Most mobility industry players will tell you that mobility is not a solo agenda. In any case this is the one sector that requires a quadruple helix kind of partnership with the private sector being a key industry player. This creates shared value that benefits all participants in what becomes a movement towards achieving smart cities. So in the context of Nairobi City what’s the role of the private sector in achieving sustainable urban mobility?
The first ever Mobility Summit in Nairobi organized by C4DLab, Uber and UNHABITAT saw different players come together to forge the agenda of making Nairobi a smart city. Represented was the private sector in the ‘hat’ of innovators, startups, accelerators and investors.
Mobility Startup Accelerators such as the TUMI Startup Accelerator provide technical support to startups that work towards provision of transformative solutions to urban mobility challenges alongside providing capital, network opportunities, and bringing on board angel investors. Well, this is impressive but how many more mobility accelerators do we have in Kenya?
Innovators and startups serve as a key player in the private sector. It is the innovators that come up with disruptive mobility solutions. NopiaRide is such a company with a disruptive mobility solution that impacts on climate change.
Present during the mobility summit was Shell Foundation which provides grant capital to startups in the field of access to energy and sustainable mobility. With such players already in the industry where does the rain beat the mobility sector? Let’s find out.
Most players in the private sector are just there to drive their own personal agendas. They should come together and work with the government and development agencies to create smart cities. They should strive to focus on the needs and benefits of the different user groups and not what they get at the end of the day.
Jonas Tesfu, CEO and Co-Founder Pangea Accelerator says that for many foreign Investors, Fintech is the in thing in Kenya. What probably prevents investors from investing in mobility is because they are competing against huge systems like Uber and the likes. Investors are also not aware of the market opportunity in some of the mobility startups. Startups therefore need to do a lot of work in market research to lure investors into the mobility industry.
One way to address such an issue is coming up with disruptive innovations that tackle real problems like air pollution and renewable energy. Over 6.5 Million people die annually because of air pollution. Companies and startups such as NopiaRide and Auto Truck East Africa are already here to address such issues by coming up with renewable energy products.
These days most people don’t really care about how many people you move. They resonate more about access to healthcare, energy and other services. This makes it difficult for mobility social enterprises. It’s therefore attractive to investors to move many people with a promise of giving them access to healthcare, education and other kinds of services. Anyone with data on how such opportunities can be utilized should avail it to investors for impacting investment in the mobility sector.
In as much as the private sector needs to step up, the government plays a very big role in aiding the success of the private sector through issues of legislation and taxation. The government should facilitate the private sector by putting in place policies that favor disruptive innovations. Such include import duty concerns already raised by a significant number of foreign entrants in the Kenyan mobility market.
Pangea Accelerator has coached mobility startups such as Safiri Express which graduated from the TUMI Startup Accelerator based at C4DLab alongside Get Boda, Auto-Truck EA, My Ride Africa, An Nisa Taxi, Twende, Ubabi Van-Pooling and Obaigo Delivery Network. Such acceleration programmes aim at making the mobility sector investable and attractive to investors. We should probably begin to see more of these programmes while supporting the existing ones.
The private sector especially those in mobility can ‘give back’ by providing free data to the public and innovators. This way, most innovators will actually know the gaps in our cities and strive to innovate on how they can fill them. Uber for example through its Uber Movement provides free data which is key for planning modern cities.
In the next 50 years, Africa will have the biggest cities in the world. We have to desperately plan on how we will deal with the population. As the private sector ups its game, we have to build the mobility systems, innovators have to innovate. Talk to the politicians and tell them smart cities matter!