HOW CAN African nations build smart cities? A session at the ongoing Transform Africa Summit in Kigali, yesterday, delved into this to try and underpin how to realise what is seen as the future of cities.
During the session, experts cited urbanisation growth and effective transport systems as enablers to achieve secure and safe cities on the continent.
Several players in the transport sector called for more innovative approaches to improve transportation to ease movement for not only city dwellers but also goods, and to enhance effectiveness and efficiency.
Speaking on a panel discussion that brought together various stakeholders in the transport sector, the Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, said Rwanda has done a lot at policy level, and leveraged technology to manage transport in the country.
“We developed the Transport Masterplan, put in place Public Transport Policy, Urbanisation Policy, and Smart Rwanda Masterplan. Moreover, we have public CCTVs on roads, vehicle enforcement systems, and authorised transport facilities. All these have helped us overcome many transport challenges,” he said.
However, the minister said some challenges remain, including managing the city transport congestion as well as ensuring maximum safety for commuters.
Musoni said more smart systems have been established to address some of the challenges, highlighting vehicle inspection system, bus management system, and passenger information system, among others.
Karanvir Singh, the chief executive of Kommlabs Pte. Ltd, an Indian-based firm that will soon start operating in Rwanda working with taxi-motos, said information is key in the entire transport chain.
“For instance, in countries where we work, we put up bus information systems, predominantly providing information to fleet operators but also the passengers, especially the distance the bus will move and how long it will reach to the designated place.
“We also have a fare collection system that helped the automation of bus collection fares as well as enabling us to determine how many passengers on board, and the behaviours of the drivers. All these give comfort to the users and have an impact on the whole transportation business,” Singh said.
Patrick Buchana, an entrepreneur and chief executive of AC Group, a tech firm behind the Tap&Go smart payment solution, shared his experience working in the transport sector.
He told participants that their system that helps commuters pay fare using smart cards has helped Rwandans reduce the time spent in cash payments, and increased revenues to the transport operators.
Buchana, however, said to scale up the solution to other African countries where there are similar problems is challenging as there are no enabling environments and while the mindset of people in some places is still low.
He urged African governments to empower young people with innovative solutions.
Panelists showed that creating an enabling environment for intelligent transportation systems to thrive, developing more intelligent public transportation, and increasing resilience and effectiveness of transportation systems will enable African countries to achieve smart cities.