Time we switched gears to new ways of commuting

Uber and its peers have disrupted the traditional taxi business model. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Chances are that this morning you either jumped into a private vehicle, an on-demand taxi or hopped onto a bus for your daily commute to the city centre or other business district either as a destination or a connect to someplace else.

City residents in their millions must make a daily round trip to and from their places of opportunity and mobility ranks high on the monthly budgets of every household, a true utility.

The public transport ecosystems in many African cities, continue to deliver poor service experiences with commuters having to make do, and many aspiring to own their own set of wheels to escape the madness, gain social points and get better control of their time, which only tends to exacerbate the issues of congestion and environmental degradation whose true toll I am afraid we are unable to compute or comprehend as we chase a living.

The global awakening of an entire industry following the disruption of the traditional taxi business model by players such as Didi Chuxing, Uber, Bolt, Go-Jek and a host of other local variants, their profit status notwithstanding, should have served as a writing on the wall for public transport operatives in markets where services have been less than stellar, ignoring service experience fundamentals.

New alternatives


The barrier to switching to new alternatives is very low and even where additional dark market forces exist, consumer-driven shifts are difficult to stall if their time has come.

The past few years have witnessed the founding of many mobility as a service companies in Africa, building platforms that are targeted at the masses who have for decades suffered from lack of alternatives, even as some of the larger global players mull over this segment. Some have been too early or did not quite get to product-market fit while infrastructure to support truly multi-modal MaaS services is yet to be realised in many markets.

With data increasingly available for analysis and business intelligence, opportunities for innovation are many. Payments have already been shaken with the advent of mobile money and revenue assurance is now easier to achieve. Mobile data and smart phone penetration is descent enough in urban areas where transformation is needed most. Vehicular technology has improved with lower environmental footprint. Policy makers and regulators are engaging. But most important commuters are ready and agitating.

It is time we made the shift and change the way we move.