Paratransit, which includes services such as minibuses, shared taxis, and motorcycle taxis, plays a significant role in providing transportation for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that paratransit accounts for up to 80% of urban transport in the region, providing mobility options for millions of people who do not have access to formal transportation. However, the industry is often characterized by informality, with operators relying on outdated and inefficient manual processes to manage their operations.
In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of digitising paratransit in Sub-Saharan Africa and the challenges that must be addressed to make it a reality.
Benefits of Digitising Paratransit
- Improved Efficiency and Service Quality: Digital solutions can help paratransit operators to manage their operations more efficiently, reducing waiting times for passengers and improving the quality of service. Real-time data and analytics can help operators to optimize their routes and schedules, identify areas of congestion, and improve vehicle maintenance.
- Enhanced Safety and Security: Digitisation can help improve the safety and security of passengers and operators. Digital tracking systems can help operators to monitor the location and movements of their vehicles, reducing the risk of theft and hijacking. In addition, digital payment systems can help to reduce the risk of robbery, as drivers no longer need to carry cash.
- Increased Financial Inclusion: Digital payment systems can help to increase financial inclusion by providing a safe, secure, and convenient way for passengers to pay for their trips. This can help to reduce the reliance on cash, which is often associated with high transaction costs and risks of loss or theft.
- Improved Environmental Sustainability: By optimizing routes and reducing congestion, digitisation can help to reduce the environmental impact of paratransit. In addition, the use of electric or hybrid vehicles can help to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
Challenges of Digitising Paratransit
- Limited Infrastructure: Many paratransit operators in Sub-Saharan Africa operate in areas with limited or unreliable digital infrastructure, such as electricity and internet connectivity. Without access to reliable infrastructure, it can be challenging to implement digital solutions.
- Low Digital Literacy: Many paratransit operators and passengers may have limited digital literacy skills, making it difficult to adopt and use digital solutions. Training and education may be necessary to ensure that all stakeholders can use digital solutions effectively.
- Regulatory Challenges: Paratransit is often subject to complex regulatory frameworks, and the implementation of digital solutions may require changes to existing regulations. Coordination and collaboration between operators, governments, and other stakeholders may be necessary to overcome regulatory challenges.
- Limited Funding: Digitisation can require significant investment in technology and infrastructure, which may be difficult for many paratransit operators to finance. Innovative funding models and partnerships may be necessary to make digitisation financially viable.
- Paratransit epitomizes mobility in many large cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, and has replaced public transport in many cities.
- The term paratransit is catching on in other world regions to describe informal transit, “para” meaning “to go beyond or further than normal.”
- Fast-growing transportation network companies (TNCs), among which Uber and Lyft, are an increasingly dynamic addition to the scope of paratransit services in urban contexts
Digitising paratransit in Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to transform the industry, improving efficiency, safety, financial inclusion, and environmental sustainability. However, significant challenges must be addressed to make digitisation a reality.
Stakeholders must work together to overcome these challenges, providing the necessary infrastructure, education, regulation, and funding to support the implementation of digital solutions. With the right support, digitisation can help to create a more efficient, safe, and sustainable paratransit industry in Sub-Saharan Africa.