Urban Mobility for All

Riders & Matatus in Nairobi’s Ngara

Transportation is to countries what the nervous system is to the body. It is the ultimate social and commercial lubricant between people, at various places (nodes) across the country. When you cut or neglect one node, a whole nation gets sick. This is the root cause, one of the original sources of Africa’s inefficiencies and endless crises. This is why we are stuck.

Our cities keep growing at a fast pace. Over 20 African cities will have 10 millions inhabitants by 2050, when most gvt’ run transport companies have collapsed.The world’s cities are moving to self-driving cars and next gen hyperloops, while 60% Africans are left struggling daily to simply commute. Sure, some 0.01% can now hail a more or less luxurious cab from their smartphone. But what about the rest? What about the majority 99.99%?

Matatus in Nairobi, Okada’s in Lagos, Rapides in Dakar, Bendskins in Douala, Boda boda, TukTuks… behind these colorful names lies Africa’s mass transport lifeline. Despite their many flaws (overloads, overused fleets, security…) they survived gvt monopolies, irrational regulation and encapsulate the very definition of ride sharing. The developed world is busy convincing its urban citizen to move into a future without car ownership. In Africa, we have already, natively made that shift. The future is already here… almost.

What lessons can we take away from the incredible success and resilience of informal mass transporters?

What is missing for them to morph into the future? Remember, today’s thriving mobile communication industry in Africa comes from modernizing informal prepaid cards dealerships. MTN, the poster child of pan-african telcos started from such humble informal beginnings.

At Ay’Wa, Urban Mobility for ALL (#uMob4All) is what keeps us up at night. It is tempting to rush and import old “proven” solutions from Europe or US. It is easy to point fingers at the governments’ failures or to some suspect international forces. But, passing blame does little for the mass commuters.

Let’s take a step back. You cannot claim to solve problems for users if you do not understand them well. Innovative solutions will emerge only after digging deeper, down to the root causes. We have to walk in the shoes of the actors that “play” the public transit theater every single day.

Let’s tell the stories of the audacious and resourceful hustler, hard working student heading home after school, biashara or bana bana traders moving their wares, civil servants rushing home to catch some last minute quality time with their family or the anxious driver having to navigate the chaotic traffic all day without losing his mind.

Wherever you live or come from, join us and tell the world about your city. How do average commuters and drivers navigate it? What are their untold stories, motives and practices? What works and what really sucks?

Welcome to Matatu Mobility — from Dakar to Nairobi.