Importance of transport sector once again highlighted during Mobility Summit

Dealers and OEMs should take note of various economic drives to pivot to a smarter mobility environment where broader walkways, a myriad of cycle tracks and even a light railway system could join the transport network.

Fulufhelo Mandane

This was highlighted during the discussions in tackling problems like congestion, reduction in emissions and commuter duration on the first day of the annual 3-day Smarter Mobility Africa LIVE summit.

“Transport should be the leading contributor to the economy, and our 5-year vision in growing our Gauteng Province’s economy relies heavily on smart mobility to assist in building a sustainable economy that is sensitive to the environment, while at the same time reducing poverty, inequalities and creating jobs,” Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Road Infrastructure, Jacob Mamabolo, said in his welcoming address.

According to Mamabolo, another issue that is being addressed is traffic congestion in Gauteng where commuters spend too much time on the road on their way to or back from work, causing a reduction in productivity, an increased number of accidents and more harmful greenhouse emissions.

Panelists from African countries, including Nigeria and Kenya, concurred and said the biggest flaw in the current approach is to subsidise and fund wider and additional roads and flyovers in keeping with the status quo.

“Most infrastructure budgets and transport systems are designed around the minority of commuters, namely car owners,” Chris Kost, Director at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) in Kenya told the delegates. “Governments should start thinking about re-allocating road space by including good walkways, cycle tracks and dedicated lanes in public transport.”

Lance Schultz, CO at the Gauteng Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), believes capabilities to successfully tackle the challenges of congestion, in particular South Africa, should be aimed at cutting back on vehicle imports and focus more on local production and support, leading to job creation and economic growth.

The informal transport industry generated a lot of interest because of the void it filled when traditional operators were unable to provide an affordable and necessary service to commuters. According to Fulufhelo Mandane, Regional Head of Dealer Relationships at ABSA Vehicle and Asset Finance, the informal taxi sector in South Africa is largely operated by entrepreneurs who are essential in the value chain.

A screengrab of Fulufhelo Mandane of Absa Vehicle and Asset Finance during the Smarter Mobility Africa LIVE summit.

“Each taxi owner and operator provides for a family, with repairs on the vehicles, fuel, tyres, parts and even those selling in taxi markets all part of the contribution to this value-add,” he told the delegates.

Mandane emphasised the need for financial literacy among informal transport operators to enable them to run their business efficiently and successfully. “I have seen too many operators ruin their chances of running a profitable route by, for example, opting for a cheap vehicle option without considering the compatibility of that vehicle to the route, for instance travelling cross border,” he explained. “The subsequent downtime of the vehicle affects the profitability, and owning a reliable brand could be the difference between failure and success.”

The issue of non-motorised transport to ensure road safety and prevent dirty air, was also touched on, and according to Sheila Watson, Deputy Director of the FIA Foundation, cities must re-engineer themselves. “Although COVID-19 presented challenges, it also enabled us to re-imagine how cities are designed and for whom, using good evidence, case studies and active engagement on the ground,” Watson said.

The Summit will continue on Wednesday 28 October, focusing on electric vehicles with the policies, development and cost of ownership among the many topics to be discussed.

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