. According to our analysis, Sub- Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of private sector participation in transport investment at just 6%, compared to compared to 9% in Middle East and North Africa and 12% in Latin America.

However, among start-ups, transport and logistics is the third most-funded sector, according to deals tracked since 2019. With start-ups attracting over $1.4 billion in the last four years, there are positive signals on where the market is headed.

The case studies in the GSMA report, “Powering Mobility: The rise of digital transportation in Africa“, showcase some successful examples of organisations that have used digital solutions to change the dynamics of urban transportation.

  • AC Group digitalising payments in Kigali,
  • GoMetro leveraging data for urban planning
  • Ampersand speeding up the electric vehicle transition

Digital technologies in transport also provide opportunities for public-private collaboration, such as data-sharing partnerships, regulation and infrastructure planning and development.

  • City officials, donors, enabling organisations and innovators working in the transport sector will need to collaborate to take advantage of the digital opportunity.
  • Funders and donors providing early-stage funding and supporting research are key to testing out new models. Enabling organisations also have
    a role in fostering partnerships across sectors.
  • For governments, as regulation is struggling to keep pace in the rapidly changing sector, it is necessary to take a bottom-up approach but also integrate data in urban planning for evidence- based solutions.
  • Mobile operators also have a role to play in ensuring that this data is available and by supporting transport innovators to integrate mobile solutions. For the innovators, key is to create solutions that bring value to all.

Digitalisation is set to continue expanding and adapting in African cities. There is a clear need to get ahead of the curve which means the public sector and enabling organisations need to pay careful attention to the digital ecosystems that are emerging. This report provides the foundation for understanding the landscape of innovation, and the companies and cities leading this transformation.

A slightly edited Executive Summary from the Powering Mobility: The rise of digital transportation in Africa report from GSMA.

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