Here at GoMetro we are all about innovation changing the way we move around cities, but some cities are better at it than others. Often when speaking to South Africans about it, the assumption is that you need to either be a first world city or have a first world budget to solve public transport problems.
Well, folks, please witness…. Exhibit Accra.
Accra, the capital city of Ghana, is a poster child for the Walt Disney adage of ‘anything is possible if you just believe’. Accra does not have the same enormous budgets as, say, Lagos or or the cosmopolitan appeal for overseas investors that Cape Town has. What it does have is passion and, as it turns out, that’s a lot.
“I was in Accra on a scouting trip two weeks ago,” says GoMetro CEO Justin Coetzee. “Accra faces many of the challenges that South Africa faces – a limitation of space, very high levels of traffic, many people using loaded taxis to get to work and back. Accra has easy accessibility in that taxis (like cabs) are cheap and plentiful, but car use is already at very unsustainable levels – and the traffic of Accra is already affecting the residents of Accra’s quality of life.”
In Accra, the majority of people use ‘trotros’, rickety minibuses that act as taxis, although many do also own their own cars. Sound familiar? The city and its immediate surrounds is also home to about 4 million, very close to Cape Town’s 3.75 million and Johannesburg city’s 4.4 million.
Without big budgets and widespread government buy-in, Accra is turning to 21st Century, Millennial thinking to solve their problems in a way that we could seriously learn from.
For example, last year the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), Concordia University and the French Agency for Development hosted a two-day ‘TroTro apps hackathon’ that invited professional programmers, students and computer geeks alike to put their innovation powers to work at building creative app solutions for a prize. Accra’s mayor is also reported to be a regular attendee at the annual “CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges” event in Paris, France each October (he may be there right now) and Uber – probably the most disruptive mobility force known to the new Millenium – has just arrived in Accra.
“Many regulators across Africa have been positive about Uber’s technology and the benefits we bring to riders, driver-partners and cities,” Alon Lits, general manager of sub-Saharan Africa at Uber, told African Business shortly after arriving in Accra. “While Uber has been engaging with government since the outset in South Africa, we [have just] signed a statement of understanding with the Ghanaian Ministry of Transport, which officially welcomed us on our launch in Accra.”
“There are a number of important and ambitious projects,” confirmed Coetzee. “One is the Accra Trotro Map that used mobile phones to map and track trotro routes in Accra – done by AfD and the city Authority of Accra. Another is GAPTE – which has launched the Aayalolo bus service on one corridor – showing residents that a modern and convenient bus service is feasible in Accra.”
Another thing that’s about to improve Accra’s mobility? GoMetro!
“GoMetro is now working with trotro owners, the city and institutions to improve the way Accra moves,” Coetzee confirmed. “We will do this by analysing, updating, digitizing and creating the transport network data for the city, and turn it into accessible information for commuters. We use this information to evaluate urban mobility and quantify transport accessibility and we share transport information with citizen and promote public transport use.
“In the future, we will deploy demand-responsive transit, filling the gap between individual transport and mass transit and bring together mass transit and demand-responsive transit for a seamless commuter experience.”
Here’s to a great future in Accra. Watch this space, GoMetroers…