Africa, with its diverse population, varied economies, and complex class structures, is a continent on the move. The shared mobility market here is witnessing rapid evolution, transforming the way people get around. Home to over 1.3 billion people, Africa is the second-most populous continent globally with over 40% of its population living in urban centers and the rest in more rural communities, reflecting a wide spectrum of income levels and transportation needs. However, approximately 450 million people (more than 70% of its rural population) lack access to mobility options due to a lack of infrastructure and transport systems.
In this article, we will delve into the dynamics of shared mobility in Africa, exploring its various markets with relevant case studies and looking ahead to its promising future. You can also check out our previous blog post from 2019 ‘Shared Mobility by Region: Africa’ here and the full ‘Shared Mobility by Region’ series here.
The African Shared Mobility Landscape
The African carshare market has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, revolutionizing urban mobility across the continent. While its inception was relatively modest compared to global counterparts, it has made substantial progress. The revenue of the African carshare market is projected to reach US$6.05m this year and the number of users is expected to amount to 195,000k users by 2027.
This growth has been particularly pronounced in major urban centers, including Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi.
Case Study: LÜLA
LÜLA is making significant strides in redefining the urban commute landscape within South Africa. This innovative carsharing platform predominantly focuses on linking corporate commuters with shared rides in vehicles associated with their respective companies. By doing so, it not only offers a convenient transport solution but also contributes to reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the roads
Case Study: eKar
Launched in 2016 and a previous client of movmi’s, UAE-based mobility startup ekar provides on-demand access to carsharing, peer-to-peer rental and subscription leasing in UAE and Saudi Arabia via a ‘super app’. Excitingly, ekar is partnering with UK-based Rent2Ride to expand their presence in the Middle East and North Africa.
The continent does still face issues with regards to car sharing. Some of these include fractured road networks, decreasing air quality in major cities due to increasing motorization and inadequate road safety measures, causing higher rates of vehicle accidents.
According to McKinsey, the continent has approximately 31 kilometers of paved road per 100 square kilometers of land in comparison to 134 kilometers of paved road in other low-income countries. As efforts to complete the trans-African highways continue, the quality of existing roads is deteriorating. According to the UN, building infrastructure involves significant initial outlays of capital and continuous expenditure on maintenance and management. Research estimates show that $18-25 billion per year is required to provide adequate infrastructure in Africa. The continent currently only invests about $5 billion annually.
Also, a cookie-cutter approach to carsharing isn’t the right approach either. “Africa is quite unique,” says Gura Ride Founder and CEO Tony Adesina. “I don’t think it’s somewhere where you can bring an existing model, maybe that worked in the States or the UK and just dump in a country like South Africa or Rwanda. You have to understand the culture and the people you’re dealing with. It takes quite some time. You have to study the terrain and make sure the model you run in the U.S. or the U.K. can actually fit. Another thing is price. The buying power is not as heavy as you have in the States. So the numbers have to make sense and you have to make sure that the market you’re going into can meet your projected goals.”
If you are interested in learning about more about carsharing, in particular, how to evaluate car sharing business growth, download our free case study.
As most Africans do not have the ability to afford a car and also do not have access to financial services to lease cars or rent them, most middle-class Africans often use other cost-effective means of transport to cover short distance trips. Communal and Moto-taxis currently account for 75-80% of motorized transport in Africa. Although these modes of transport have their advantage of being able to maneuver through traffic, none of them are electric.
Despite a huge amount of the population relying on mircomobility solutions to get around, Africa lags behind in the advancement of ‘shared’ micromobility services. This is due to the intricate local urban and economic conditions. This complexity presents challenges for both local entrepreneurs and established foreign operators seeking to establish a presence in the numerous mega-cities across the continent. Although there is a growing demand among the population for congestion-alleviating solutions, some initiatives have encountered difficulties in gaining widespread adoption, in contrast to the success observed in the continent’s ride-hailing sector, whether it involves motorcycles or cars.
Case Study: Guraride
However, it is an emerging industry on the continent and one success story is Guraride. Launched in 2017, Guraride, a Rwanda-based green e-mobility company, enables customers to choose their favourite ride by combining in an app the accessibility to electric scooters, bikesharing, and smart bikes. The charging stations are solar-powered and a bike can go up to 70km in a single charge. The government has supported the improvement of infrastructure to accommodate more cycling lanes in Kigali’s centre. Compared to other African countries, Rwanda has more easily implemented the concept of public bike share as cycling is a national pride.
Case Study: Mobility for Africa
Another successful case study for the region is Mobility for Africa, a 2022 EmpowerWISM finalist, is a social enterprise, working in Zimbabwe that brings solar powered electric transport solutions to women and their families that are affordable, efficient and adapted to peri-urban and rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tough sturdy renewable energy charged electric bikes and tricycles, branded and backstopped by trained community support services, provide an avenue for marginalized and poor families to overcome distances to services and contribute to dynamic local economies. Powered through community based off grid energy supply, e-tricycles will provide the incentive for increased economic opportunities, creating new local markets, tackling gender inequality and enhancing rural livelihoods.
Case Study: eWaka
Another EmpowerWISM applicant offering a micromobility service in Africa is eWaka. eWAKA is spearheading sustainable mobility to enhance Africa’s economic prospects by harnessing the power of electric micromobility vehicles. eWAKA’s services address frustrating and disruptive mobility experiences by offering a sustainable solution that will increase connectivity, improve efficiencies, and offer safe, environmentally friendly transportation. eWAKA offers multiple customer segments electric vehicle mobility options that decrease pollution such as greenhouse gases, Co2 and noise, while providing compelling affordability through low electricity prices as compared to fuel, off-grid solar power system solutions and overall low maintenance costs.
Founder and CEO, Celeste Vogel says, “By 2040, 45-57% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s vehicles are projected to be two-wheelers. Given the rapid growth of urban populations and insufficient public transportation, these vehicles are faster and more convenient. However, these motorcycles are inefficient, poorly maintained, and highly polluting.
By adopting more cost-effective and environmentally friendly vehicles into transportation fleets, the African logistics sector can play a crucial role in helping the region tackle climate challenges while providing significant economic benefits to a number of critical industry sector value chains.”
Looking forward, the African micromobility market is expected to continue expanding, driven by factors such as increased urbanization, environmental consciousness, and the integration of electric vehicles and based on market research insights, the market is reported to grow at a rate of 13.20% over the period of 2020 to 2027.
If you’re interested in learning more about shared electric micromobility with a focus on e-bikes, you can learn more in our free whitepaper ‘Electric Bikesharing, 2022.’
Peer-to-Peer Vehicle Sharing
Owning a car in a developing nation like South Africa has been seen for the longest time as a status symbol, but this is starting to evolve, Cars no longer have to be a liability or a black hole for your hard earned resources, cars can now become a tool; a tool to earn a supplementary income, a tool for economic participation and expansion and a tool for sustainable car-use.
The history of peer-to-peer carsharing in Africa is a relatively recent development, paralleling the rise of the sharing economy globally. It gained momentum in the late 2010s, as digital platforms and mobile applications began to connect vehicle owners with individuals seeking short-term access to cars. This innovative concept addressed the increasing demand for flexible and affordable transportation options, particularly in urban areas. While the growth of peer-to-peer carsharing in Africa was initially slower than in some other regions, it has been steadily gaining popularity, driven by a growing recognition of the economic and environmental benefits of shared mobility. As a result, this market has become an integral part of the evolving transportation landscape on the continent.
Case Study: Treepz
Treepz, a Pan-African mobility startup, has undergone a transformation by evolving into a car-sharing marketplace that empowers car owners to offer their vehicles for rent. According to Treepz, this strategic shift presents a more cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative for mobility solutions in Africa. Through this transition, Treepz ventures into an untapped niche, driven by a straightforward premise: with a car-to-African ratio of 44 to 1,000, there is a substantial demand for affordable transportation. Treepz endeavors to address this need by enabling individuals to rent vehicles on a flexible basis, with rental options ranging from hourly to monthly.
On the platform, cars can be leased at rates spanning from approximately ₦30,000 ($65) to ₦93,000 ($210) per day, with expectations that as more car owners join the platform, increased competition will naturally lead to further price reductions, benefiting users.
“Today we are regarded as the largest car-sharing marketplace in Africa and we have seized that opportunity with the technology we’ve built for hosts (vehicle owners or rental companies) to manage their inventory, reach new customers and track their growth. While guests who book from these hosts have the luxury to select their dream car for work, pleasure or exploration with a vetted driver,” – Treepz CEO, Onyeka Akumah.
Case Study: RentMyRide
RentMyRide is a peer-to-peer platform that offers a solution for short term car rentals and a golden opportunity for owners to earn extra cash when their vehicles are standing idle. Airbnb is probably the best-known sharing economy service and RentMyRide works in much the same way: car owners willing to rent out their vehicles to vetted renters on a short term basis can generate income while renters have the opportunity to select the vehicle they want and use it when they need it.
If you’d like to learn more about the place of carpooling in modern society, it’s benefits and the correct way to successfully implement a carpool service, download our free Playbook for Successful Modern Carpooling.
Integrated Mobility in Africa
Across African cities, there is a growing acceptance of technology-driven solutions and a heightened awareness of mobility’s crucial role in crafting livable urban environments. Many people in emerging markets depend on informal public transport to move across cities. But while there are ride-hailing and bus-hailing applications in some of these cities, there’s a dire need for journey-planning apps to improve mobility for users and reduce the time they spend commuting.
The smart city concept is gradually making its way into urban planning agendas, with Lagos, Nairobi, Kigali, and Cape Town spearheading the charge. This shift has spawned a surge in “smart” solutions, notably in transportation, marked by the increase of e-hailing platforms and renewed efforts to create comprehensive, integrated transportation systems.
However, there is a lag in regulatory adaptation and integration of technology into transportation systems remains a challenge.
Case Study: WhereIsMyTransport
South African-founded startup WhereIsMyTransport is one such company filling that gap for now. WhereIsMyTransport is a pioneering mobility technology company that emerged in the African market with a mission to map and integrate data from formal and informal public transport networks.
Operating predominantly in rapidly urbanizing cities, it seeks to make public transport data available and accessible for everyone. By 2020, the platform had successfully mapped 34 cities and captured data on over 100,000 km of routes, predominantly in the informal sector. The significance of WhereIsMyTransport lies in its unique approach: it understands the chaotic and often undocumented transport systems in African cities and strives to make them more comprehensible and user-friendly.
While precise user statistics are continuously evolving, by the start of the 2020s, the platform’s API had garnered substantial attention from developers, city planners, and transport agencies, making it a cornerstone for understanding and improving urban mobility in African cities.
Case Study: Moja Ride
Moja Ride operates as an integrated mobility platform in Côte d’Ivoire, aiming to revolutionize the way commuters use public and private transportation. By providing a digital interface, Moja Ride enables users to book and pay for various modes of transport, ranging from buses to taxis and even informal modes of transport like shared minivans. This flexibility in payment options, combined with real-time data on transportation modes, sets it apart in a region where informal transport dominates.
If you’re interested in seeing how other cities and regions have implemented multimodal integrated transportation systems, download our free ‘Multimodal Case Study Index.’
The Future of Shared Mobility in Africa
The African mobility sector is on the cusp of transformative change, characterized by several pioneering developments. First and foremost, the realm of Electric Mobility is seeing an accelerated shift towards electric vehicles (EVs), paired with the establishment of robust charging infrastructures. This not only heralds a more sustainable and eco-friendly future but also promises enhanced accessibility for shared electric transportation.
Complementing this shift is the emphasis on Integration and Interoperability. As providers strive for improved cohesion between shared mobility services and conventional public transport, passengers can anticipate more streamlined, hassle-free travel experiences. Powering this evolution is the surge in Data-Driven Solutions, where cutting-edge data analytics and artificial intelligence technologies are harnessed to optimize routes, decongest urban centers, and enrich overall user experiences.
One of the most promising facets of Africa’s shared mobility revolution is the surge of young entrepreneurs committed to green and sustainable transport. Recognizing both the environmental challenges and vast opportunities, these trailblazers are pushing boundaries and reinventing the wheel, literally.
We’ve mentioned a few in this article, but there are others that deserve notable mentions. Entrepreneurs like Kim Schofield of South Africa’s MellowCabs has ventured into electric mini-cabs, offering a sustainable alternative for urban transport. In East Africa, entrepreneurs behind ventures like the Nairobi-based start-up BodaBoda have begun introducing electric motorbikes to the massive motorbike taxi industry. Another notable mention is Nigerian entrepreneur Mustapha Gajibo, who has been converting petrol mini-buses into electric vehicles at his workshop. He is now going a step further to build solar battery-powered buses from scratch in a push to promote clean energy and curb pollution.
With innovators like this and many more taking the reins, the trajectory of Africa’s shared mobility market is undeniably on the rise. The confluence of rapid urbanization, technology adoption, and infrastructure development playing pivotal roles also. As we look ahead, the continent is poised to leapfrog traditional models, ushering in a new era characterized by sustainable, integrated, and tech-driven solutions.