Platform Politics and Silicon Savannahs : The Rise of on-Demand Logistics and Mobility in Nairobi and Kigali

Monday, 18 March, 2024 - 16:00

Presented by : 

Sitas et al

Kigali and Nairobi have been dubbed ‘silicon savannahs’, celebrated for their adoption of smart city programmes and projects (Rosenberg & Brent, 2020; Graham & Mann, 2013). Since 2019, these cities have seen a huge increase in the use of motorcycles – called boda in Kenya and moto in Rwanda – for commuting, deliveries, and micro-logistics linked to various digital platforms. This rise has been enabled primarily by the proliferation of mobile phone-based applications that allow motorcycle-taxi riders to join digital platforms and connect with businesses and customers. This trend intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic when regulations limited urban movement. The growth of platform-enabled two-wheel logistics is having a dramatic effect on mobility systems in cities, shaping how people access goods and services in real time. Despite this, there is little academic research on the consequences of this phenomenon in African cities or the extent of its uptake. This gap, in part, stems from the difficulty of studying these rapidly evolving systems and practices. In response, the overarching objective of this research was to understand how urban mobility – particularly the use of motorcycles – is being reconfigured by the introduction of platform-based systems for two-wheel paratransit sectors in African cities. We focus specifically on the platforms and dynamics emerging around motorcycle mobility and logistics within Nairobi (Kenya) and Kigali (Rwanda). However, there is arguably wider applicability to paratransit in many African cities where motorcycle taxis play or will be playing a role in commuter movement and on-demand logistics. These cases provide valuable insights into the rise of the platformisation of motorcycle taxis in African cities, as well as the lack of coherent regulation at this important urban interface.

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