From ride sharing and driverless cars to electric vehicles and shifting ownership models, advances in technology are set to change the way billions of people across the globe get from point A to point B each day.
Against this background, African private sector stakeholders and governments will need to co-operate with one another, both within national boundaries and across borders, if the continent is to reap the full benefits of the opportunities presented by a rapidly shifting mobility landscape, advised Dr Thomas Schiller, Deloitte Europe, Middle East and Africa Automotive Leader.
“While the form these changes will take in Africa is likely to be radically different from developed countries, forward looking private sector and state decision makers here now have a unique opportunity to shape the future of public and private transport and, in the process, boost automotive manufacturing on the continent,” said Schiller after attending the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Durban.
But this would require the main role players to work together, he said, as a winner-takes-all approach was likely to lead to fragmentation and inefficiency, particularly in African markets which, individually, did not have the scale of the United States or China.
“And even in China, when it comes to ride sharing we’ve seen that there’s only room for one dominant player,” said Schiller, referring to Uber’s sale of its China operations last year to homegrown competitor Didi Chuxing.
“I’m heartened to note from my attendance at WEF that there’s a growing realisation among key role players – not just in the automotive sector, but among telecommunications and digital players – that a co-operative approach is the best way to leverage the many benefits these changes promise to bring,” Schiller added.
Deloitte’s Automotive Leader for Africa Ruwayda Redfearn said more efficient and affordable transport options would be a powerful tool to address one of the major challenges facing African economies raised at WEF, inequality.
“Research we’ve done at Deloitte shows that wider access to transport isn’t just a nice-to-have, it opens up access to job opportunities, education, health care and other vital services. It also promotes social mobility. As such, it’s one of the routes we need to explore in our efforts to turn the tide of inequality,” said Redfearn.
She added that numerous other opportunities would arise as the face of mobility changed, with internet and telecommunications providers likely to play a significant role, given the vast quantities of data that would be generated and shared by both individual vehicles and fleets of vehicles within the increasingly connected smart transport networks (V2V).
“Infrastructure enablers (V2I) like smart tolling, traffic flow management and network security will be required and there will be many opportunities for companies offering services like in-vehicle entertainment, targeted advertising and food delivery,” Redfearn said.
Schiller said another theme to emerge from WEF which was highly relevant to the future of mobility in Africa was the importance of regional manufacturing and trading agreements.
“With the exception of countries like South Africa, the continent imports most of its vehicles. Individual African markets are not lucrative enough for manufacturers to set up manufacturing facilities there. But a trading bloc of African countries would offer significantly wider market for locally made vehicles. This, combined with legislation or tariffs making imports less attractive, could provide a powerful incentive for manufacturing vehicles on the continent,” said Schiller.
Redfearn said Deloitte, with its depth of expertise and significant footprint across Africa was well placed to assist private and public sector clients identify and capitalise on the opportunities offered by the changing mobility ecosystem, as well as to play its part in facilitating the co-operation necessary to maximise the positive effects of the future of mobility changes to come.